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  • Joe Castellucci

New Jersey Special Education Primer, PART IV: The Individualized Education Program

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a crucial document for children with disabilities and for those who are involved in educating them. The goal of the IEP is to improve teaching, the learning of the student and student results. Each child's IEP describes, among other things, the educational program that has been designed to meet that child's individualized needs. What follows is a brief explanation of how the IEP is written and by whom, and what information it must, at a minimum, contain.

Contents of the IEP

In accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the IEP must include specific information about a child and the educational program tailored to meet his or her unique needs. In sum, the information required to be in the IEP is:

  • Current performance. The IEP must state how the child is performing in school (also known as present levels of educational performance). This information usually comes from the evaluation results such as classroom tests and assignments, individual evaluations given to decide eligibility for services or during reevaluation, and observations made by parents, teachers, related service providers, and other school staff. The statement about "current performance" includes how the child's disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum.

  • Annual goals. These are goals that the child can reasonably accomplish in a year. The goals are broken down into short-term objectives or benchmarks. Goals may be academic, address social or behavioral needs, relate to physical needs, or address other educational needs. The goals must be measurable, meaning that they must measure whether the student has achieved the goals.

  • Special education and related services. The IEP must set forth the special education and related services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child. This includes supplementary aids and services that the child requires. It also includes accommodations and modifications (i.e., changes) to the program or supports for school personnel-such as training or professional development that will be provided to assist the child.

  • Participation with nondisabled children. The IEP must explain the extent to which the child will not participate with nondisabled peers in the regular class and other school activities.

  • Participation in state and district-wide tests. The IEP must state what modifications in the administration of state and district wide standardized testing the child will need. If a test is not appropriate for the child, the IEP must state why the test is not appropriate and how the child will be tested instead.

  • Dates and places. The IEP must state when services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last.

  • Transition service needs. Beginning when the child is age 14 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must address the courses he or she needs to take to reach his or her post-school goals. A statement of transition services needs must also be included in each of the child's subsequent IEPs.

  • Needed transition services. Beginning when the child is age 16 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must state what transition services are needed to help the child prepare for graduating from school.

  • Age of majority. Beginning at least one year before the child reaches the age of majority (i.e., 18 years old), the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told of any rights that will transfer to him or her at this age.

  • Measuring progress. The IEP must state how the child's progress will be measured and how parents will be informed of that progress.

In addition to the above, it is important to understand that each child's IEP must be specifically tailored to that child’s individualized needs. In other words, the document is prepared for only that child. It describes the individualized program designed to meet that child's specific needs. School districts are not permitted to provide blanket services in an attempt to meet the needs of all children with special needs in a single program.

Furthermore, federal law requires that school districts maintain documentation to demonstrate their compliance with requirements of the IDEA. Generally speaking, in New Jersey you will receive notices from your local school district in order to document that the district has met the requirements of federal or state law, such as: holding the meeting to write, review and revise a child's IEP in a timely manner; providing parents with a copy of the procedural safeguards they have under the law; placing the child in the least restrictive environment; and obtaining the parents' consent for implementation of the IEP.

If your child's individualized education plan fails to provide your child a free appropriate education or you need assistance in obtaining an IEP for your child, please contact the Law Office of Joseph D. Castellucci, Jr. today. We possess decades of experience in handling all school law and special education matters. We are a boutique law firm practicing in Morristown, New Jersey with a focus on providing our clients with personalized and compassionate representation with driven results. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation: (973) 285-3253.

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