Primer on the IEP Process
The writing of each student’s IEP takes place within the larger picture of the special
education process under IDEA. Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be
helpful to look briefly at how a student is identified as having a disability and
needing special education and related services and, thus, an IEP.
Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
“Child Find.” The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities
in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, public school
districts conduct “Child Find” activities. Parents may be asked if the school district
can evaluate their child. Parents can also call the public school district and ask
that their child be evaluated. Or--
Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be
evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s
teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request
may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated.
Evaluation needs to be completed within 45 school working days after the parent gives
Step 2. Child is evaluated.
The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected
disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility
for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate
educational program for the child.
Step 3. Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation
results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined
by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision if they
disagree with it.
Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.
If the child is found to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, he or
she is eligible for special education and related services, and the IEP team will
write an IEP for the child.
Once the student has been found eligible for services, the IEP must be written. The
two steps below summarize what is involved in writing the IEP.
Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
- contact the participants, including the parents;
- notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
- schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
- tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
- tell the parents who will be attending; and
- tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or
special expertise about the child.
Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP.
Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child’s placement
is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the
child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive
services as soon as possible after the meeting.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns
with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still
disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents
may file a complaint with the state education agency and may request a due process
hearing, at which time mediation must be available.
Here is a brief summary of what happens after the IEP is written.
Step 7. Services are provided.
The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as it was written.
Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers
has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying
out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must
be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His
or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that
progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These
progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed
of their nondisabled children’s progress.
Step 9. IEP is reviewed.
The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if
the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents,
as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions
for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns
with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several
options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation
(if available) or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the
state education agency.
Step 10. Child is reevaluated.
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often
called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a “child
with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are.
However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the
child’s parent or teacher asks for a reevaluation.
Copied from DESE website http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/iep/