by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
What is an IEP?
Every student in public schools enrolled in special education
services has an IEP (Individualized Education Program). An IEP is a
legal and binding document outlining objectives, measurable goals,
expectations, and the services provided to an individual student.
School personnel use the IEP as a guide to ensure students are
receiving the maximum amount of support services they qualify for
under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 or
Public Law 108-446.
After an extensive evaluation determines that a student qualifies for special
education services, a designated team of staff members from the school /district meet
at length to discuss how the special education program can promote the student’s
achievement. This team meets and writes the initial IEP and, after requesting the parents’
presence at a conference, reviews it with the parents. At this time, the team notes any
concerns or input the parents may have. If parents do not show up for the meeting and
do not ask to reschedule, the meeting may take place without them. However, the IEP
becomes active and services will begin only with the parents’ written consent.
After a designated period of time, the team reconvenes with the parents and
presents an evaluation of the student’s progress. At this time, the team and/or parent
may suggest changes to the goals and support services, or the IEP may stand as is if the
services are meeting the student’s needs sufficiently. Any changes to the IEP must have
parental consent before implementation.
Can parents request a revision of the IEP before the next scheduled IEP meeting?
Parents have the right to request a meeting of the IEP team to discuss making
changes to the IEP; however, there are procedures to follow. To call a meeting of the IEP
team, some districts require a written request with at least a 10-day notice (or more) in
order to give members of the team sufficient notice to attend.
IDEA law states, “There should be as many meetings a year as a child may need.” This is from Appendix A to the IDEA
regulations. If school personnel tell parents that a
revision of the IEP is not possible, they may not know the law. Some school personnel
have limited knowledge of IDEA laws regarding special education and know only what
they hear in an in-service training or by word-of-mouth.
Parents of a student with a disability should educate themselves on IDEA laws.
Information regarding IDEA laws as they apply to special education, specifically IEPs, is readily available on the internet. You can find answers quickly to
your questions or information on how to address your concerns
in the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Public
Law 108-446 statute and regulations. Special education service
providers should make sure teachers and other staff members
have a copy of the IDEA statute and provide one for parents
before the initial IEP meeting. For an overview of the IDEA
statute and regulations, go to
For a more parent-friendly translation and commentary on IDEA 2004 Public Law 108-446, go to the National Center for Learning Disabilities website
Special Education coordinators in every school district have access to copies of
IDEA 2004 and will be able to discuss parent concerns or answer questions regarding the
For an accurate, current, reliable, and extensive
library of information about
special education law, education law, advocacy for children with disabilities, the rights
of students enrolled in special education, and FAQs regarding IDEA, go to