Public Law 94-142, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is legislation that was passed to ensure children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education that meets their unique needs.

The IEP is defined as a written document for each child with a disability that describes that student’s educational program and is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with IDEA. Each IEP is a vital document, for it spells out, among other things, the special education and related services each student will receive. The IEP is developed by a team that includes parents and school professionals and, when appropriate, the student. Each IEP should be developed with careful consideration of each child’s capabilities, strengths, needs, and interests. The IEP should direct the student toward high expectations and toward becoming a successful member of his or her community and the workforce. It should function as the tool that directs and guides the development of meaningful educational experiences, helping the child achieve his or her goals. In short, it should assist the student in meeting the goals of our educational system.

The IEP must contain a statement of:

  • Present level of educational performance
  • Measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives
  • Special education and related services
  • Explanation of nonparticipation in general education curriculum when necessary
  • Participation in statewide or district-wide assessments or, if determined by the IEP Team, a statement of alternate assessment
  • Dates, frequency, location, and duration of services
  • Student progress
  • Transition services
  • Transfer of right (if applicable)
  • Extended school year

During the IEP meeting, the IEP Team develops an IEP that is a “living document” and puts it into effect providing special education and related services to a student. The IEP Team is additionally responsible for implementing the IEP as soon as possible following the meeting. The IEP Team also revises the IEP when necessary and reviews it at least annually. The IEP meeting must involve all of the required participants including transition service participants as transition is being discussed, and parent participation must be ensured. Anytime the IEP Team is considering the development, revision, or review of a student’s IEP, the meeting includes a discussion of the student’s strengths; the parents’ concerns; the results of evaluation; any special factors such as behavior, communication needs, and assistive technology.