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What is an IEP



The Individualized Education Program, familiarly called the IEP, provides individual support to students with special needs to obtain their education goals. This includes students with learning disabilities, gifted and talented students, etc.

IEP has roots in the Education for All Children Act (PL 94-142) that President Gerald Ford signed in November, 1975.

The IEP was one of the six key elements of the act, which also made provision for: 

  • Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)  A free and appropriate public education was mandated for all children 6-17 and children older and younger if the state educated nondisabled children in the 3-5 and 18-21 age groups. 
  • Identification, Location, and Evaluation  Standards were set to make sure that children were found, assessed, and placed in a fair, nondiscriminatory way. 
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) The act mandates that disabled child be educated in the setting most like the normal classroom that is appropriate to their situation and circumstances. 
  • Due Process This system of checks and balances assures fair treatment of and accountability to students with disabilities and their families. 
  • Parental Participation Parents were given the rights to access their children’s records, receive regular communication from school personnel, and to be involved in the IEP development process and evaluation. 
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) The act mandated that a written plan be created for each child with an identified disability and that a team, including parents and child as appropriate, would meet to create that plan for the child’s education. The plan is referred to as an IEP, and the people involved in forming it are the IEP team. The IEP team was charged to meet annually, either to develop or update the IEP, as fits the situation.

The IEP was required to contain 8 specific elements. The revision of PL 94-142, which is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), maintains the concept of the IEP, with exceptions noted below. 

  • A statement of the child’s present levels of educational performance. This is based on observations, test results, and special education evaluation. It includes an assessment of academic skills, but also of language development, behavior, social skills, and any other areas of importance to the child’s case. 
  • Enumeration of measurable goals that includes either benchmarks or short-term objectives. Following from the first element, the goals may include not only academic skills but also progress in the areas of social skills, behavior, etc. 
  • Objective criteria and explanation of evaluation procedures. With the change to IDEA in 2004, this requirement was eliminated and a requirement that the IEP include a description of progress towards the enumerated goals was added. 
  • Specification of the required special education and related services. These other services could involve work with a speech language pathologist, an occupational therapist, etc. 
  • A summary of the extent the student will participate in general education and a rationale for any non-participation. 
  • Modifications that must be put in place in the general education environment, including the use of local and state tests, with or without accommodations or alternative assessments that will be used. 
  • Planned dates for both initiation and duration of services, including transition plans for when the child turns 16. 
  • Annual evaluation of the progress the student achieves on the IEP.

Written parental permission is needed before the IEP can be enacted.

What is an IEP Sources:

  • U.S. Department of Education: Individual Education Program (IEP) [online]
  • Schwab Learning.org: Individual Education Plan (IEP) • An Overview [online]
  • Houghton Mifflin College Division Student Resource Center: The Education for all Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) 1975 [online]