Individualized Education Program Guidance
Research and experience has shown that to improve results for students with disabilities, schools must:
- have high expectations for students with disabilities;
- meet the student’s needs to enable the student to access, participate and progress in the general education curriculum to the maximum extent possible;
- ensure that parents have meaningful opportunities to participate in the development, review and revision of the individualized education program (IEP);
- ensure that families have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home;
- ensure that special education is a service, rather than a place where students are sent;
- provide appropriate special education services and supplementary supports and services in the general education classroom, whenever appropriate;
- provide effective systems of school-wide, classroom, small group and individualized systems of behavior supports;
- ensure that all those who work with students with disabilities have the skills and knowledge necessary to help such students to meet academic and functional goals;
- prepare students for their transition to adult living, working and learning to lead productive independent adult lives to the maximum extent possible;
- provide high quality research-based instruction and supports; and
- focus resources on teaching and learning.
The IEP is the cornerstone of the special education process for each individual student. It is the tool to document how one student’s special needs related to his/her disability will be met within the context of an educational environment. This guidance document provides important information for Committees on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and Committees on Special Education (CSE)1 in developing IEPs that are reasonably calculated to result in educational benefit to a student.
"The New York State Standards apply to all students, regardless of their experiential background, capabilities, developmental learning differences, interests or ambitions. There are multiple pathways to learn effectively, participate meaningfully and work towards attaining the curricular standards. Students with a wide range of abilities may pursue multiple pathways to learn effectively, participate meaningfully and work toward attaining the curricular standards." (Learning Standards for English-Language Arts, New York State Education Department, March 1996).
The New York State Learning Standards include learning standards, performance indicators and sample tasks a student is expected to know or demonstrate at different levels (alternate, elementary, intermediate and commencement). Standards serve as the basis for developing instructional curriculum.
In developing a student's IEP, it is the responsibility of the Committee to recommend goals and services that will assist the student to be involved and progress in the general education curriculum (or for preschool students, in appropriate activities). This means that members of a Committee will need to consider both the State's learning standards as well as the school-based instructional curriculum, which should be aligned to the State’s learning standards. They will need to know the expectations of the general education classroom for the corresponding age of the student both in terms of what learning is expected (general curriculum) as well as how the students are expected to access/demonstrate that learning. This information will assist the Committee in determining if the student needs adaptations, accommodations, or modifications to the general curriculum for all or part of his/her learning. This is one reason it is essential that the student's general education teacher(s) participate in the Committee meetings and for the school district representative to be knowledgeable about the general education curriculum.
To develop IEPs that are linked to the standards, the Committee should:
- Review the content as well as the expectations for how the student will learn or demonstrate knowledge and skill in the content areas.
- Identify the strengths and challenges for the student in relation to those expectations in the present levels of performance section of the IEP.
- Identify how a student’s needs are linked to the general curriculum (e.g., a student's difficulty with visual processing may affect graphing skills required to achieve the math standards).
- Identify the goals that the student will be expected to achieve in one year and, when appropriate, short-term instructional objectives or benchmarks that are the intermediate steps to reach those annual goals). Standard-based goals do not mean that a student’s goals and objectives in an IEP are a re-statement of a standard or a curriculum goal in a specific content area, but rather are a statement that reflects the necessary learning that will lead to attainment of the standard. For example, a student may have goals to acquire essential learning strategies (e.g., mnemonics, self-questioning, paraphrasing and summarizing) that will help him or her better meet the expectations around how to learn the content.
- Identify the special education services, including the adaptations, accommodations, or modifications to the general curriculum, and/or instructional environment and materials, as needed by the student to reach those standards.
The IEP as the Cornerstone of the Special Education Process
The IEP is a strategic planning document that should be far reaching in its impact. An IEP identifies a student’s unique needs and how the school will strategically address those needs. IEPs identify how specially designed instruction will be provided in the context of supporting students in general education curriculum and in reaching the same learning standards as nondisabled students. IEPs guide how the special education resources of a school will be configured to meet the needs of the students with disabilities in that school. IEPs identify how students will be incrementally prepared for adult living. IEPs also provide an important accountability tool for school personnel, students and parents. By measuring students’ progress toward goals and objectives, schools should use IEPs to determine if they have appropriately configured how they use their resources to reach the desired outcomes for students with disabilities.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An IEP is a written statement for a student with a disability that is developed, reviewed and revised by a Committee on Special Education (CSE), Subcommittee on Special Education or Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE). The IEP is the tool that ensures a student with a disability has access to the general education curriculum and is provided the appropriate learning opportunities, accommodations, adaptations, specialized services and supports needed for the student to progress towards achieving the learning standards and to meet his or her unique needs related to the disability. Each student with a disability must have an IEP in effect by the beginning of each school year. Federal and State laws and regulations specify the information that must be documented in each student’s IEP. In New York State (NYS), IEPs developed for the 2011-12 school year and thereafter, must be on a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Education.
Who develops the IEP?
An IEP must be initially developed and annually reviewed and, if appropriate, revised by the CSE, Subcommittee on Special Education or CPSE (hereinafter referred to as the Committee). The Committee is required to include certain individuals who know the student and his or her unique needs and who can commit the resources of the school to address the student’s needs.
To develop an appropriate IEP for the student, a group of individuals with knowledge and expertise about the student, curriculum and resources of the school must consider individual evaluation information and reach decisions in an effective and efficient manner. Information about the student’s strengths, interests and unique needs gathered from parents, teachers, the student, related service providers, evaluations and observations are the foundation upon which to build a program that will result in effective instruction and student achievement. Each member of the multidisciplinary team that makes up the Committee brings information and a unique perspective to the discussion of the student’s needs and has an important role and responsibility to contribute to the discussion and the recommendations for the student.
Each Committee has a chairperson who has certain responsibilities under the law and regulations. The school district representative must serve as the chairperson of the Committee. The required members of the Committee include the following:
Whenever appropriate, the student should be invited to participate in the Committee meetings. It is the student, after all, who will be most affected by the recommendations of the Committee. The concerns, interests and recommendations of the student need to be considered. An IEP that builds on the strengths of the student and includes recommendations that the student can support is more likely to result in successful outcomes for the student. The decision to invite the student should be discussed with the student’s parent(s) to determine if the student’s attendance at the meeting will be helpful in developing the IEP and/or directly beneficial to the student. If the purpose of the meeting is to consider the postsecondary goals for the student and transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals, the student must be invited. If the student does not attend, the district must take steps to ensure that the student's preferences and interests are considered.
Parents of the Student
As Committee members, the student's parents or guardian participate in the development, review and revision of their child’s IEP. Parents are the constant individuals on the Committee from year to year for that student. They bring a history as well as current information on their child’s strengths and needs and their concerns and ideas for enhancing their child’s education. Parents bring information on what expectations and hopes and dreams they have for their child, and often can speak to those approaches that have been successful and/or unsuccessful for their child. They can also provide information on their child’s interests that can be used to motivate the child’s learning, the skills that the child shows at home and in other settings and whether skills learned in school are being demonstrated elsewhere. The concerns of the parent for the education of their child must be considered in the IEP development process.
Regular Education Teacher of the Student
Whenever the child is or may be participating in the general education environment, at least one regular education teacher of the child must participate as a member of the Committee. The regular education teacher of the student has knowledge of the school’s general education curriculum requirements and helps the Committee determine appropriate positive behavioral interventions, instructional strategies, supplementary aids and services, program modifications and supports for school personnel for and on behalf of the student that are necessary for the student to participate to the fullest extent possible in general education curriculum and classes. While only one regular education teacher of the student is required to attend the meeting, the Committee is encouraged to seek the input of the student’s other regular education teachers who will not be attending the Committee meeting.
Individual who can interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation
At least one individual must participate in the Committee meeting who can interpret evaluation information so that the instructional implications of those evaluations are understood and considered in the IEP development process. This individual may, as appropriate to the evaluations to be discussed, be a member of the Committee who is also serving as the regular education teacher, special education teacher or special education provider, (e.g., related service provider), school psychologist, representative of the school district or a person having knowledge or special expertise regarding the student when such member is determined by the school district to have the knowledge and expertise to fulfill this role on the Committee.
School District Representative
The school district representative must be someone who is qualified to provide or supervise special education and who is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and the availability of resources of the district. This individual brings knowledge of the continuum of special education supports and services and should have the authority to commit the resources of the school and to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will be provided.
The individual who meets these qualifications may also be the same individual appointed as the regular education teacher, special education teacher or special education provider of the student or the school psychologist on the Committee. The school district representative on the Committee must serve as the chairperson of the Committee.
Individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the student
In addition to the other required members, parents and school personnel have discretion to invite other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student. This is important to ensure that the Committee includes the input of those persons that can add to the discussion of the student’s needs and recommendations for supports and services. The determination of the knowledge or special expertise of any such individual is made by the party (parents or school) who invited the individual to the meeting. When these individuals attend the meeting, they participate as Committee members for the student.
Special education teacher, or related service provider, of the student
Not less than one special education teacher of the student, or if appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the student must participate in the Committee meetings. If the student is being considered for initial provision of special education, this individual must be a teacher qualified to provide special education in the type of program in which the student may be placed and be the teacher likely to implement the student’s IEP. The student’s special education teacher provides information on the specially designed instruction needed to address the student’s unique needs.
A school psychologist is a member of the CSE, and under certain circumstances, the Subcommittee. (The school psychologist is not a required member of the CPSE.) This individual contributes to an understanding of the individual evaluations conducted on the student, assists to identify the positive behavioral intervention supports and strategies needed by the student, assists to plan school programs to meet the student’s needs and to identify, plan and manage any psychological services the student might need.
Additional parent member
In addition to the parent of the student, another parent of a student with a disability must participate in meetings of the CSE and CPSE, except when the parents of the student request, in writing, that the additional parent member not participate or when the parents and school district agree, in writing, that the participation of the additional parent member is not necessary. For the CSE, the additional parent member must be a parent of a student with a disability residing in the school district or a neighboring school district, provided that the additional parent member may be the parent of a student who has been declassified within a period not to exceed five years or the parent of a student who has graduated within a period not to exceed five years., For the CPSE, the additional parent member must be a parent of a child with a disability residing in the school district or a neighboring school district and whose child is enrolled in a preschool or elementary level education program. The additional parent member may not be employed by or under contract with the school districts. The additional parent member is not a required member of a Subcommittee.
The additional parent member can provide important support and information to the parents of the student during the meeting and, in addition to the student’s parents, participates in the discussions and decision making from the perspective of a parent of a student with a disability.
A school physician, if specifically requested in writing by the parent or school district at least 72 hours before the meeting, is a required member of the CSE.
Other agency representatives
When the purpose of the meeting is to discuss transition services, a representative of any participating agency likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services must be invited to the meeting to the extent appropriate and with the consent of the student's parent (or the student who is 18 years of age or older). Written consent is needed because personally confidential information about a student will be shared at the Committee meeting. If an agency invited to send a representative to a meeting does not attend, the district must take steps to involve the other agency in the planning of any transition services.
When a student is or may be attending an approved private school or facility, a representative of that school or facility must be invited to participate in the student’s Committee meetings. This is also the case when a student is attending an education program operated by another State department or agency (e.g., Office of Mental Health, Office of Children and Family Services). If the private school or facility representative cannot attend, the school district must use other methods to ensure participation by the private school or facility, including individual or conference telephone calls.
For CPSE meetings, a representative of the municipality must be invited, but if that representative does not attend, the meeting can legally proceed. For students transitioning from early intervention (EI) programs and services to the CPSE, an EI service coordinator or other appropriate representative of the EI system must be invited at the request of the parent.
Attendance Not Necessary
The parent and the school district may agree in writing that the attendance of one or more of the Committee members is not necessary for all or a portion of a particular Committee meeting because that individual's area of service will not be discussed or modified at the meeting. The regulations for these procedures are provided in Attachment 1.
Excusal of Committee Members
If a particular Committee member's area of service will be discussed or modified at a meeting, but the individual is not able to participate in the meeting, the parent and the district may consent in writing to excuse the individual from all or a portion of the meeting. In this case, the Committee member must have provided the Committee members with a written report. The regulations for these procedures are provided in Attachment 1.
Attachment 1 provides further information on the required members of these Committees.
Steps to Developing and Implementing an IEP
The IEP needs to be developed in a particular sequence. The information considered and discussed in each step provides the basis for the next step in the process.
Step 1: Obtain and consider evaluation information
Evaluation information must be obtained in all areas of the student’s disability or suspected disability. Evaluations need to identify and provide instructionally relevant information as to the unique needs of the student, current functioning, cognitive, physical, developmental and behavioral factors that affect learning and how the disability affects the student’s participation and progress in the general education curriculum and in general education classes (or, for preschool students with disabilities, participation in age appropriate activities).
Step 2:Determine eligibility for special education services
The Committee must review the evaluation information to determine if the student has a disability that requires special education services. A Committee may not determine that a student needs special education services if the determinant factor is:
- lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency (including oral reading skills) and reading comprehension strategies;
- lack of appropriate instruction in math; or
- limited English proficiency.
If the Committee determines that the student is eligible for special education services, it must identify the student’s disability classification. For school-age students, one of the following disabilities must be identified: autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, learning disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment including blindness.
Each 3 - 4 year old in need of special education is identified as a "preschool student with a disability." In making this determination, the CPSE must determine if the preschool student exhibits a significant delay or disorder in one or more functional areas or meets the criteria for a disability classification of autism, deafness, deaf/blindness, hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, other health-impaired, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment including blindness.
Step 3: Identify the student’s present levels of performance and indicate the individual needs of the student according to each of four need areas:
- academic achievement, functional performance and learning characteristics;
- social development;
- physical development; and
- management needs.
At the Committee meeting, the student’s present skills, strengths and individual needs must be discussed and documented. This includes how the student’s disability affects his or her participation and progress in the general education curriculum (or for preschool students, participation in appropriate activities), consideration of specific student strengths and needs and concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child.
Consideration of special factorsThe Committee must include a statement in the IEP if, in considering the special factors of behavior, limited English proficiency, blind or visual impairment, communication needs and/or assistive technology requirements, the Committee has determined a student needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation or other program modification) in order for the student to receive a free appropriate public education.
Attachment 2 provides examples of guiding questions that may be used by a Committee to determine whether a student needs such an intervention, accommodation or program modification to address one of these special considerations.
Step 4: Identify the measurable postsecondary goals and transition needs, including courses of study, of the studentBeginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student is age 15 (and at a younger age, if determined appropriate) and updated annually, the IEP must include:
- appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments relating to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
- a statement of transition service needs that focuses on the student’s courses of study, taking into account the student’s strengths, preferences and interests, as they relate to transition from school to post-school activities.
Step 5: Set realistic and measurable annual goals for the studentAfter determining and discussing the student's present levels of performance and, as appropriate, the student's measurable post-secondary goals, the Committee must make a recommendation as to the measurable annual goals that the student can realistically reach in the year in which the IEP will be in effect. For each annual goal, the IEP must indicate the evaluative criteria (the measure used to determine if the goal has been achieved), evaluation procedures (how progress will be measured) and schedules (when progress will be measured) to be used to measure progress toward meeting the annual goal.
These goals should relate to the student’s unique needs and promote the student’s participation and progress in the general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment. For students beginning with the first IEP to be in effect when the student is age 15 and updated annually, the Committee must identify appropriate annual goals to address the student's transition needs.
For students eligible to take the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) and for preschool students with disabilities, each annual goal must also include short-term instructional objectives and/or benchmarks (measurable intermediate steps between the student’s present levels of performance and the annual goal). In accordance with district policy, short-term instructional objectives and benchmarks may be established for other students as well.
Step 6: Reporting progress to parentsThe Committee must identify and document in the IEP when periodic reports on the progress the student is making toward the annual goals will be provided to the student’s parents.
Step 7: Determine the special education program and services the student will need
Based on the student’s needs and goals, the Committee must decide what special education program and services, including as appropriate related services, accommodations, program modifications and supports the student needs to meet the annual goals, participate and progress in the general education curriculum and participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities with other students including students without disabilities. The Committee must also decide the extent (frequency and duration) as well as the location where each program, service, accommodation, etc. will be provided.
Step 8: Determine eligibility for twelve-month (July/August) services
The Committee must determine the student’s eligibility for 12-month services. If a student is recommended for July/August services, the IEP must identify the provider of services during the months of July and August, and, for preschool students determined by the CPSE to require a structured learning environment of 12 months duration to prevent substantial regression, a statement of the reasons for such recommendation.
Step 9:Determine individual testing accommodations the student will need
The Committee must identify any individual testing accommodations, needed by the student because of his/her disability, to be used consistently by the student in the recommended educational program and on State and district-wide assessments. Documentation of testing accommodations is required for preschool students only if there is an assessment program for nondisabled preschool children.
Step 10: Determine the coordinated set of transition activities
For students beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student is age 15 (and at a younger age, if determined appropriate) and updated annually, the Committee must identify needed activities to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
Step 11: Determine which State and district-wide assessments the student will participate in
The Committee must recommend whether the student will participate in the same or alternate State and district-wide assessments of student achievement, or for preschool students, the student’s participation in the same assessments of student achievement, that are administered to nondisabled students.
Step 12: Determine participation in regular class, or, for preschool students, in settings/activities with nondisabled peers
Based on the Committee's recommendation, the IEP must identify the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate in regular classes and extracurricular activities with nondisabled peers. For preschool students, the CPSE must document the extent the preschool student would not be participating in appropriate activities with age appropriate peers.
Step 13: Determine special transportation needs
The Committee must identify special transportation needs of the student, and, as appropriate, if the student will need transportation to and from special education programs and services that may be provided in settings outside the school program. For preschool students, the Committee must indicate if the parent has agreed to transport the student to and from his/her special education program at public expense.
Step 14:Determine placement
The Committee must decide the type of setting where the student’s IEP will be implemented (e.g., public school district, board of cooperative educational services (BOCES) classroom, approved private day or residential school, private preschool or daycare setting). Placement is determined based on the least restrictive environment where the student's IEP can be implemented. Unless the student’s IEP requires some other arrangement, the student with a disability must be educated in the school he/she would have attended if the student did not have a disability.
Step 15: Implementation
The IEP must document the projected date the IEP will be implemented. Each student with a disability must have an IEP in effect at the beginning of each school year. There may be no delay in implementing a student’s IEP, including any case in which the payment source for providing or paying for special education services for the student is being determined. The student’s IEP needs to be implemented as soon as possible following the Committee meeting.
The school must take steps to ensure a student's IEP is implemented as recommended by the Committee, including but not limited to:
- providing copies of the student's IEP, as appropriate;
- informing each individual of his or her IEP implementation responsibilities; and
- providing a student with his or her instructional materials in an accessible alternative format if recommended in the student's IEP.
Step 16: Review and, if appropriate, revise the IEP
The Committee must reconvene to review the student’s IEP when requested by the student’s teacher or parent, but at least annually. At the IEP review meeting, the Committee must consider the student’s progress toward meeting the annual goals, the concerns of the parents for the education of their child, any new evaluation information, the student’s progress in the general education curriculum (or for preschool students, participation in appropriate activities), the student’s need for testing accommodations and identify the least restrictive environment for the student. For students ages 15 and older, the measurable post secondary goals and transition services must be reviewed annually.
Upon consideration of these factors, the IEP should be revised, as appropriate, to address any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general education curriculum; the results of any reevaluation and any information about the student provided to, or by, the parents; the student’s anticipated needs; or other matters, including a student’s need for test accommodations.
In making changes to a student’s IEP after the annual review has been conducted, the parent and the school district may agree, in writing, not to convene a meeting of the Committee for the purpose of making these changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the student’s current IEP.
Step 17: Conduct a meeting to review reevaluation information on the student
The needs of students change over time. Therefore, a reevaluation of each student’s individual needs, eligibility for special education and the continued appropriateness of the special education services that have been provided to the student must be conducted at least once every three years, except where the school district and the parent agree in writing that such reevaluation is unnecessary. A reevaluation may be conducted more frequently if conditions warrant or if the parent or the teacher requests a reevaluation of the student, but not more frequently than once a year unless the parent and representatives of the school district appointed to the Committee agree otherwise. The Committee must convene a meeting to discuss and, if appropriate, revise the student’s IEP in consideration of the results of the reevaluation.
Guiding Principles for IEP Development
The following guiding principles for IEP development are important to ensure that each student’s IEP is developed and implemented consistent with the intent of the law.
- The IEP development process is a student-centered process. No other issues, agenda or purposes should interfere.
- Information provided by parents regarding their child’s strengths and needs is a vital part of the evaluation and is critical in developing an IEP that will lead to student success.
- The input of each individual on the Committee should be encouraged and valued.
- All members of the Committee share the responsibility to contribute meaningfully to the development of a student’s IEP.
- Meaningful efforts are made to ensure that parents and students participate in the IEP development process.
- Information is shared in the language or communication mode a parent and student can understand.
- Special education is a service, not a place. The IEP development process evolves to address concerns and considerations so as to support the student’s progress toward the State’s learning standards and to ensure the student receives services in the least restrictive environment appropriate for the student.
- The IEP recommendations are based on the student’s present levels of performance and in consideration of the student’s strengths, needs, interests and preferences.
- The IEP recommendations reflect consideration of the concerns of the parent for the education of their child.
- The IEP is developed in such a way that it is a useful document that guides instruction and provides a tool to measure progress.
- The IEP appropriately addresses all the student’s unique needs without regard to the current availability of needed services.
- Positive behavioral supports and services needed by the student are identified.
- A student’s need for transition services is considered throughout the IEP development process, including during discussions of the student’s present levels of performance, annual goals, services, accommodations, program modifications and placement.
- The student’s parents participate in developing, reviewing and revising the IEP, having concerns and information considered and being regularly informed of their child’s progress.