Individualized Education Plans or IEPs are documents created for individuals with special needs. They provide information about how the student’s educational path will differ from their peers.  Each IEP should be tailored to the needs of the student it is created for. 

IEPs are considered to be a living document, meaning that it is revisited and updated at a minimum every year to meet the changing needs of the student. 

Even though every document is unique, there are still five processes that need to be done for each IEP.  They involve:

  • Identification and or assessment
  • Planning
  • Program Support and Implementation
  • Evaluation
  • Reporting

Students with special needs must be referred for an IEP. Some students will go into kindergarten with special needs already identified.  For these individuals, the planning process should begin before they start school. However, for the majority of the students, the identification phase will begin in the classroom.  The classroom teacher will likely be the first one to notice differences with a student’s behaviour or learning.  At this time, the teacher should be recording their observations of the student and try new instructional approaches with the student.

If the teacher is still concerned with the student’s behaviour or progress, they should make an appointment with the parents to discuss the concerns.  When speaking with the parents, the teacher should make suggestions as to what they think the next step should be for the student.  Depending on the issue, it may be seeing the child’s doctor for appropriate referral or begin the consultation process with the school-based resource personnel.  In some cases, the student may be referred for an extended assessment for a better understanding of the individual’s strengths and needs.  This information, learned from this assessment, will allow educators to plan more effectively for that student.

An IEP requires a collaborative planning process where educators, parents, and in some cases the student, identify educational goals for the student to work toward in the coming year. 

The purpose of the IEP is to identify appropriate goals and objectives, adaptation, modification, the services to be provided and measures that can be used for tracking a student’s achievement.

It is vital that transition planning is included in the IEP process.  There are several times in an individual’s life where transitions take place, and individuals with special needs may need several steps to make the transition a success.

This stage is putting everything discussed in the IEP into practice in the student’s education.  The key members involved in the student’s education need to understand the contents of the IEP and how it affects their classroom.  The appropriate resources and training need to be set in place ahead of time to ensure success.

Whenever possible, students will be evaluated by the same standards set for the other students, even when adaptations and modifications are used. 

There are a few cases where the evaluation of a student’s learning will be different than their peers.  A student can have the same learning outcomes as their peers but require different evaluation procedures such as taking an oral exam instead of a written one.  The use of adapted evaluation procedures must be noted in the student’s IEP. 

A student can take part in the regular classroom program but have some components that are modified.  For example, the student may have courses where their learning outcomes are substantially different from regular learning outcomes. 

A student may participate in a program that is entirely different from their peers.  In these cases, modifications to the programs must be listed in the student’s IEP. 

Regardless of what the student’s learning outcomes are, the evaluation must be made referencing the standards set out in the IEP.

Formal progress reports for students with special needs must be completed on the same schedule used for all the students within the school. Reporting may take the form of performance scales, letter grades and/or structured written comments to indicate the student’s performance.

If the student is on a modified program, this should be mentioned in the reporting process.  Adaptations a student uses do not need to be mentioned in the reporting process.

In cases where a student receives additional support, the support person is also responsible for providing written reports on the student’s progress.

There are situations where additional informal reporting methods may be required.  This may take the form of procedures such as a communication log between the parents and teacher(s).

5 Steps to an IEP

In order for these processes to be successful, the individuals involved in the process need to collaborate and remember they are working towards a common goal.

Did you know that Garforth Education has created two online courses, A Parent’s Guide to IEPs and A Teacher’s Guide to IEPs? These courses were designed to give you a clear understanding of the IEP Process and they guide you through the steps you should take to prepare for IEP meetings.

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If there is anything we can do or post to help you learn more about IEP (or any other topic for that matter) please send an email to blog@garfortheducation.com

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*Please note the information about Individualized Education Plans was based on information for students attending school in British Columbia. Individualized Education Plans are commonly used in educational settings, but the information here may not be consistent with the requirements of education systems outside of British Columbia.