The IEP form: section by section

It's a good idea to have a sense of what's on the form.

It is a long complicated form, but your IEP team knows how to fill it out, and they will help you the whole way! They will usually write most of it, but will base it on all the things you have talked about together.

The 2 parts that they may ask you to write are the Parent and/or Student Concerns and the Vision Statement.

If you haven't seen it already, click on the link at the bottom of the page to download a blank IEP form. (It will open in a new tab or appear in the bottom corner of your screen.)

Remember that you have a say!

You can discuss things you want to change or add in any of these sections.

We'll now walk you through the form page-by-page.

Click the boxes below to learn about each page of the form. Remember you can click on the title again to close the box!

*Please note that the page numbers we use here are the ones on the blank form. If you have an IEP filled out, your page numbers might be different.

 

Don’t worry if this seems hard to understand! Your other IEP Team members will help you through it.

At the top of the form, there are spaces for info about the school and the student (your child). The IEP team will fill these in. Below that is the first section of the IEP, called Parent and/or Student Concerns.

This is one section that you write yourself! It is important that you be honest and thoughtful. Think carefully and write what you want for your child.

The Team may ask you to write this part and the Vision Statement before the meeting so they can add them to the draft.

Example of IEP form with the Page One, Part 1 section highlighted. This section is titled Parent and or Student concerns.

Here's what you can do:

  • Look at your notes that you wrote in your child's IEP binder, or the Thoughts & Concerns Form.

  • Carefully outline your concerns and hopes for your child for the upcoming school year 

IEP_Parent_concerns.png

If you filled out a Thoughts & Concerns Form earlier in this Guide, use it to fill in this section!

(If you didn't, you can go back to that page and fill it out. Find it in the menu on your screen.)

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

Your child's teacher will usually lead the writing in this section, but they will ask you and the rest of the team for help.

Past progress reports can help with this part, if you have them.

Example of the IEP form page one, part 2. This section is called Student Strengths and Key Evaluation Results Summary.

In this "strengths" section, it is important to put aside your negative concerns about your child.This section is focused on positive things like:

  • What does your child do well at in school?

  • What are their interests?

  • What are their positive qualities?

  • What are examples of things they have accomplished or have had success with?

This section will also include a summary of the most recent evaluations of your child:

  • What type of disability do they have, and how does this affect their work in the classroom?

  • What were the results from recent evaluations and tests, like the MCAS or PARCC?

  • If your child has had an IEP before, what progress have they made on those goals?

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

This is one other part that they may ask you to write ahead of time.

It describes what you see happening with your child over the next 5 years.

Example of the IEP form page one part 3. The vision statement. What is the vision for this student?

You should play an active role in what the Team writes here. It should be based on discussions with your child.

Here's what you can do: 

  • Think ahead to the next 1 to 5 years, and outline:

    • What is the vision for your child, both in school and outside of school?

    • How can school and after-school activities best prepare them for the most independent and productive life they can have?

  • Try to balance your concerns with the hopes and dreams of your child.

  • Be realistic about what they can achieve, given their abilities and disabilities.

  • If the vision is too unrealistic, it may hurt your chances to get the right services and supports in the future.

Note: if your child is fourteen or older, the Vision Statement will also include goals for after high school. These might related to jobs, college, or adult living. At this point, your child may help to write this section, if possible.

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

Part A: General Curriculum

Checks which academic subjects are impacted by your child's disability.

Example of the IEP form page 2. This page is titled Present Levels of Education Performance. The first section is titled General Curriculum and includes a checklist of subjects such as English, History, Math, etc.

 

The next part will outline how your child's disability impacts their learning in these subject areas.

  • Will include all the ways your child has trouble learning

  • Will cover every part of your child's disability (cognitive, emotional, behavioral, physical)

Excerpt from the IEP form that reads: How does the disability or disabilities affect progress in the curriculum areas?

The next answer covers what types of accommodations your child needs in the classroom. Accommodations are changes that the regular teacher can make to help your child learn more effectively. For example: rearranging the classroom. These do not include changes to the content.

An excerpt from the IEP form that reads: What type or types of accommodations, if any, are necessary for the student to make effective progress?

The last answer covers what kinds of special instruction (teaching) your child needs. These include changes to the content. It is usually special education teachers or different kinds of therapists who do this special instruction. The team will write out changes that are needed in these areas:
  • Content: Changes to the level or difficulty of the regular curriculum (these changes are also called modifications)

  • Methodology and Delivery of Instruction: Changes to the way they teach your child, based on their strengths and learning style

  • Performance Criteria: Changes to the way your child shows what they have learned, based on their strengths and learning style (this may be something besides the usual tests)

Excerpt from IEP for that says: What type or types of specially designed instruction, if any is necessary for the student to make effective progress. Check the following checkboxes with the necessary instructional modifications and describe how such modifications will be made. Checkbox 1 of 3, Content. Checkbox 2 of 3 Methodology or Delivery of Instruction. Checkbox 3 of 3. Performance Criteria.

 

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

Part B: Other Educational Needs

This section is about how to help your child take part in activities that are not academic. These may include social life, sports, arts, and after-school programs.

 

An excerpt from IEP page 3 titled Present Levels of Educational Performance, section B: Other Education Needs. In this section there are checkboxes listing different needs such as Adapted physical education, social or emotions needs, assistive tech services, and others.

This next part answers the same 3 questions from Part A, but this time for non-academic areas, such as:
  • Adaptive physical education (APE)

  • Assistive technology devices or services

  • Behavior

  • Braille (if needed)

  • Communication

  • Language

  • Social/emotional needs

  • Travel training

  • Skill development related to work training

An excerpt from the IEP form with the following three questions. 1. How does the disability or disabilities affect progress in the indicated area or areas of other educational needs? 2. What types of accommodation, if any, is necessary for the student to make effective progress? 3. What type or types of specially designed instruction, if any, is necessary for the student to make effective progress? Check the necessary instructional modifications and describe how such modifications will be made. Checkbox 1 of 3. Content. Checkbox 2 of 3. Methodology or Delivery of instruction. Checkbox 3 of 3. Performance Criteria.

 

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

The next section is for your child's IEP goals.

These goals are what you and the team expect your child will achieve over the next IEP time period. Usually, an IEP will have 3 to 4 goals, but this can vary a lot.

Excerpt from IEP page four that says "Current Performance Levels or Measurable Annual Goals"

Excerpt from IEP that includes questions about Current Performance Level, Measurable Annual Goal, Benchmark and Objectives.

First, you and the team will choose 'Specific Goal Focus' areas (see A. above) for one or more goals. Focus areas are based on what will make the biggest difference in your child’s school experience. Examples may be: communication, behavior, social skills, or math.For each focus area, you and the team describe your child's 
Current Performance Level. This is their current ability in that area: what they can do now. This is the starting point for writing a specific goal, which comes next.
Measurable Annual Goals. Next, the Team will write goals for each focus area. You will help them decide, but they should know how to write the goals in the right way.
Benchmarks/Objectives.These are the "stepping stones" between your child’s current level and meeting the goals.
  • You break down each goal into 2 to 4 smaller parts. These are the objectives.
  • Benchmarks describe how much progress you expect within a specific time period during the year.
  • The objectives and benchmarks help to assess your child's progress towards each goal. You will get regular progress reports throughout the year that tell you how well your child is doing.

Well-written goals are:

  • Specific: The goal should describe the knowledge, skill, behavior, or attitude that you want your child to master. It explains what success will look like when they meet this goal.
  • Skill-building: The goal should be useful. It should address what matters most to you and your child, and should help make the best possible difference for your child's future.
  • Challenging: The goal should ensure your child is being held to high standards to prepare for an independent and productive life.
  • Measurable: Describe how you will measure your child’s progress toward the goal.
  • Achievable: The goal should be realistic. Your child should be able to reach it within one year.
  • Individualized: Goals must be based on your child's past experiences, current abilities, rate of learning, and educational need.

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

This describes how your child will get the services needed to help them reach their goals.

Based on federal law, services should allow your child to follow the regular curriculum along with their non-disabled peers as much as possible.

Excerpt from IEP page 5 titled Service Delivery

There are three types of services listed in the IEP:

  • Section A: Consultation and indirect services

  • Section B: Special education services in the general education classroom

  • Section C: Special education services in other settings

Excerpt from IEP form titled Section A. Consultation.

Excerpt from IEP form titled Section B. Special Education and Related Services in General Education Classroom

Excerpt from IEP form titled Section C. Special Education and Related Services in Other settings.

Your IEP team will help to:

  • Identify the type of services that can help with each goal

  • Decide who will provide the services

  • Decide how often (frequency)and how long (duration) your child will get the service

  • List the start and end date of each service

These are some types of providers who may work with your child:

  • Special education teacher

  • Occupational therapist (OT)

  • Physical therapist (PT)

  • Speech therapist (also called a speech-language pathologist - SLP)

  • School psychologist

  • Applied behavior analyst (ABA)

  • Autism specialist

  • Assistive technology professional

This says why --and how often-- your child will be NOT in the general classroom.

For example: if they are pulled out of class sometimes for special instruction, or if they have intense needs and will do better in a special classroom.

Excerpt from IEP form page 6, part 1 titled Nonparticipation Justification. This section includes the following question: Is the student removed from the general education classroom at any time? Yes or No. If yes, why is removal considered critical to the student

 

If Section C on Page 5 is blank, then you check "No" here and skip this section.

If Section C on Page 5 is filled out, then you check “Yes” here and complete this section.

Here, the team describes WHY your child must be removed from the regular classroom in order to meet their learning needs.

This is important because federal law requires that students with disabilities must be taught with their non-disabled peers as much as possible.

This section will:

  1. Refer to the services that the team listed under Section C on Page 5

  2. For each of these services, describe why your child needs a separate setting outside of the regular classroom

  3. Make it clear at which specific times your child will be removed from the regular classroom

 

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

You only fill this part out if your child needs a different school schedule than the regular one.

  • Shorter or longer school day

  • Shorter or longer school year

  • Residential services

  • Summer services or summer school

Excerpt from IEP form titled Schedule Modification. This section asks question about timing of the school day and school year that would be best for the student.

The most common reasons that a child would need a schedule modification are:
  • If they have a health condition that prevents them from keeping a typical school schedule, or

  • If they will regress (fall back) if they don't get a longer school day, longer school year, or summer school/summer services

It's common for kids to get services through the summer if they are at risk of losing the progress they made during the school year. Ask about this if you think this may happen to your child!

This section:

  1. Describes your child's school schedule, if it is different from a typical one

  2. Explain why this new schedule is needed

  3. Should reflect the goals and benchmarks on Page 4, and the services described in the Service Delivery grid on Page 5

 

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

If your child has an IEP, they have a right to get a special bus to and from school if they need it.

If your child's disability means they need this service, you will fill this out.

An illustration of a parent wondering about the following questions. How do all children get to school? Does my child

An excerpt from the IEP form form titled Transportation Services that has questions about special transportation services.

Here's what you can do to decide:

  1. Think how typical children in your neighborhood get to school. Walk? Yellow school bus? Public transportation?

  2. Decide if your child's disability prevents them from getting to school the same way as their peers.

  3. Could they safely ride a regular school bus or van with some help? What extra help would they need? For example, some kids have a bus attendant, or monitor. A monitor is a person who rides with your child to keep them safe. Not the driver.

  4. Your child may need a special transportation vehicle. For example, if they use a wheelchair.

If you prefer to drive your child to school itself, let the team know. You may be able to get paid back for gas money.

Transportation reimbursement

Children with IEPs can usually get a special bus to school if needed. 

On page 6 in the IEP, the team writes if your child needs regular transportation or special transportation to get to school. Your child may also need another support, like an aide or bus monitor to help them and keep them safe. This can also be written on this page.

If you prefer to take your child to school yourself, you may be able to get reimbursed. This means the state pays you a standard rate per mile that you drive to and from school.

A flow chart explain the question: Can I get reimbursed for transportation if I take my child to school? The answer to this is based on what the IEP says? If the IEP says Special Transportation, than yes you will be reimbursed. If the IEP says Regular transportation, but your child was placed in a school outside of your neighborhood, than yes you will be reimbursed. If the IEP says Regular Transportation and your child was placed at your neighborhood

 

This says how your child will take the state or district assessments.

These are the standard tests that all students must take.

These include:

  • The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)

  • Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

Excerpt from IEP page 7 with the title State or District Wide Assessment. Underneath it says: Identify state or district-wide assessments planned during the IEP period.

Both federal and state laws agree that students with disabilities should do this testing.

Why? Because it helps hold schools and teachers accountable for the performance of special education students, just as they are held accountable for general education students.

So for each content area in the grid (see below), you and the team will decide which column to check:

  • Column 1: If your child can take the test (or parts of it) in the same way it's given to typical students.

  • Column 2: If your child can take the test only if there are changes to the test conditions

    (For example, they may get extra time, need it to be read aloud to them, or take it in a small, private room.)

  • Column 3: If your child cannot take the test, even with changes to the test conditions.

Excerpt from IEP form that includes a table with 5 rows of content areas or school subjects. For each content area there are three columns with corresponding check boxes.

An excerpt from the IEP form that reads "For each content area identified by an X in the column 2 above: note in the space below, the content area and describe the accommodations necessary for participation in the on demand testing. Any accommodations used for assessment purposes should be closely modeled on the accommodations that are provided to the student as part of his or her instructional program.

If you checked any box in Column 2:

  • The team must explain what changes to the test conditions are needed, and why

  • The changes should be consistent with the PLEP that were written on Page 2 of the IEP

An excerpt from the IEP that reads: "For each content area identified by an X in column 3 above: note in the space below, the content area, why the on-demand assessment is not appropriate and how the content area will be alternately assessed. Make sure to include the learning standards that ill be addressed in each content area, the recommended assessment method or methods and the recommended evaluation and reporting method or methods for the student

If you checked any box in Column 3:

  • The team must explain why, and suggest an alternate testing method.

If you want to learn more about changes to test condition and alternate tests, talk to your IEP team and read these resources from the state:

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

Here is where you can put any more info you would like to add.

Excerpt from IEP page 8, part 1 titled Additional Information.

Examples of things you could put here:

  • How you will measure your child's progress towards meeting the annual goals

  • How often and when you will get the progress reports

  • Any other assistive technology or medical supports and services your child will need

  • Schedules for meetings between your child's general education and special education teachers

  • Communication books and other learning aids

  • Details about transition to adulthood, including the Transfer of Rights or the placement change of graduation

  • How you will be notified if you can’t attend an IEP meeting

Here's what you can do:

  1. Tell the team any important details you'd like to add to the IEP that were not yet included

  2. Ask the team to explain anything mentioned here that you'd like to learn more about

  3. Check that any services discussed in this section are also reflected in the service delivery grid on Page 5

 

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

This is where you check if you accept the IEP, and sign it.

These are your 3 options:

  • Accept the draft IEP

  • Reject the draft IEP

  • Partially reject the draft IEP

We'll tell you more about what to do if you don't agree with the IEP, and choose to not accept it as it's written.

Sources: MA DESE, FCSN

Sources: Children's Law Center of MA, Federation for Children with Special Needs, MA DESE

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