Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Individual Education Plans 101

I am reading the Ontario Ministry of Education guidelines for developing and implementing individual education plans (IEPs). I read similar legal documents when Ben was much younger, but over time it seemed that what was written in his IEP wasn't necessarily followed, often because of a lack of resources.

Here are the most salient points I've learned, some of which I had no understanding of and which were never explained to me. This information is taken from Individual Education Plans: Standards for Development, Program Planning and Implementation, 2000, and The IEP, A Resource Guide, 2004.

The IEP is supposed to set specific, observable, measurable annual goals and learning expectations against which the student's progress is continually assessed.

The IEP is based on individual student strengths and needs that are specific, consistent with the IPRC and supported by assessments. In the information-gathering stage, students share their perceptions of their strengths and needs, talents and interests. Information about the student's personal characteristics, hobbies or interests and non-academic accomplishments can be included. Students assist in setting goals and understand the IEP so they can actively work to achieve it.

The IEP lists the teaching strategies, accommodations, staff and equipment needed to support the student's learning.

The student's current level of achievement in each subject, course or skill is described to act as a baseline against which progress is regularly measured and recorded in the IEP.

Students may be working on 'modified' or 'alternative' curriculum.

Modified curriculum means that changes are made to typical grade-level expectations. Students may have goals based on a different grade level or the number and complexity of the regular grade level expectations may be altered.

Alternative expectations are not tied to the Ontario curriculum and tend to focus on life skills. Alternative programs include speech remediation, social skills, personal care and transit training. At the high-school level, they are non-credit courses. "For the vast majority of students, these programs would be given in addition to modified or regular grade-level expectations. A very small number of students who are unable to demonstrate even the most basic literacy or numeracy skills may receive only an alternative report."

I had no understanding of the difference between modified and alternative programs and was surprised to learn that all of my son's programs are alternative and that he has no specific IEP goals related to reading, even though he can read!

The IEP must describe how the student's achievement of goals will be assessed and results must be reported to parents on the provincial report card. Teacher comments on student strengths, areas for improvement and new steps in reaching the goals must be identified in the IEP.

Regular evaluation to ensure the student is meeting goals is required, and if the student is not progressing, the IEP needs to be revised.

If the student can't participate in a provincial assessment, it must be noted why on the IEP.

If the student is 14 or older, a transition plan must be included in the IEP. It must include specific goals based on the strengths, needs and interests of the student. They must relate to work, further education or community living and include actions necessary each year to help the student achieve them.

Students in high school must be given the opportunity to provide input into the IEP. "Open communication and cooperation between home and school will...ensure that the two have similar expectations."

I feel silly that I wasn't better educated and up to date on IEPs. At some point I made the mistake of thinking that I could trust educators to do what was best for my son. That is obviously not the case and that is why parents have to take an active role in developing and monitoring their child's IEP.

Tell us your IEP story!


Hope you are over feeling silly. Your recent work to influence Ben's education is worthy and laudable.

I once estimated, conservatively, I have attended about 600 IEP meetings.

To a meeting there were unique interactions, plans, outcomes. And yet there were patterns. Trust between parents and school district personnel is built over time and not only during an annual meeting. Looks like you are working to re-establish trust through an active role in developing and monitoring their child's IEP.

I picked up a copy of the guide when I was picking up the curriculum guides for my science classes this summer.
I havent' cracked it open yet, I was thinking of just taking it with me to the IPRC. Asking lots of questions seems to get people moving :)
thanks for the update Louise and good luck.
I am totally disgusted to read these details and learn that Ben had no plan for reading when that should be a basic component of the IEP. Your board has really dropped the ball and should be ashamed, sadly that is what I generally hear about the TDSB. Hoping we have better luck with TCDSB.

Then you need to sit down and demand that it's been done.

The last couple of years they've been changed and if you are functioning under PPM 140 then the goals and the documentation of proof must be there for your perusal.

We have accommodated for class, and behaviour, communication and social is IEP'd for the eldest under PPM 140.

We have modified for classes - with goals to be met, and behaviour, communication, social and self help is IEP'd for the younger under PPM 140.

OK, buses have left.

Modified is not "grade level" curriculum. It is curriculum at your child's achievement level. So, since mine can read at Gr 4, his reading expectations are expressive language. "He shall read short passages and answer questions (with assistance - ie. Pic's b/c he can't answer wh's verbally) 80% of the time. He will write one sentence independantly with W w/ Symbol's.

That last line is in there b/c in the reg classroom all he was allowed to do was "today is... we are doing" and I couldn't get it out of his IEP. The self contained LD (fully verbal) one - he's the first severe, non-verbal ASD one they've ever had (woohoo!!! very proud of him) - Teacher tossed it ASAP. I got a paragraph home a week ago. First sentence was her's, the rest was a combo of social stories and Franklin goes to school... BUT he typed it, it was HIS thoughts...

That's how an IEP is suppose to work.

Teaching strategies - guided reading, direct instruction, model and display examples, graphic organizers and prewriting.

Assessment methods - assess writing activities, conference with student, daily seatwork, observe level of independance.

Literacy and Numeracy are both listed in this manner. Teaching for science/social studies is accommodated since he is taking the same courses as they are but is using alternative worksheets - lower grade level, pics/pecs.

His IEP is 9pgs long including the professional programs (IBI, private speech) and testing (speech, OT, psychometry) listed in it.

To get out of the EQAO it must be written in the IEP.

To get accommodations wrt the EQAO - eldest son got his own room, redirection and scribing for Gr 3 - it must be written into the IEP.

York Region (YRDSB) has recently posted a document "Special Education Report 2010" ( which is a real eye opener, and more importantly the teachers we spoke with were not even aware of it. The document is about 400 pages long, but the real meat is in the first 3 sections where the terminology that appears in the IEP is described and what it is intended to mean rather than the explanations that we would get from time-to-time from the schools.

It's important for us all to remember that the IEP is actually considered a legal document, and now that the true intent of the terminology is available it gives us more ammunition to use at the schools.