School Improvement in Maryland

What is an IEP and how does the IEP process work?

What is the purpose of The IEP?

Active family involvement is essential to each student's success. The IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, requires that IEP's be developed for students with disabilities who have been found eligible for special education services. IDEA establishes that a written plan must specify how education, related services, and support will be delivered to a student with disabilities. That written plan is called an IEP, or Individualized Education Program. The IEP identifies special education and related service supports needed for a student with a disability. The following principles guide IEP development in Maryland.

The Principles Guiding IEP Development in Maryland

  • All children can learn.
  • Successful learning involves successful home and school partnerships.
  • All students have a right to attend schools in which they can progress and learn.
  • All students should have an opportunity to learn equally rigorous content.
  • Schools should help prepare students for productive adult lives.
  • Special education is specifically-designed instruction and related services to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.
  • Planning for students with disabilities requires flexibility and an open mind.
  • To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are to be educated with students who are non-disabled.
  • The IEP is based upon a student's ability to participate and progress in the general education curriculum, with appropriate adaptations to meet the unique needs of that student.

Additionally, the student with a disability must be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Least restricted environment means that the child is educated as close as possible to the child's home and in the school that he or she would attend if non-disabled unless the IEP requires some other arrangements. Placement decisions are based upon the unique needs of the child and made by the IEP team.

What is included in an IEP?

In addition to personal information such as the student's name and address, the IEP contains the following parts as included in the Maryland Statewide IEP Document. This document is available in a number of languages:

Maryland Statewide IEP Document - NEW!
Amharic | Arabic | Chinese | French | Gujarati | Haitian Creole | Hindi | Korean | Polish | Portuguese | Russian | Spanish | Tagalog | Urdu | Vietnamese

  1. Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Provides a holistic view of the student based on data and information from a variety of sources, technically sound assessment tools, and strategies to gather academic, developmental, and functional performance. This information assists the team in determining the educational needs of the student in relationship to the student's involvement and progress in the general curriculum or appropriate preschool activities.
  2. Participation in Statewide Assessments: As part of the IEP decision-making process, the IEP team identifies the Statewide assessments in which the student will participate. All students must be included to the fullest extent possible in all Statewide assessment programs and their assessment results are a part of Maryland's Statewide assessment system.
  3. Special Considerations: As appropriate, the IEP team may include a behavioral intervention plan, positive behavioral supports, the needs of a student with limited English proficiency, and the provision of Braille for a student who is blind or has vision impairments. For the student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing, language and communication needs must be discussed. Assistive technology must be considered for all students.
  4. Statement of Special Education and Related Services: Describes the delivery of specially-designed instruction, related services, and supplementary aids and services, as well as a statement of program modifications or supports for school personnel.
  5. Supplementary Aids and Services: Outlines the exact nature of specialized services or devices required to enable the student to progress toward annual goals while participating in the general curriculum. Examples include, but are not limited to, electronic communication devices, low-tech devices and aides, preferential seating, use of a calculator, peer tutoring, and computer programs to assist with specific skills.
  6. Program Modifications and Supports: Describes modifications and supports needed to help the student advance toward annual goals, be involved in the general curriculum, participate in extracurricular and non-academic activities, and be instructed with other students, with and without disabilities. Examples include, but are not limited to, adapted assignments, specialized classroom seating, testing modifications, staff training, physical modifications of the classroom, and individual assistance as determined by the IEP team.
  7. Transition Services: States goals and services that must be included in the IEP beginning no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 14 years of age and updated annually thereafter. The IEP must include:
    • Appropriate measurable post secondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills.
    • Transition services, including courses of study, that are needed to assist the student in reaching post secondary goals.
  8. Measurable Goals: Identifies annual goals for the student and includes short-term instructional objectives related to meeting the student's needs and enabling the student to participate in the general curriculum, whenever possible. Criteria and procedures for evaluating progress are also included as a way for the IEP team members to track the student's progress toward achieving goals.
  9. Method for Informing Parents of Student Progress: States how parents will be informed of the student's progress, and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the student to meet annual goals.
  10. Determination of Services: Specifies dates for the initiation, frequency, and duration of services, and a projected date for review of the student's progress toward annual goals.
  11. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): If services are to be delivered anywhere other than the regular classroom, the following question must be answered: "During how much of the school day will the student be educated separately from non-disabled peers or not participating in extracurricular and other non-academic activities such as clubs and lunch?"

What are important questions to be answered during the IEP meeting?

The following questions may be answered as part of the IEP development process.

  1. Who is the student? The IEP team chairperson may refer to this as "setting the purpose." The student is introduced to the team by descriptions provided by parents, teachers, and others. Understanding the student's experiences and skill levels allows for realistic long-term goal setting later in the process.
  2. Where is the student now? Discussion should focus on the student's strengths. Data is introduced to identify specific areas in which the student is not progressing in the same manner as peers who are non-disabled. Data comes from assessments, school staff observations, and parents. Knowing the student's strengths enables the IEP team to determine how the student can participate in the general curriculum and related activities.
  3. How is the student progressing? The goals and benchmarks for progress are determined by examining how the student learns, what the student needs to learn, and what special accommodations are needed. Data and observations from professionals who have instructed the student in the past, as well as assessment information, help the IEP team set reasonable goals to be accomplished within 12 months.
  4. What does the student need? Specially-designed instruction for participation in general curriculum activities is discussed here. The IEP must identify additional needs and services to be addressed through special education and related services.
  5. What are the parents' concerns? Parents should provide important information to help the team better understand the student. The team chairperson should ask parents about their concerns and observations of their child's behavior, attention to tasks, and ability to relate to others.
  6. How will the student reach education goals? The IEP team must consider data, annual goals, and the student's strengths and needs, then carefully craft an IEP description. Whenever possible, the IEP should call for the student to be instructed in a way that allows participation in the general curriculum and in settings with non-disabled students.
  7. How will the team know the student has met the education goals outlined in the IEP? The IEP must be written in a format that enables the team to recognize when outcomes have or have not been achieved.
  8. If the student is turning 14, what is the plan for transition? Federal and State regulations require additional planning as students reach age 14.

Whether the student will receive a Maryland High School Diploma or Certificate, consideration must be given to preparing the student for life beyond the secondary school level.

Transition specialists, counselors, adult service providers, and employers, may assist the IEP team in making decisions.

How are parents invited to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team meetings?

You will receive written notice of any IEP team meeting to develop, review, or revise your child's IEP at least ten (10) calendar days before the meeting unless an expedited meeting is convened. The meetings should be scheduled at a mutually agreed time and place. The notice indicates the purpose, time, location of the meeting, and who will be in attendance. As a parent you may invite other individuals to the IEP meeting who have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child. Beginning at age 14, or younger, if appropriate, the notice must indicate that one purpose of the meeting is the consideration of needed transition services for the child.


Building IEPs With Maryland Families

Understanding the Evaluation, Eligibility, and IEP Team Process in Maryland