If a child qualifies for services under the IDEA, they are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). A child receives FAPE through an Individual education program or an IEP. The IEP describes the services a child with a disability will receive. In Florida there are only two requirements related to an IEP:
- Parents must be invited to each IEP meeting; and
- IEPs must be reviewed annually.
Parents must be invited, only. There is no requirement that a parent be in attendance, only that they be invited to attend. The meeting however must be held at a mutually convenient time and date and place. There is no time limit on how long or how short an IEP meeting must be. The meeting should last as long as it takes to draft an appropriate and comprehensive IEP. While there is a requirement to review the IEP annually, there can be more than one meeting each school year. There can be as many IEP meetings as needed during the school year.
An IEP is a plan that identifies all the needs of the student and prioritizes what needs will be addressed during the school year. In Florida an IEP has nine sections:
- Demographic Information
- Special Considerations
- General Factors and Assessment Data: child’s strengths; academic, developmental, and functional needs; and the results of evaluations conducted. This section also contains the parents’ input. Parents can include any information they want into the parent input section.
- Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: The present level statements may be described by the following domains: curriculum and learning environment, communication, social/emotional behavior, and independent functioning.
- Measurable Annual Goals: These goals describe the behavior and skills that will enable the child to participate in age-appropriate activities based on his or her needs. Goals must be clear, measurable and likely to be achieved in one year. This section will identify who is responsible for implementing the goal and how progress on the goal will be monitored. It is important to make sure that there is some objective measure used to monitor progress of a goal.
- Assessment: how will student be assessed and what testing accommodations, if any. This section relates to standardized testing and other state required testing like the FCAT or EOC exams.
- ESE Services, Related Services, Supplementary Aids and Services, Accommodations and Support for School Personnel
- Placement: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The IEP will include an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled peers. To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities, shall be educated with students who are not disabled. The student will be educated in the school that he or she would attend if not disabled, unless the IEP states otherwise. Special classes, separate schooling or other removal occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. This is known as the LRE (least restrictive environment) or the LRP (least restrictive placement).
- Conference Notes
IEPs rarely include the names of individual teachers, curriculums or locations. An IEP must be drafted with the intent of providing the student with some educational benefit. School districts are not required to provide the BEST education. The student does however have to make meaningful progress in the program being utilized by the school district.
The most important part of ensuring that your child receives a free and appropriate education is to make sure that the IEP is implemented with fidelity. Not only does the IEP need to be drafted with the likelihood that it will provide an educational benefit to the student, but the IDEA also requires that the IEP be implemented properly. Failure to properly implement an IEP is a violation of the FAPE requirement of the IDEA.