Developing Individualized Education Programs

Developing Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

The IEP is a legal document for students with disabilities, between the ages of 3 and 26 years old, who receive special education programs and related services. The purpose of an IEP is to identify each student’s needs, develop reasonable learning goals, and document the services the school district will provide to help the student achieve these goals.  

IEP Required Team Members 

Required IEP Team members include the following: 

  1. The parents of the student. 
  2. Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the student is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment). 
  3. Not less than one special education teacher of the student, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the student. 
  4. A representative of the public agency (often referred to as District Representative) who: 
    • Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. 
    • Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum. 
    • Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency. 
  5. An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (often referred to as the multidisciplinary evaluation team representative). 
  6. At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student, including related services personnel as appropriate. 
    • Parents may invite anyone with knowledge or special expertise about their child. The parent invited participants are not district invited, therefore they are not included on the invitation but should be listed as an attendee.  
  7. Whenever appropriate, the student with a disability. 

IEP Team Member Attendance 

It is expected that all required IEP Team members attend the IEP Team meeting in its entirety. A member of the IEP Team may be excused from attending an IEP Team meeting, in whole or in part, when the meeting involves a modification to or discussion of the member’s area of the curriculum or related services, only if: 

  1. The parent, in writing, and the public agency consent to the excusal. 
  2. The member submits, in writing to the parent and the IEP Team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting. 

The PLAAFP is a crucial component of the IEP as it describes the student’s unique educational needs, including behavioral needs, grounded in current data from multiple sources compared to grade level peers. The PLAAFP describes the adverse impact the student’s unique needs have on the student’s ability to be involved in and make progress in the general curriculum. A PLAAFP statement must be updated annually with present level information, including data and progress on most recent goals and objectives. 

Elements of a PLAAFP 

The IEP Team must develop an IEP that demonstrates consideration of the academic, functional, and developmental needs of the student. To develop a clear, concise, and comprehensive PLAAFP, the IEP Team should include the following elements. 

  1. Baseline Data and Data Sources. 
    • What information (observations, attendance, behavior records, state, district, or classroom assessments) is available about the student to demonstrate the student’s current level of performance? 
    • What are the sources of that information? 
  2. Description of Area of Need. 
    • What is it that the student can and cannot do at this time? 
    • What are the student’s needs resulting from the disability? 
  3. Adverse Impact. 
    • How does the student's disability impact their performance? 
    • What is it about the disability that is keeping the student from progressing in the general education curriculum? 

Measurable annual goals and short-term objectives are a required component of the IEP. To provide educational benefit, goals and short-term objectives aim to: 

  1. Meet the student’s needs resulting from the disability to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. 
  2. Meet each of the student’s other educational needs resulting from the disability. 
  3. When writing an IEP for students 16 years of age or older, at least one annual goal must relate to the student’s transition service needs. 

Components of Measurable Goals: 

  1. Current level of performance—The current level of performance is the student’s baseline data for academic or functional performance. 
    • Baseline data must include descriptive and/or quantifiable information that is measurable. 
  2. Specific skill or set of skills to be taught and measured—The skill or set of skills is the expected academic or functional performance to be taught to produce a measurable outcome. 
    • When identifying a set of skills to be taught and measured, short-term objectives which identify the specific subskills to be taught must be included. 
  3. Outcome or Target—The target or outcome is the level of achievement or mastery expected for the specific skill or set of skills being taught and measured. 
    • Consider: 
    • Duration (amount of time or number of occurrences in a period). 
    • Accuracy (percent, number of trials, minimum or maximum number of errors). 
    • Latency/Speed (ex: word per minute). 
    • Intensity. 
    • Quality-condition. 
  4. Method of measurement—The method of measurement refers to how the student’s progress toward meeting the objective or benchmark is determined. Consider the following when selecting a measurement tool: 
    • Reliability - provides consistent results. 
    • Validity- measures what it was designed to measure. 
    • Repeatability- has sufficient alternate forms for repeated assessments of progress. 
    • Sensitivity - can detect even slight changes in performance. 
    • Time sensitive - is brief and easy to administer, score, and analyze. 
  5. Timeline—The anticipated date the goal will be achieved. 

Short-Term Objectives and Benchmarks 

Objectives and benchmarks are the intermediate steps that will help the student achieve the annual goal. There are three options when writing benchmarks or objectives for a measurable annual goal. 

  • Time-limited benchmarks. 
  • Skill-based objectives. 
  • A combination of benchmarks and objectives. 

Benchmarks are allowable, and they provide educators flexibility in the way that they teach. Although they are vaguer than objectives, there is a benefit to writing benchmarks, i.e. you can change the focus of your instruction, if necessary, without having to revise the IEP. Benchmarks break the measurable annual goal down into time limited chunks with the rate of mastery improving over time. 

Objectives break down the annual goal into steps or subskills that usually build upon each other so that the student can make clear progress in an organized manner. Objectives should not match your main goal but should provide students with the supports they need to reach mastery. 

Evaluation Schedule 

Evaluation schedules refer to the dates or intervals of time that evaluation procedures/progress monitoring will be used to measure the student’s progress toward the goal or objective. Examples include: 

  • Each class period. 
  • Daily. 
  • Weekly. 
  • Monthly. 

MI-Access is Michigan's alternate assessment system and is designed for students  with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and whose IEP Team has determined that General Assessments, even with accommodations, are not appropriate. MI-Access satisfies the federal requirement that all students with disabilities be assessed at the state level. 

MI-Access is based on Michigan’s alternate content expectations for English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Only students whose primary instruction is based on alternate content expectations and meet the definition of a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities may take MI-Access. The MI-Access is not designed for students with mild disabilities.  

IEP teams must follow the guidelines for participation in MI-Access. When any level of MI-Access is selected as the state level assessment for any student, schools must provide the parents/guardians of that student:  

  1. Information regarding the academic achievement standards on which their performance will be measured. 
  2. How participation in this assessment may delay or otherwise affect (or prevent) the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma. 


  • All programs and services must be provided according to the implementation date of the IEP. If a program will not be provided for the duration of the IEP, the beginning and end date must be specified. 
  • For each program and service identified, the IEP team will then determine a range of time for the delivery of the program or service. 
  • For each program and service identified, the IEP team will identify the specific setting in which the student accesses the program or service. 

Direct verses Consultative Services 

  • Direct Service is selected when the primary mode of service is directly working with the student. 
    • Direct Service providers are responsible for delivering specially designed instruction (SDI) that is established through annual goals and objectives. 
  • Consultative Service is selected when the primary mode of service is working with teacher(s) and other adults who have daily contact with the student. 

All options considered but not implemented must be documented in the IEP on the notice page. 

When developing an IEP for a student, the IEP Team is required to include a description of the supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, including modifications, accommodations and supports for school personnel, necessary to enable the student to:  

  1. Advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals. 
  2. Be involved in and make progress in the general curriculum.  
    • Modifications are alterations of assignments, content of a course, and/or the educational standards a student is expected to master. Modifications are allowable for students with disabilities who are unable to access or demonstrate proficiency in the general education curriculum; although, every effort must be made to provide students with an IEP full access to the general curriculum before making modifications. Altering curricular standards and expectations may affect a student’s preparation for postsecondary success and opportunity to earn a diploma. 
    • An accommodation may include alteration of the environment, curriculum format, or equipment to allow access to content and/or completion of assigned tasks. Accommodations do not alter the curricular standards a student is expected to master. 
  3. Participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities. 
  4. Be educated and participate with other students with disabilities and nondisabled students.  

Supplementary aids and services, like any other part of the IEP, should be individualized to the needs of the student and written in such a way that clearly describes what is to be provided in terms of frequency, location, and duration.  

  1. Frequency includes consideration of how often and/or under what condition the supplementary aid or service is required, specific to the needs identified in the PLAAFP.  
    • The amount of the frequency for a supplementary aid and service to be provided must be (1) appropriate to the specific service, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP. It would also provide a baseline from which progress can be determined and adjustments made to ensure educational benefit for the student. Writing “daily”, “as needed”, “at teacher discretion” and “upon student request” by itself without more information to quantify the frequency, would not provide enough information to ensure proper implementation of the service nor would it afford a determination of whether progress had been achieved. 
  2. The location of a supplementary aid or service describes where services will be provided (e.g. general education classroom or another setting), specific to the needs identified in the PLAAFP. Writing “throughout the school setting” implies the supplementary aid or service will be provided during each class hour, during recess, lunch, and passing times. 
  3. Duration refers to how long each “session” will last (number of minutes) and/or when services will begin and end (starting and ending dates). 

Supplementary aids and services refer to 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 nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.  

Each public agency must take steps, including the provision of supplementary aids and services determined appropriate and necessary by the child’s IEP Team, to provide nonacademic and extra-curricular services and activities in the manner necessary to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities.  

Each public agency must ensure special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment 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. 

All options considered but not implemented must be documented in the IEP on the notice page.