The Individual Education Program (IEP)


Information in this packet is based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) PL 108-476 and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-172A


What is an IEP?

WAC 392-172A-03090

An IEP is a written statement developed by the parents and school personnel for the student when the student is found eligible for special education services. (Eligibility for special education is based on the evaluation of the student, which must be conducted prior to writing the IEP.)  The IEP contains the educational strengths and needs of the student, describing what the student is currently able to do, what the student should be able to do in a year, how the student is going to achieve the task(s), and how the school will help. The IEP also contains ways to measure progress and is a written commitment of services.  The IEP is written for one calendar year or less.  Parents or any other IEP team member can call an IEP meeting at any time with proper notice.


Sections of an IEP include:

    • A statement of a student’s present levels of academic achievement  and functional performance
    • How the student’s disability affects the his/her involvement and progress in the general education curriculum; or for preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities
    • Measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals
    • For students who will take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives
    • How the district will measure the student’s progress toward meeting goals
    • How the school will communicate to parents the student’s progress toward the goals
    • A statement of special education and related services and supplementary aids and services based on peer reviewed research to the extent practicable to be provided to the student
    • A statement of program  modifications and supports for school personnel to enable the student to be involved and make progress in the general education classroom
    • How the student will be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and participate with other students in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities
    • A statement of the appropriate accommodations the student will need in order to participate in statewide and district wide assessments
    • Extended school year services
    • Aversive interventions, if necessary
    • The dates the services will start, the duration, how often, where  and for how many minutes they will be provided
    • Beginning not later than age 16, transition services, including appropriate measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment, and independent living skills and the courses of study needed for the student to reach those goals
    • Transfer of rights at age of majority statement


What Are Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance?

Present levels are statements about how the student’s disability affects the student’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. For instance:

    • What are the student’s strengths?
    • What are the student’s needs, interests, hopes and dreams for the future?
    • How does the student perform in each of the general education areas?
    • How does the student learn best (i.e. hands on, one to one, visual, auditory)?
    • What methods have and have not been successful in the past?
    • In what areas does the student need assistance? (i.e. hallways, playground, large print, assistive technology).
    • Does the student have additional needs in the areas of self-help skills, social skills, communication skills, or vocational skills?
    • What special factors interfere with the student’s education (i.e. behavior, language needs, vision and hearing)?

Present Levels of Performance are drawn from a variety of sources, including current test results, observations, outside assessments and parent input.


What are Measurable Annual Goals?

Measurable annual goals are statements that show what the student is expected to achieve within the IEP year. The IEP team must develop measurable annual goals that address each area in present levels of performance. Therefore, if the present levels of performance address math, reading, mobility and behavior, there must be at least one annual goal for each of those areas.


The Why Question

When looking at proposed annual goals and/or objectives you may want to ask yourself if they meet the “Why Question” criteria.

    1. Will the goal increase the number of places a student will be able to live, work or play?
    2. Is the goal functional? Does a person without a disability have to perform the task?
    3. Is the goal age appropriate?
    4. Will the student be able to practice the skill or is it only taught in isolation?
    5. Is the skill required in adulthood?
    6. Does the student want to learn or be taught this skill?
    7. Does the parent want this skill taught?
    8. Is the skill physically enhancing?  (grooming or social skills)
    9. Does the goal provide the opportunity for contact with others?
    10. Will the student be able to meet the goal in a reasonable amount of time?
    11. Does the goal enhance the status of the student in his community? (school, neighborhood, work, recreation)

If the goals do meet these criteria then you probably have a great goal.  If they do not then you may want to choose one that better fits your child’s needs.


How will the student’s progress be measured?

Progress can be measured in many ways, including in-school testing, individual observation, and independent testing. Measurement should be primarily objective.  An increase in the student’s reading scores, using standardized tests, is an objective measurement.  If at the beginning of the year a child cannot zip his coat or write his name but can do these tasks at the end of the year that shows progress.  Using teacher observation as the only measure of progress is not objective measurement.


What is special education?  WAC 392-172A-01175

Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a student who is eligible for special education.  Special education includes speech therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, physical therapy, travel training, vocational education, and physical education. Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, method of instruction, or delivery of services to address the unique needs of the student and to allow access to the general curriculum.


What are related services?  WAC 392-172A-01155

Related services are developmental corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist an eligible student to benefit from special education.

Related services include:

    • Transportation
    • Speech-language therapy
    • Audiology services
    • Interpreting services
    • Psychological services
    • Physical and occupational therapy services
    • Recreation, therapeutic recreation
    • Early identification and assessment
    • Counseling services
    • Rehabilitation counseling
    • Orientation and mobility services
    • Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes
    • School health services, including nursing services
    • Social work services in school
    • Parent counseling and training


Who are members of the IEP team?  WAC 392-172A-03095

  1. Parents of the student
  2. Not less than one general education teacher of the student, if the student is or may be participating in the general education environment
  3. Not less than one special education teacher
  4. A representative of the school district who can provide or supervise specially designed instruction, knows about general education curriculum, and is knowledgeable about the availability of resources
  5. A person who can explain the educational implications of the evaluation results (psychologist or other specialist who has conducted an evaluation). This person could be one of the people listed in 1-4 above
  6. At the discretion of the parent or the school district, other people who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student
  7. Whenever appropriate, the student. The student must be invited, if the purpose of the meeting is to consider post-secondary goals and transition


Can a team member be excused from the meeting?  WAC 392-172A-03095

Yes.  A team member whose area of the curriculum is not being discussed can be excused from the meeting, if the school district and the parent agree in writing,  and the member submits written input into the development of the IEP to the parents and other team members for consideration prior to the meeting.


How often can IEP meetings be held?  WAC 392-172A-03110

The IEP meeting must be held within 30 calendar days after the student is determined eligible for special education services. Each IEP after that must be completed within one year of the date of the last IEP meeting. The school usually arranges the yearly meeting.  However, any member of the IEP team can ask for an IEP meeting whenever the member thinks the IEP needs to be reviewed or revised. Instead of convening an IEP team meeting, the parent and school may agree to develop a written document to amend or modify the student’s current IEP. The school district then must ensure that all members of the student’s team are informed of the changes and of their responsibilities.


How do parents participate in IEP meetings?  WAC 392-172A-03100

Parents are equal members of the IEP team. The school must ensure that one or both parents are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate. Schools/districts must notify parents early enough prior to the meeting so they have the opportunity to attend. The meeting must be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place.


What if a parent is unable to come to an IEP meeting?

If neither parent can attend the IEP meeting the school must use other methods to ensure parents will be able to participate.  The school could use video or telephone conference calls.  They could reschedule meetings for different days, times, or meeting places.  If neither parent can attend the meeting the school could hold an IEP meeting without them as long as the school can document its attempts to arrange a mutually agreed upon time and place.  The documentation would include detailed records of telephone calls made or attempted and the results of those calls, copies of correspondence sent to parents and any responses received, and detailed records of visits made to the parent’s home or place of employment and the results of those visits.


Who decides how a child will participate in the statewide and district wide assessments?

The IEP team determines the extent of participation appropriate for each student on an individual basis.  The team also determines what accommodations will be necessary.  If the student cannot participate in the regular assessment, the team will determine what alternate assessment(s) would be appropriate.


Must the IEP specify the amount of Special Education Services to be provided?

The amount of services must be stated in the IEP so the level of commitment by the school will be clear to parents and other team members. Therefore, if the team decides the child needs an aide (para-professional) for a specific amount of time each day, that service and time must be stated in the IEP.  If the service is not written into the IEP the student’s need for this service is not documented, and the service might not happen.


Must the school give parents a copy of the IEP or any addendums that are written?

YES. If for some reason staff do not want to give team members a copy of the IEP at the end of the meeting—i.e. because it is still in draft form or needs to be typed to be legible—get a copy of the draft before leaving the meeting. The draft can then be compared to the final document to be sure everything is included.


Are Extended School Year (ESY) services to be listed on the IEP?  WAC 392-172A-02020

Yes.  ESY must be provided, if the student’s IEP team determines those services are necessary. A school may not limit these services to particular categories, such as age groups or kinds of disabilities.  The type, length and frequency of ESY services must meet the individual student’s needs. It is not to be a “one size fits all” program. Examples of some reasons that the IEP team may want to consider ESY:

  1. If a student lost skills over the summer and was not be able to regain them over a period of time after school started again (regression/recoupment)
  2. If a student made very slow progress during the school year
  3. If behavior or physical issues need continued support
  4. If certain areas of the student’s curriculum need continuous attention
  5. To meet the student’s vocational needs


What other special factors have to be considered in an IEP?  WAC 392-172A-03110

  1. The use of positive behavioral interventions, supports or other strategies to address a student’s behavior, if that behavior is interfering with the student’s ability to learn.
  2. Whether instruction in Braille for a student who is blind or visually impaired is appropriate or if the student may have a future need for Braille.
  3. The communication needs of the student, including the needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  4. The assistive technology needs of the student and how they will be addressed.
  5. The supplementary aids and services, program modifications and/or supports for school personnel that are needed.


What are transition services?  WAC 392-172A-01190 and -03090

Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns sixteen, or younger if the IEP team decides it is appropriate, measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment and where appropriate, independent living skills will be included in the IEP.  The transition services include courses of study needed to assist the student in reaching those goals.

  • Transition services are designed within a results-oriented process that is focused on improving academic and functional achievement to help the student make the transition from school to work. It can include community living and participation, job support, employment, instruction in adult living, and continuing education. It is based on the strengths, preferences and interests of the individual student.


Some Work Related Skills to Consider When Developing the IEP:

    • Is able to check own work for accuracy
    • Will correct mistakes or ask for help
    • Can work alone for certain amounts of time without asking for help
    • Follows safety procedures specific to the classroom or job site
    • Keeps work area clean
    • Works in groups appropriately
    • Is able to meet timelines of assignments or job related tasks
    • Comes to class or job on time and with appropriate materials
    • Transitions from one task or activity to another appropriately
    • Moves around school or work environment independently
    • Is appropriately groomed and dressed for work
    • Communicates needs to others
    • Relates to peers, teachers, or co-workers in an appropriate manner
    • Uses other skill that the student may need to learn to enhance his/her opportunity for employment


What is an Aversive Intervention?  WAC 392-172A-03120 through 03135

An aversive intervention is the systematic use of stimuli or other treatment which a student is known to find unpleasant for the purpose of discouraging undesirable behavior on the part of the student. If the IEP team decides that aversive interventions are appropriate, the type of aversive interventions and all the conditions for their use must be stated in the IEP.  Parents must consider this carefully.  Only they may know how the student will react to different unpleasant situations.  Parents, as equal members of the IEP team, have the right to disagree with aversive interventions. Aversive interventions are to be considered as a last resort for changing behavior. Positive behavior interventions are to be used first.

The term “aversive intervention” does not include the use of reasonable force, restraint, or other treatment to control unpredictable spontaneous behavior which clearly presents harm or danger to the student, another person, property, or seriously disrupts the educational process.


When is Placement determined?

The IEP team determines a student’s placement based on the student’s IEP. The IEP document with the student’s present levels of performance, goals, accommodations and services to be provided and directs the placement in the least restrictive environment for that individual. The team will make recommendations concerning specific programs or classrooms that meet the criteria on the IEP.  They will also make recommendations about how long a student will be in a special education program during the day and what will be taught in that setting.  A parent—as an equal member of the IEP team–has the right to agree or disagree with the recommendations.


What is Least Restrictive Environment?

Least Restrictive Environment means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities will be educated with non-disabled peers. The focus is on having the student in the general education setting with the supports and services needed to enable the student to be successful there. Special classes, separate schooling or the removal of students eligible for special education services will only occur if the nature or severity of the disability prevents that success in general education classes. 


How will I know what is least restrictive for my child?

Ask yourself some questions about your student, such as:

    • Without a disability what school would my student attend?
    • Without a disability what classroom and grade would my student attend?
    • Without a disability would my student have a full day of school?
    • What changes would have to be made in the class for my student to attend?
    • What support services would the teacher need?
    • Could my student (given the necessary supports and services) be successful in the general education class for all or part of the day?


Suggestions for planning:

Before the IEP meeting:

    • Review home file
    • Review homework assignments, current grades, and behavior plans
    • Compare test scores of all evaluation reports to help determine progress
    • Ask for a copy of the proposed IEP before the meeting
    • Visit the classroom if possible
    • Ask to see instructional materials that may be used
    • Talk to your child:
      • What does he/she want to learn?
      • Where does he/she want to learn it?
      • What does he/she enjoy about school?
      • Who does he/she consider a friend or mentor?
      • What does he/she not enjoy about school?
    • Make a list of concerns and questions with a space to write the response
    • If you can not get an answer right away, agree on a deadline for the staff person to get back to you.

At the meeting:

    • Come prepared with notes and ideas about discussion points.
    • Bring a support person and ask that person to take notes for you.
    • It is very important that the team review the past year’s goals to determine if they have been met.  If they have not been met, ask why, and whether or not they are worth spending another year of your child’s time working on the same skill.
    • Focus on the student–this is his/her future.
    • Listen carefully.
    • Participate in the discussion.
    • Ask questions.
    • If someone tells you “It is the law” or “It is policy”, have that person give you a copy of that law or policy.
    • You can take extra time to review the IEP before signing it. Be aware that the school district can implement the IEP as written, even if you do not sign it (unless this is the student’s first IEP). If you do not agree with the IEP, put it in writing either on the IEP by your signature or in a certified letter to the district.
    • Lack of i.e. time, money, resources is no reason to deny a student the needed services
    • Get a copy of the IEP for your home file.

After the meeting:

    • Review the IEP to be sure it contains the information the team discussed and agreed was appropriate for the student.
    • Review the IEP to see if it is written so the expectations of services and progress are clearly understood by everyone.
    • Do any follow-up (letters and/or actions) for which you are responsible.
    • Monitor your student’s progress, strengths, needs, service provisions throughout the year.
    • Call an IEP meeting, if needed.
    • Keep in touch with staff—showing your appreciation as well as your concerns. 

Do I have the right to take my student off an IEP?

This right has been added to the special education laws. Parents can opt to sign their own student off an IEP, and therefore out of special education. Consider this decision carefully. Part of this new section of the special education laws is that students taken off an IEP will no longer have the protections the IEP provides. If a student has been taken off the IEP by the parents, and the parents later decide the student needs the IEP, they have to start the referral process from the beginning. An added element is, if the student has reached the age of majority (age 18), and the parent does not have legal guardianship, the student could sign the paperwork to exit special education.

School districts have the forms for parents to complete and sign so the student no longer receives the special education services and protections the IEP provides because of the student’s disability.

Sometimes having the student out of special education classes and totally included in the general education setting is the reason parents want to take the student off the IEP. A better approach would be to work with the rest of the IEP team on why the general education setting would be the least restrictive environment and what the student needs in that environment.

Remember that you are the primary expert on your son or daughter and are the best person to advocate for him or her. If you do not advocate, no one else will.



When you have had a conversation or meeting with school personnel and nothing has been put in writing, sending a letter of understanding helps document what was said or agreed upon. Three elements are important to include:

    1. thanks or acknowledgement for their time and efforts;
    2. your perception of the conversation;
    3. request for their view of the conversation in writing within 10 business days.

It is vital that you send the letter by certified mail with return receipt requested or hand deliver it and have the person receiving it sign and date your copy as a receipt. ALWAYS keep a copy for your files.




Name of person to whom letter is directed



Dear ________________:


Thank you for speaking with me on (date and time) about my child, (child’s name). I appreciate your concern and input about (his/her) school situation.

My understanding of our conversation is (list the areas that were covered and what you think was said or agreed/disagreed upon for each area—be complete in explaining your understanding).

If I have misunderstood any part of our conversation, please clarify your position on these issues by responding to me in writing within 10 business days. Again, thank you for your time, as it is so important that we work cooperatively as team members for (child’s name)’s  education.





Phone number


If the person calls you to discuss your letter, remind the person that you asked for/need the response in writing

Send the letter by certified mail or hand deliver and have them sign and date your copy as a receipt. Always keep a copy for your file.



Street Address

City, State, Zip



Special Education Director or Program Coordinator

School District

Street Address

City, State, Zip


Dear (Name):

I am requesting an IEP meeting regarding the program/placement for my son/daughter,  (Student’s Name). As a member of (Student’s Name)’s IEP team, I have some concerns that I believe must be addressed by the entire team.

These are my concerns:


Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters. Please contact me, if you have questions and/or to schedule the IEP meeting. My phone number is: ________________. My e-mail address is:________________________.



(Your Signature)

Print or type your name

Send the letter by certified mail or hand carry it and get a receipt. Always keep a copy for your records.

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The PAVE Parent Training and Information Program may include information on State or Federal laws regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. While this is provided to inform or make one aware of these rights, legal definitions, or laws/regulations, it is not providing legal representation or legal advice. The recipient understands that this is information is to educate them not to provide them with legal representation.