What are the required components of an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting and that must include certain content:
- A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance
- A statement of measurable annual goals
- A description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when periodic reports on the child’s progress will be provided
- A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child
- A statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel
- An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and activities
- A statement of accommodations necessary to measure academic achievement and functional performance on State and districtwide assessments
- The projected date for the beginning of the services, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services
- If the IEP team determines that the child must take an alternate assessment, a statement explaining why
- If the child turns 16 while an IEP is in effect, appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living, and transition services needed to assist the child in reaching the postsecondary goals. [34 C.F.R. § 300.320(a)]
Can an IEP ever be amended outside of an IEP meeting?
Yes. The federal regulations that implement the IDEA state that after the annual IEP review, the parent and the school may agree to make changes to the child’s IEP without convening the IEP team, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP. [34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(4)]
Can an IEP state that a student will receive a service “as appropriate,” “as deemed appropriate,” or “as needed?”
The regulations that implement the IDEA state that an IEP must include “[t]he projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications . . . and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.320(a)(7)] “What is required is that the IEP include information about the amount of services that will he provided to the child, so that the level of the agency’s commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP Team members. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be appropriate to the specific service, and clearly stated in the IEP in a manner that can be understood by all involved in the development and implementation of the IEP.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility, IEP, Educational Placement, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46667 (August 2006)]
Does an IEP need to specify the exact number of minutes that a particular service will be provided to a child?
There is nothing in the regulations that implement the IDEA that requires an IEP to state the exact number of minutes that a particular service will be provided. “What is required is that the IEP include information about the amount of services that will be provided to the child so that the level of the agency’s commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP Team members.” [Letter to Matthews, 55 IDELR 142 (OSEP 2010)] The amount of time for a particular service must be appropriate and clearly stated in the IEP so that all parties understand. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility, IEP, Educational Placement, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46667 (August 2006)] The regulations that implement the IDEA require IEPs to include the projected date for the beginning of services and modifications, and also the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications. Frequency refers to how often a child will receive a service, meaning the number of times per day or per week. Duration refers to how long each session will last, meaning the number of minutes, and also when services will begin and end, meaning the starting and ending dates. [Letter to Matthews, 55 IDELR 142 (OSEP 2010)] An IEP needs to include information on the frequency and the duration; so a designation of 2,500 minutes/year (duration) is insufficient without also including information on the frequency of the service to be provided.
Must a school include a parent’s preferred educational methodology in his or her child’s IEP?
The requirement for schools to facilitate parents’ participation in educational decisions regarding their children is evident throughout the IDEA and its implementing regulations. The regulations require schools to afford the parents of a child with a disability the opportunity to participate in meetings that concern the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to their child. [34 C.F.R. § 300.501(b)] In developing a child’s IEP, the team (which includes the child’s parent) must consider, among other things, “the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(ii)] With that in mind, schools should consider parents’ preferences for specific educational methodologies; however, the ultimate decision regarding which methodology to utilize belongs to the school.
The United States Supreme Court has stated that the requirement to provide a child with a FAPE is satisfied when a school provides “personalized instruction with sufficient support services to permit the child to benefit educationally from that instruction.” [Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 455 U.S. 175, 102 S.Ct. 3034 (1982)] “In addition, the IEP, and therefore the personalized instruction, should be formulated in accordance with the requirements of the Act and . . . should be reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.” [Id.] Consequently, if a school offers an appropriate program, it is not obligated to utilize a methodology preferred by the child’s parent. [see Carlson v. San Diego Unified School District, 54 IDELR 213 (9th Cir. 2001)]
May an IEP team include a goal in an area not specifically linked to the child’s eligibility category?
Yes. The regulations that implement the IDEA state that an IEP must include a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to 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 meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. [34 C.F.R. § 300.320(a)(2)] For example, a child may be eligible to receive special education and related services under the disability category of specific learning disability, but may have needs related to behavior. Because the regulations require IEP teams to consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports any time a child’s behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others [34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(2)], an IEP team may choose to include a goal to address the child’s behavior.
Does a child’s IEP have to be translated into the parents’ native language?
The regulations that implement the IDEA are clear that both the procedural safeguards notice and prior written notice must be written in language understandable to the general public and provided in the native language or other mode of communication of the parent, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. [34 C.F.R. §§ 300.503(c) and 504(d)] If the native language or other mode of communication of the parent is not a written language, the public agency must take steps to ensure that the notice is translated orally or by other means to the parent in his or her native language or other mode of communication and that the parent understands the content of the notice. [Id.] There is not, however, a specific requirement under the IDEA or the regulations for other IEP documents to be translated into the parents’ native language. It is important to remember, though, that the regulations require schools to take steps to ensure that parents have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the IEP development process and to “take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP team meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents with deafness or whose native language is other than English.” [34 C.F.R. §§ 300.322(a) and (e)] “In other words, while providing written translations of IEP documents is not required under IDEA, [the United States Department of Education/Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)] believe[s] that in some circumstances [written translations] may help to show that a parent has been fully informed of the services his or her child will be receiving.” [Letter to Boswell, 49 IDELR 196 (OSEP 2007)]