IEP as a blueprint for the student's educationA reference sheet for Parent Centers from the
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)
June 2017

This reference list is designed to accompany
CPIR’s Brief for Parent Centers on Free Appropriate Public Education and the Dear Colleague Letter on FAPE issued by OSEP on November 16, 2015. The online version of the reference list presents one term or acronym at a time. This page focuses on how IDEA defines the term “Individualized Education Program.”  

You can use the reference list in staff or board training, to refresh or deepen your understanding of what key terms in IDEA mean, and to find easy-to-read summaries about these terms on CPIR’s site in English and Spanish.

(Note: To print out or share the ENTIRE reference list as one Word or PDF file, use the links at the very top of this page.)


Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Importance of This Key Term | As the OSEP Dear Colleague Letter on FAPE makes clear, the primary vehicle for providing FAPE is through an appropriately developed IEP. The DCL focuses extensively on components of the IEP that contribute directly to holding children with disabilities to high standards while also ensuring that their education includes needed supports and services—IEP components such as

  • the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance;
  • the annual goals set for the child; and
  • the special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services that will be provided to support the child’s progress toward the annual goals.

You’ll see all of those terms in the law’s description of the IEP.

Where the Term is Defined in IDEA | 34 CFR §300.320, as follows:

§300.320 Definition of individualized education program.

(a) General. As used in this part, the term individualized education program or IEP means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with §§300.320 through 300.324, and that must include—

(1) A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including—

(i) How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children); or

(ii) For preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities;

(2)(i) A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to—

(A) Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and

(B) Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability;

(ii) For children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives;

(3) A description of—

(i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and

(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;

(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—

(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;

(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and

(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section;

(5) An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in the activities described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section;

(6)(i) A statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on State and districtwide assessments consistent with §612(a)(16) of the Act; and

(ii) If the IEP Team determines that the child must take an alternate assessment instead of a particular regular State or districtwide assessment of student achievement, a statement of why—

(A) The child cannot participate in the regular assessment; and

(B) The particular alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child; and

(7) The projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.

(b) Transition services. Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include—

(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and

(2) The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

(c) Transfer of rights at age of majority. Beginning not later than one year before the child reaches the age of majority under State law, the IEP must include a statement that the child has been informed of the child’s rights under Part B of the Act, if any, that will transfer to the child on reaching the age of majority under §300.520.

(d) Construction. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require—

(1) That additional information be included in a child’s IEP beyond what is explicitly required in section 614 of the Act; or

(2) The IEP Team to include information under one component of a child’s IEP that is already contained under another component of the child’s IEP.

Unofficial Definition of IEP in Spanish

For more information on IEPs | There is an enormous amount to know about IEPs and the realities of how they are developed, reviewed, and revised for individual children with disabilities. The CPIR includes specific types of IEP information that you can use for your own learning and reference. This information can also be shared with families, to help parents understand why appropriately designed IEPs are so crucial, their guaranteed parental right to participate in developing their child’s IEP, and how to align the annual goals in their child’s IEP with the academic content standards in their state.

Short-and-Sweet-Overview of the IEP
Spanish |

What Happens When the IEP Team Meets?
English |
Spanish |

Who’s on the IEP Team?
English |
Spanish |

Contents of the IEP
English |
Spanish |

Writing the Present Levels Statement
English |
Spanish |

Crafting the Annual Goals for the Student
English |
Spanish |

Standards-Based IEPs: What You Need to Know
English |
Spanish |

Training Modules on the IEP | CPIR offers 3 separate training modules on the IEP that your Parent Center can use to train yourselves and the families you serve: The IEP Team, Content of the IEP, and When the IEP Team Meets. All are available in English and Spanish and include slideshows, trainer guides, and handouts for participants.

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Which term or acronym would you like to explore?

Just click any of the links below to jump there immediately.

FAPE   |   IDEA  |   IEP   |   LRE

Child with a disability

Individualized Education Program (You’re already here)

Related services

Special education

Supplementary aids and services

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