Overview of the Individualized Education Program (IEP)


Parents and individuals with disabilities have more questions than answers about the IEP and how to use it well. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important program for students who need additional services to access learning. We hope this video can answer some questions you might have. For additional support, please make sure you search on this website for informative articles. For 1:1 support, you can fill out a Get Help request form!


In general, goals:

  • Are required as part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Are designed to help a student make meaningful progress in light of the circumstances
  • Encourage a student’s progress toward grade-level standards and participation with peers
  • May focus on academics, Social Emotional Learning or skills for everyday living, called Functional Skills

Present Levels of Performance (PLOP): Goals flop without good PLOP!

Not every school uses the term PLOP, but this acronym refers to the part of the IEP where a student’s achievements and challenges are described. A lot of this information comes from evaluation, but parents, teachers and providers can add information. The goals get built from this information, so it’s important. We need to know where we are to figure out where we’re going!

This section of the IEP describe what’s going on with the student in specific areas: cognitive, adaptive, and developmental/functional. The statements include two required elements, dependent on the age of a child.

  • How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in general education​
  • For preschoolers, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities within the natural environment​

These statements impact a child’s placement and how “Least Restrictive Environment is provided to the maximum extent appropriate,” as it’s written in special education law.

Parents can make sure that the strengths and interests of a child are described. Knowing how to teach skills and encourage growth based on a child’s natural talents and curiosity sets up an important collaboration between the child and the team and can inspire everyone toward progress!  ​

Determine whether the IEP Goals are SMART:

S             Specific … Is the targeted skill clearly named or described? How will it be taught?

M          Measurable… How will progress toward the goal be observed or measured? 

A            Achievable… Is this goal realistic for the student, considering current abilities?

R            Relevant… Is the skill something that is useful and necessary for the student’s success in school and life?

T             Time-Bound… What specific date is set to determine whether the goal is met?