IDEA and the IEP Process

By Eve Kessler, Esq.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal legislation that guarantees the rights of children with learning and other disabilities to a free and appropriate public education • Several provisions in the IDEA pertain specifically to the IEP process

For students with LD and ADHD, the Individual Educational Program (IEP) serves as the vehicle to ensure participation in the general education curriculum, a right established by federal law in the IDEA. Following are 6 key provisions of IDEA to keep in mind as you undertake the IEP planning process.

1. Measuring Progress

The IDEA requires that an IEP contain a statement of measurable annual goals, which includes functional goals, as well as academic goals. The school must provide a description of how it will measure progress toward meeting the annual goals and when it will provide progress reports to parents.

2. Research-Based Services

The legislation specifies that services be based on peer-reviewed research. Encouraging implementation of time-tested, research-based programs discourages schools from using their own combinations of various programs.

3. Team Meeting Participation

Team members are not required to attend meetings if their area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed. In such a case, both the district and parents must agree that the member’s attendance is not necessary. If a team member’s area is being modified or discussed, that member may be excused if the district and parents consent, and the member submits written input to the team prior to the meeting. Under both circumstances, parental consent or agreement must be in writing.

Parents should not feel pressured to consent to a team member’s absence. The purpose of an IEP meeting is to address the whole child. Fruitful discussions require the expertise of all team members.

4. Making IEP Changes

The parents and school may agree not to convene an actual IEP meeting to make changes. Instead, they may make changes through written documentation that amends the current IEP. In addition, if the parents and school agree, they may use alternative means of meeting, such as video or phone conferences.

5. Transitions

The IDEA mandates that transition statements, which include courses of study needed to assist the child in reaching measurable post-secondary goals, must be incorporated beginning no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 16 years old.

6. Transfer Students

For children transferring between school districts in the same state, within the same academic year, the IDEA requires the new school to provide services consistent with the previous school’s IEP until it adopts the IEP or develops a new one.

For children transferring between states, the new school must provide consistent services until it conducts its own evaluation, if necessary, and develops a new IEP. The new school must take reasonable steps to obtain and transfer a child’s records promptly; the old school must take reasonable steps to respond promptly.

Federal law requires that an IEP include the following elements:
  • The child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance, including how his disability affects his involvement and progress in the general education curriculum.
  • Measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to meet the needs resulting from his disability.
  • A statement of special education, related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research.
  • The program modifications and accommodations to be provided.

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