Inside: Learn what IDEA says about the required components of an IEP.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written plan that outlines the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.
IDEA (the federal statute that governs IEPs) is clear about what an IEP should include. Most school districts use some type of IEP-writing software. These software programs usually prompt the person to include all of the required components of an IEP.
Still, many parents have questions about what is actually required to be in an IEP. I hope to clear some of that up. First, I have listed what sections you usually find in an IEP.
Then, I copied and pasted the exact wording from IDEA about it and included a small commentary after each section.
How many IEP components are there?
The IEP is a legal document that is developed through a collaborative process involving parents, educators, and other professionals and is designed to ensure that the student receives appropriate accommodations, services, and supports to meet their educational goals.
If you go by what I have posted below, including the words directly from IDEA, I’d say there are 9 required components of an IEP. Some people say there are 5, 6, 7 or 8 required IEP components.
Some say there are only 4 required components of an IEP. This is a detail I wouldn’t bother to quibble over with your team. If an IEP team member who you are disagreeing with right now over parts of an IEP, let them think they are right. As long as all the required components are there, who cares?
Some say 4 because it’s evaluations, goals, SDIs, and progress monitoring. Those are the 4 basic parts of the IEP process.
But if someone wants to count differently than you do, let them. I find when parts are struggling to focus on the IEP process, they get ‘stuck’ on concrete details that don’t really matter.
6 Parts of an IEP
The parts of an IEP typically include:
- Present Level of Performance: This section of the IEP describes the student’s current academic, social, and behavioral performance level. It includes information on the student’s strengths and areas of need and identifies areas where the student may require additional support or accommodations.
- Annual Goals: The annual goals section of the IEP outlines specific, measurable goals that the student will work towards over the course of the school year. These goals are based on the student’s needs and abilities and are designed to address their academic, social, and behavioral needs. Each goal is broken down into measurable objectives, which outline the steps the student will take to achieve the goal.
- Accommodations and Modifications: The accommodations and modifications section of the IEP identifies the changes to the learning environment or instructional methods that will be necessary to allow the student to participate in the curriculum on an equal basis with their peers. Accommodations may include changes to the presentation of materials, the testing environment, or the method of instruction. Modifications, on the other hand, may include changes to the curriculum itself, such as simplified assignments or a modified grading system.
- Related Services and Supports: Related services are additional services that the student may need in order to benefit from their education. These services might include speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, or physical therapy. The IEP team should determine which related services are necessary for the student, and how often they should be provided. In addition to related services, the IEP may include supports such as a paraprofessional or other adult support in the classroom.
- Transition Plan: For students who are transitioning from one level of schooling to another (e.g. from elementary to middle school, or from high school to college), the IEP may include a transition plan. This plan outlines the student’s goals and objectives for the transition, as well as the accommodations, services, and supports that will be necessary to achieve those goals.
- Evaluation and Progress Monitoring: The IEP should include a plan for evaluating the student’s progress toward their goals, and for monitoring their progress throughout the school year. The plan should specify how progress will be measured, how often progress will be reviewed, and who will be responsible for monitoring progress.
Now, let’s get into the actually required components of an IEP, per IDEA.
Sec. 300.320 Definition of individualized education program
300.320 Definition of individualized education program.
1. IEP Component: Present Levels
(a) General. As used in this part, the term individualized education program or IEP means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with §§300.320 through 300.324, and that must include—
(1) A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including—
(i) How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children); or
(ii) For preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities;
This is known as the IEP Present Levels, but it also has a bunch of other names like PLOP and PLAAFP.
2. IEP Component: IEP Goals
(2)(i) A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to—
(A) Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and
(B) Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability;
(ii) For children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives;
3. IEP Component: Progress Monitoring
(3) A description of—
(i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and
(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;
4. IEP Component: Supports and Services
(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—
(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;
(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and
Best practice is to make this section very specific. As a parent, you cannot hold an IEP team accountable to something that is not in the IEP. So, get it in writing on the IEP!
5. IEP Component: LRE
(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section;
(5) An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in the activities described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section;
LRE is least restrictive environment. The team is required to consider LRE. That does not mean that a child has to try LRE and fail first before moving to a more restrictive environment.
6. IEP Component: Standardized Tests
(6)(i) A statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on State and districtwide assessments consistent with section 612(a)(16) of the Act; and
(ii) If the IEP Team determines that the child must take an alternate assessment instead of a particular regular State or districtwide assessment of student achievement, a statement of why—
(A) The child cannot participate in the regular assessment; and
(B) The particular alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child; and
If your state has standardized testing, your child’s participation in those tests must be detailed here in this section.
8. IEP Component: Start Date, Frequency
(7) The projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.
When are your child’s services going to begin? Where are these services going to take place, and for how long?
9. IEP Component: Transition Plan
(b) Transition services. Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include—
(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
(2) The transition services (including courses of study) are needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.
(c) Transfer of rights at age of majority. Beginning not later than one year before the child reaches the age of majority under State law, the IEP must include a statement that the child has been informed of the child’s rights under Part B of the Act, if any, that will transfer to the child on reaching the age of majority under §300.520.
States may have a lower transition. Some states have lowered it to 12 years old (Florida). I have other articles about IEP transition including a transition IEP Goal Bank.
In conclusion, an IEP is a comprehensive document that outlines the unique educational needs of students with disabilities. The parts of an IEP include a description of the student’s present level of performance, annual goals, accommodations and modifications, related services and supports, transition plan, evaluation and progress monitoring, and parental consent.
By addressing each of these components, the IEP ensures that the student receives the appropriate services and support to succeed in the classroom and beyond.7.