Report cards are now being written and will soon be en route to your house. For a countless number of students, these report cards will be accompanied by an Individual Education Plan. If the school has determined your child needs one, or if you are wondering if your student could benefit from an IEP, here’s what you need to know:
What is an IEP?
An Individual Education Plan (IEP)
is a written plan that outlines the learning goals and program expectations for individual students. An IEP may detail accommodations
that a student needs. These are such things as sitting closer to the teacher due to vision or hearing concerns, or receiving more time or an alternate setting to write tests due to distractibility.
An IEP may also outline modifications which show a variation in the number, complexity, or grade level of curriculum expectations. For example, if a typical grade four student is expected to achieve 13 social studies expectations each year, a student on a modified IEP may only be expected to complete four or five expectations. Also, if a student is still completing expectations from a previous grade level -for example a grade nine student still working through grade 7 math expectations - they are also provided a modified IEP.
An IEP may also detail alternative expectations, such as if a student is working on behavioural or social learning goals outside of the curriculum. Alternative expectations also cover enrichment opportunities for gifted students.
An IEP is created by the school and it is the principal’s responsibility to ensure that it is followed. Parents are consulted in the creation of the IEP and given a signed copy within 30 days of the beginning of a school term. Once a student is 16 years of age or older, they are consulted and given a copy as well. The IEP is a fluid document and expected to change as a student progresses and as their needs change.
Who needs an IEP?
Any student who has been deemed exceptional, meaning that they carry a designation (such as having a learning disability, a communication disorder, giftedness, etcetera) must be provided with an IEP. Also, students without a designation may be given an IEP, if the school or teachers determine it will be useful. A student who requires ongoing special education support will be given an IEP.
How can an IEP help my student?
An IEP guarantees support and accommodations for your student. For example, if the IEP states that a student will receive in-class support to assist them with managing classroom expectation, then that must occur. If a student needs access to technology to support their written expression, than the IEP should ensure this will happen. The IEP ensures continuity of programming for the student.
An IEP must reflect a student’s strengths and needs. It helps students who need more of a challenge in school and students who need more support to reach expectations.
How can an IEP help me?
Sometimes teachers drop the ball. Sometimes an accommodation or program expectation gets missed. The IEP can help you ensure that doesn’t happen. For example, if your student requires a quiet space to write tests, but for some reason that doesn’t happen in their history class (maybe the rotary teacher was not made aware of the accommodation) and your child comes home upset about this, you get to call the school and ensure it won’t happen again. This document makes sure your child gets what they need to succeed in school.
It also helps you by giving you a guide as to what and how a program will be taught to your student. It gives you a general overview of the direction the teacher will be going, the strategies they will use to teach and how your child will be assessed. The IEP helps you understand the map that the school is following.
What if I don’t agree with the IEP?
Although the IEP is developed collaboratively with families, teachers, and other professionals, the principal is ultimately responsible for each student's plan. A principal is not obligated to include every suggestion from a parent, but should provide a valid reason for not including a particular suggestion. Although the school can technically insist on an IEP, even if a parent refuses it, all decisions are to be made in the best interest of the child. There are a series of meetings and levels of interventions that a parent can access if they are unhappy with the direction and outline of the IEP. The idea is for all involved to work together to create the greatest opportunity of success for a student.
Basically, don't be worried if the school suggests an IEP for your child. These individual plans get put in place for all kinds of reasons, but the essentially the goal of them is to put all the tools in place that will help your child achieve success in school.