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ASK Tips to a More Efficient IEP!


Prior to the IEP:

Review the information contained here at Wrightslaw

This information can also be found in ASK’s “ FAQ #8. 
Another good source of information can be found at Protection and Advocacy’s website “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities” Chapter 4.

Then do the following: 

Step 1) Insist upon receiving from the district copies of all district assessments and any draft goals and objectives that have been prepared by the district staff prior to the IEP. Having these documents prior to the IEP to review and digest allows you to contribute to the planning of your child’s IEP in an effective and thoughtful manner.  Be sure your request is in writing. 

Step 2) If you have obtained outside or non-school, independent, private assessments, you would typically want to provide copies to district representatives prior to the IEP to enable the district to review and digest their contents.  Also, if you have drafted any goals and objectives for your child, it is helpful if you provide copies of these to the district as well.   Please see, “Developing Goals and Objectives based on State Content Standards.”  

Sharing and reviewing this information in advance of an IEP, will allow a more efficient use of everyone’s time during the IEP, because you will not be seeing the information for the first time.   It also allows you as a parent to process what can be emotionally difficult information in private, allowing the IEP to proceed on a more business-like basis.  

Step 3) Notify the district at least 24 hours in advance of the IEP meeting, in writing, that you will be tape recording the IEP.  [California Educ. Code Section  56341(g)].   Take a copy of your written communication to the IEP, in case site staff didn’t receive notice of your intent to record from the district representative. 

Many parents routinely record their IEP meetings and school district staff has become accustomed to it. Tape recording an IEP meeting is NOT “adversarial,” rather it is a parent’s right, set forth in California’s education code. Often, both parents cannot attend an IEP meeting.   Meetings that last a long time are very tiring, and it is very difficult to remember everything that was said.   Too, because of the length of those meetings, district employees do not always get everything written down properly.  Tape recording the meeting allows you to listen to the meeting again to be sure that all that was said is reflected in writing on the document. This allows you to go back to the district and insist that they write into the IEP, what the tape-recording reflects. 

Step 4) Prepare a list of your child’s strengths, as well as the concerns you have as a parent.  These will be documented on the first page of the IEP. If there is not enough room on the IEP form to document all of them, request an additional page so that your complete list can be included in the IEP. 

Decide beforehand what your goal is for your child in terms of graduating high school.  If it is your goal to have your child graduate with a high school diploma, make it clear to the IEP team and ask that it be written into the IEP. In this manner, all IEP team members will be clear on your expectations for your child and can all work toward the same goal, with the appropriate supports, services and programs needed to achieve this goal. 

[Note: Students who have been in Special Day Classes, as well as many RSP or Resource students who have been in segregated classrooms now and in the past, are expected to have great difficulty passing the new California High School Exit Exam [CAHSEE]. This will come as a shock to parents who have been told throughout their child’s education that their child was “doing fine.”  Many of these parents always expected their child to graduate high school, but in high school discover that their child is not doing well, and hadn’t received the interventions they would need to allow them to keep up with their peers and have access to what they need to know to do well in high school and beyond.   Insisting that your expectations for your child be written into the IEP will ensure that the school and the parents are all on the same wavelength.] Please see, “Understanding State and District Assessments” 

Step 5) Remember, goals and objectives drive the services, supports, and placement. See Brief PrimerAs a result, placement should be the last part of the IEP team’s discussion. When you discuss placement, always remember that the general education classroom is the starting point for every student, and that removal from that placement occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in the general education classroom, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.  This is the core of LRE- Least Restrictive Environment.

(Note: One of the first requirements of compliance with IDEA for the state Coordinated Compliance Review, is that every IEP that places a child outside of the general education classroom, must justify why the child is being placed outside of the general education classroom and what supports and services were provided in the general education classroom BEFORE the child was removed).

Step 6) Plan to have another parent attend the IEP with you. Never go to these meetings without at least a friend or family member. There will be many more school district staff there and you can feel overwhelmed if you are alone. You will feel more comfortable with the support of another parent who is familiar with the IEP process, and who can take notes and listen along with you. The ASK E-group, and meetings are both great ways to get to know and communicate with other parents who have children receiving special education services, and to develop a support system to help you along the way.  

At the IEP meeting: 

Step 1) Insist that a time limit be placed on the meeting, so that you do not tire and lose your ability to focus on the important matters at hand. IEP’s which last longer than 2-3 hours can be counter-productive. If you believe you will not finish your IEP within a reasonable time frame, make a request at the beginning of the meeting to limit the meeting and ask to reschedule a continuance of the IEP at the end of the meeting.   Making decisions when the entire IEP team is fresh is a better solution than having to clean up after mistakes that resulted from everyone being tired. 

Step 2) Consider using the most current version of the IEP Guide on the U.S. Dept of Education’s website.  Note that there are changes due to the reauthorization, but for the most part it is accurate. 

Parents can also find the U.S. Department of Education’s model IEP form developed in the 2004 reauthorization at

In addition, you can review information about keeping track of the IEP discussion on a form while the IEP is in progress:  

This will help you keep track of what has or has not been covered while the IEP progresses.  At the end, you will have a complete record of what hasn’t been covered, and/or what needs to be covered at the reconvening of the IEP meeting. 

Step 3) Ask who at the IEP meeting is the “educational agency representative” with authority to bind the district, commit agency resources and ensure that the services included in the IEP will actually be provided.  [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56341(b)(1).]  If you are at an IEP meeting, and district staff tells you that they will get back to you about a service or program, then the district has not complied with this requirement.  If they are going to “get back to you” insist that they respond within 10 days, in writing, and request that this be documented in the IEP form itself.   This conforms with 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.503. 

Step 4) When discussing goals and objectives, remember that if you want your child fully included, language which includes the phrase “with typically developing peers” will help ensure that the placement and service delivery to be provided are with your child’s typical peers. Also remember that you should have concrete, specific goals with clearly defined short-term objectives that move toward that goal.  Progress toward the goals should be easy to determine and measurable so that you know if your child is making progress and whether that progress is appropriate or trivial.   Objectives that are vague or broad in nature will not allow for school district accountability with regard to your child’s educational progress or lack thereof.  See ASK Documents “Developing IEP Goals and Objectives Based on State Content Standards.”  See also “Wrightslaw Game Plan – IEP Goals & Objectives.”

Attention to detail matters and can make the difference between a good IEP and a poor IEP. Goals and objectives that “roll over” or are the same year-after-year do nothing to ensure progress. See also information about “Higher Expectations and Accountability.”

See also, “What Parents of Students with Disabilities Need to Know and Do” (regarding IDEA and NCLB).

Step 5) When discussing the evaluation and measurement of the goals and objectives, be sure that data will be collected and reported to you that will demonstrate and measure progress or lack of progress.  IEP goal and objective forms typically include the following examples: 1) Curriculum based; 2) Work samples; 3) Teacher Made Evaluation; 4) Observation; 5) Criterion Referenced; 6) Standardized Test; 7) Others. “Observation” is a subjective measure that cannot be defined in terms of grade level standards, and can vary from one person to the next.  There must be measurement that is documented via some form of data collection to measure your child’s progress. It is also clear that everyone must be in agreement with regard to a child’s present levels, or starting point so that progress, or lack thereof, can be measured accurately and meaningfully.   Progress reports that say “Making Progress” are meaningless unless there is data that supports it 

Step 6)  Be sure that you understand the difference between standardized accommodations and nonstandardized accommodations, before you decide how you want your child to be tested. You can find historical information about this in “Understanding State and District Assessments” but you should also check out Wrightslaw at 

Step 7)
When discussing whether or not to have your child assessed for Assistive Technology [AT], please be sure that you have reviewed the following information. Assistive Technology for all Individuals with Disabilities Basic requirements regarding the consideration and provision of assistive technology and services to each individual with a disability

See also, Assistive Technology and Accessible Literature on the ASK Links.  This is NOT just for those students with low incidence disabilities as IEP forms seem to indicate.  If your child has a disability and needs some form of assistive technology to meet his or her goals and objectives, then an Assistive Technology assessment should be considered. AT is NOT just computer devices and hardware. AT includes Books on Tape, calculators, tape recorders, pencil grips, larger pencils, computer software, alternative computer access and specialized software, augmentative communication devices, closed circuit television, FM systems, training and technical assistance for professionals. [Go to the link for  “Assistive Technology for All Individuals With Disabilities” on the Assistive Technology links page.] 

Step 8) If your child has behavior which is impeding his or her learning OR the learning of other students, then your child should be supported by a Positive Behavior Support Plan. This is something the school should provide upon your request for a behavioral assessment.  Please see the information that we have provided about this which can be found at ASK Links re: Behavior - Early Intervention, Prevention, etc.  Included at this link are various forms that can be used as a template for the development of a positive behavior support plan.  

Not all children need or require a functional behavioral analysis that meets the requirements of the Title V Behavioral Interventions 5 CA ADC § 3052 at (5 CCR 3052)

A proactive Positive Behavior Support Plan developed after a behavioral assessment by the school district’s BICM, Behavior Intervention Case Manager, can often prevent the need for a functional behavioral analysis.

Step 9) If your child is 14 or older, be sure to review the information about Transition, provided in ASK Links. See as well the model forms regarding Secondary Transition on the U.S. Department of Education’s IDEA website  Also see NICHCY’s site on Transition related to students with particular disabilities for how to appropriately serve your student as they move into their adult lives.  Another excellent source of information is Protection and Advocacy’s “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities” Chapter 10, Information on Transition Services, including Vocational Education.

Step 10) If your child is to be fully included, you may request that teacher training and staff development be written in to the IEP in the box for Program Options/ Services Recommendations as staff development and training.  In addition, you should request that your child and teacher receive support from an inclusion specialist with regularly scheduled collaboration meetings to be attended by you, the teacher and the providers of service. This can also be written into the narrative part of the IEP if there is a need to expand on the details of this support service. For more information about “Inclusion.”  

Step 11) Remember: If you do not complete the IEP within the scheduled time frame, schedule another meeting before you leave that one. The sooner you complete the IEP the better for the child. 

Step 12) When the IEP is completed, ask that the narrative be read to you, or ask to review it yourself. In the alternative, ask to take the IEP with you so that you may review it at home.  If you need to make any clarification, do it on another sheet of paper, rather than crossing out the original text. [If the IEP cannot be read and clearly understood, it is of no use to anyone.]  If there is anything you want to add, do so on an extra sheet of narrative paper.  In the days of computerized IEPs, it is very important for parents to realize they need to leave their student’s IEP meeting with an IEP document in hand.  If they say they cannot print one out, tell them you will wait for them to find a printer, or alternatively suggest they write out the IEP in long-hand. 

ALWAYS SIGN THE IEP TO INDICATE YOUR ATTENDANCE.   If it isn’t clear on the form, sign the IEP and indicate “attendance only.”  

You may also sign to indicate the parts of the IEP that you agree with, so that those services and programs can go into effect, and you can continue to work toward resolution regarding those portions of the IEP that you still do not agree with. This is when a tape recording of the meeting can be very helpful. Go home and listen to the recording and be sure that what is written into the IEP is accurate.  If it isn’t accurate or is in any way incomplete, request another meeting, or submit a written document of the changes that you wish to make to the IEP in order to move toward resolution. If this method does not prove successful, please refer to FAQ #11, in particular the portion about filing for due process. 

Step 13) When the IEP is completed, the district typically provides the parent with the yellow NCR paper copy.  Before you leave, ask that the district make a photocopy of the original IEP, in addition to the yellow copy they will provide to you. This is so that you will have a legible copy.  The yellow copy is the third page of NCR paper and thus is often very difficult to read.  If you cannot read it, it is of no value to you or to the teachers and providers of service.


Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002

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