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Guide to Writing an IEP

This year as we start the school year, teachers throughout the country are reviewing student files and preparing to for IEPs. Therefore, this post will discuss the process of writing the IEP. The IEP has several parts, all which must be completed fully and accurately in order to write an effective IEP.

The main parts of the IEP are:

  • Evaluation results

  • Present levels of performance or PLOP

  • Related Services

  • School program

  • Accommodations and modifications

  • Annual goals and the student’s progress towards the goals

  • Student participation in general education

  • Transportation

Evaluation results

The first part of the IEP is where the teacher will explain that evaluation results that have been conducted along with the student’s grades in class and standardized tests.

Present levels of performance or PLOP

The next part of the IEP is the main portion where the teacher will write a narrative of the student’s performance. In this section, the teacher will have to discuss the student’s overall performance, strengths and weaknesses academically, behaviorally and socially. In this section, the special education teacher should include student, parent and other teacher’s voices. This will help paint a picture of the entire student and will help future teachers and people working with them understand their strengths and weaknesses. It is important to note, that if it is written that a student struggles with a particular skill in this section, a goal will have to be written later in the IEP.

Related Services

Sometimes students receive related services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech services. If this is the case, the special education teacher should work with the related service provider in order identify when and how often the student will receive service. The related service provider should also contribute to the PLOP and participate in the IEP meeting if possible.

School program

Creating the program is extremely important in order to provide the student with the most appropriate class schedule. It is important that you use flexible programming, meaning, that the student can be in a variety of different types of classes. Therefore, the student does not have to be in all co-teaching or 12:1 classes, but their program can be a combination of different types. It is important to note, if the student is in a co-teaching setting, meaning they have one general education teacher and one special education teacher, the ratio of special education to general education students in the class is 40:60. Therefore, only 40% of the students in the class can have an IEP. Sometimes in classes with smaller numbers of students this ratio can become an issue and more general education students need to be added, or a special education student needs to move to a different ICT class. Students should also be in the least restrictive environment or LRE so special education students have access to the general education curriculum and environment when possible.

Accommodations and modifications

In this section, you need to identify the types of accommodations and or modifications the student needs. Accommodations are almost always added to the IEP, and vary depending on the student. Some common accommodations include:

Extended time

Separate location

Questions read (and reread)

Directions read (and reread)

Use of calculator

So, let’s say for example, we want to add the accommodation extended time to the IEP.

First we will write what the accommodation is. Then we will identify when it can be used, so let’s say all state and local exams, and finally the amount of extended time, so this student receives time and a half.

If we were to do the same thing for separate location, we could also keep it as being used during all state and local exams, however, instead of writing time and a half here, state the student needs to be in a room with less than 12 students. Similar to the goals, a justification for the accommodation needs to be written into the present levels of performance in the beginning.

Annual goals and the student’s progress towards the goals

The annual goals seem to be the part of the IEP that most teachers struggle with. A student should have a goal for each of the classes they receive service in, as well as any related services they receive. Goals should follow the SMART format, meaning they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

The goal: Laura will be able to answer questions. Is not a smart goal.

A SMART goal has the following components

Specific - states exactly who is doing what.

Measurable - there is criteria for measuring achievement

Attainable - the goal can be achieved. Usually, we want it to be completed by the end of the year

Realistic - it is something that is needed and will add value to the student

Timely - there is a time frame stating when and/or how often it will be measured

So let’s take this goal and check it using our SMART format.

By June 2017, Laura will be able to answer 3 comprehension questions based off a text that is written on grade level in 4 out of 5 trials using class work and teacher made materials.

Specific - Yes, this is specific and states exactly what she will be able to do.

Measurable - This can be measured by a teacher, specifically class work and teacher made materials

Attainable - This depends on the student, but it seems attainable.

Realistic - This goal will benefit the student in regards to their reading comprehension.

Timely - This goal states exactly when it will be achieved by.

So, going through the SMART checklist, this goal seems to meet all of the requirements. Sometimes, depending on your school’s format for the IEP, the goal will actually be broken into three separate sections so instead of writing it as one complete sentence, we can break it down like this.

Part of this section as well is to identify how often the goal will be measured and when the progress will be reported to the student’s guardian. This part is extremely important because it is important that you document anything the student does that relates to their goal in order to show student progress towards the goal or lack thereof. This should not fall solely on the responsibility of the special education teacher to collect the data. Since everyone who works with the student needs to have read and understood the IEP, the content teachers and related service providers should also help track and collect data demonstrating student progress.

Student participation in general education and transportation.

In this section, you will state whether or not the student will participate in general education activities, outside of academics, and if they need special transportation to and from school.

The IEP is a legal, living document that is used to ensure that special education students receive their appropriate support and services. It is extremely important that all parts of the IEP are completed properly since it is not only used to support the student and help those that work with the student, but a parent can also bring it up in a law case if they feel that their student is not receiving appropriate education.

If you have a strategy or idea for our next blog or are interested in writing a blog post for us, message us at:

#specialeducation #pedagogy

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