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Individual Education Program: IEP




The IEP as a Legal Contract

An IEP is the legal contract between the parent and school district that documents what special education services will be provided for a child with a disability.  

  • An appropriate IEP, based on the strengths and needs of a student, and including relevant goals and necessary services, is critical for the success of a student with a disability.  

  • The IEP is developed, reviewed, and revised by the IEP Team in IEP meetings.  

  • Under IDEA, the IEP must include certain specific content.


Content of the Individual Education Plan




The PLAAF statement offers a snapshot of a student at a particular time and place. The PLAAF describes the current level at which the student is working academically and functionally and the impact of the student's disability on learning.


The PLAAF includes a description of a student’s strengths and needs in the following areas: academic, communication, functional, general intelligence, health, motor or physical, sensory, such as vision and hearing, social and emotional. Note that any identified areas of concern, such as language development, behavior, or social skills, should be discussed, not just academic needs.

The PLAAF will include a discussion of how the student is doing in the classroom. Observations and results of state and district-wide tests and the special education evaluation, including individually administered standardized tests, are reviewed.

The purpose of the PLAAF is to discuss and consider where the student is starting and what obstacles he or she may face in their learning efforts.



After discussing where the student's beginning point is, the next step is to write measurable goals that a student can reasonably accomplish in one year.  IEP goals determine the educational program for a student with special needs. 

  • Goals should help the child be involved and make progress in the general curriculum. 

  • An IEP goal describes what the intended outcome of instruction will be and what the student will accomplish.  

  • IEP goals must be measured in an objective way. Each IEP team member should clearly be able to understand what the student needs to learn and what the desired action is. When IEP goals are clearly stated as actions, measuring progress comes naturally from the goal. A goal must establish a criterion for acceptable mastery.

  •  Goals are not written to maintain skills or help a student achieve above grade level performance.  

  • A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, are designed to:

    • Identify the learning or functional needs of a student that are of focus

    • Provide a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured;

    • Provide a time table for progress monitoring toward annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards)

If the IEP team determines that the child requires accommodations during State or district wide assessment of student achievement, the need for the accommodations must be documented as well as state what the accommodations are.

If the IEP team determines that the child must take an alternate assessment, instead of a particular regular State or district-wide assessment of student achievement, a statement of why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment and why the particular alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child.



The IEP Meeting must also discuss and identify the services the student needs to reach their goals and objectives, as well as how they’ll be delivered.  The IEP Team must also discuss when services will begin, where and how often they’ll be provided, and how long they’ll last.  These service details must be documented in the IEP. 

Available Special Education Services may fall into the following two categories:

  • Related Services: These services are designed to help a child with a disability benefit from special education, he or she may also need extra help in one area or another, such as speaking or moving.  To see a complete list of Related Services, please read our Special Education Services Page.  

  • Supplementary Aids and Services: These services are intended to improve student’s access to learning and their participation across the school day.  Supplementary aids and services includes aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.  To read about possible Supplementary Aides and Services, please read our Supplementary Aides and Services Page.

*Determining which Related Services and Supplementary Aids and Services are appropriate for a particular student must be done on an individual basis.

*All Related Services and Supplementary Aids and Services are to be written in to the IEP for those services to be delivered.



These special factors need to be considered and addressed in the IEP, depending on a student’s needs:

  • Supports and strategies for behavior management, if behavior interferes with a student's learning or the learning of others

  • Language needs as related to the IEP if a student has limited mastery, or proficiency, of English

  • Appropriate supports and instruction to address a child’s needs related to blindness or visual impairment

  • Communication needs in the case of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing

  • Assistive technology devices or services required in order to receive FAPE and used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a student with a disability



Least Restrictive Environment Determination: The school district is obligated to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). 

The IEP team must consider the way, to the maximum extent appropriate, to educate a student with a disability alongside students without a disability.  

Remember that special education is a set of services, rather than a specific place for your child to go.  A thorough discussion of related services and supplementary aides and supports is necessary when discussing placement and LRE determinations.

For most students, the general education classroom is the preferred setting, but a range of options is available. 

  • Supports and strategies for behavior management, if behavior interferes with her learning or the learning of others

  • Language needs as related to the IEP if he has limited mastery, or proficiency, in English

  • Communication needs

  • Assistive technology devices or services required in order to receive FAPE

  • Necessary accommodations in the general education classroom


Transition IEP's:

There are additional IDEA requirements for students when they approach high school and as they look ahead toward adult life.  

When the child turns 15, and updated annually thereafter, the IEP must include transition services related to:

• training,
• education,
• employment, and,

• independent living skills (where appropriate)


*IEP Membership is expanded to include representatives of Adult Community Agencies.

To understand more about additional IEP requirements for students at age 15, please read the information on our Transition Page.


Transfer IEP's:

If a child with a disability transfers to a new school district in the same State, and enrolls in a new school within the same school year, the new school district must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child until the new public agency either:

  • Adopts the child’s IEP from the previous public agency; or

  • Develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP.

  • If a child with a disability transfers to a school district in a new State, and enrolls in a new school within the same school year, the new public agency must provide the child with FAPE until the new public agency:

  • Conducts an evaluation, if determined to be necessary by the new school district

  • Develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP


The new school district, in which the child enrolls, must take reasonable steps to promptly obtain the child’s records, including the IEP and supporting documents and any other records relating to the provision of special education or related services to the child, from the previous school district in which the child was enrolled.  The previous school district in which the child was enrolled must take reasonable steps to promptly respond to the request from the new school district.

Parent Signatures

Although a parent is a particularly important member of the IEP and has the right to contribute equally to IEP decisions, a parent signature is not required on the IEP in Colorado.  Parents are asked to sign an attendance sheet, just as all team members are asked to, in order to document participation by team members.

It is recommended that parents wait to sign the attendance sheet at the end of the IEP meeting.  This way parents and students have the ability to document their disagreement, if any, regarding goals, services or placement.

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