In special education, we talk a lot about getting the evaluation, having the IEP meeting, and finalizing the IEP. And when you finish the process of writing and approving the IEP, your school district is now required by law to give your child the services described in it.
But it’s your job to monitor your child’s IEP goals and progress, and make sure the services are happening! If your child is not consistently getting all the services and accommodations listed in the IEP, you should tell the IEP team. And if your child is not making progress, you can ask to make changes to the IEP.
Here are 3 steps for monitoring IEP goals and progress:
1. Stay in close touch with the IEP team and your child.
- Be involved. Keep asking about your child’s progress and how things are going.
- Look for any new challenges that your child may need support for. Children change, and so does the schoolwork. Both can bring new needs to light.
2. Make sure your child is getting all the services and accommodations that are written in the IEP.
- This includes in-class or pull-out support, therapies (speech, PT, OT, etc.) and classroom accommodations.
- Make sure your child is getting them as often as the IEP says.
3. Read the progress reports and other assessments.
- Talk to the teacher about anything you don’t understand in the reports.
- Ask for work samples. It can help to see for yourself the kind of work your child is doing in school. It may be more tangible than the data you’ll see on the reports.
Types of reports:
- Grades: assess your child’s progress in the general curriculum.
- Progress Reports: describe how well your child is meeting their IEP goals.
- School Assessments: explain how well your child meets grade-level expectations.
Read more about school assessments, grades, and tracking your child’s school progress.
Students with IEPs should get regular progress reports that track how well they are progressing toward each of their IEP goals. Usually they get these every quarter, but the school must provide them at least as often as the general education students get reports.
Read the progress reports carefully. Think about these questions:
- Is your child making progress on their IEP goals?
- Are there any new concerns about their academic, emotional, or social well-being?
- Is progress reported according to the measurement as stated on the IEP?
Look for consistent measurement on IEPs and progress reports.
IEP goals should be written to be specific and measurable. But there are different types of measurement, and the reports should describe progress with the same unit of measurement as the goal:
- If the goal is for Jon to respond appropriately in 6 of 10 trials, his progress should also be measured in trials.
- If the goal is for Mia to do a task with 60% accuracy, her progress should also be measured in a percentage.
You don’t want to see this:
- The IEP goal is to complete 4 out of 5 tasks in a 30-minute period, but the progress report says “Emma is sweet and is making progress with 70% accuracy.” (You can’t tell how well she met the goal).
If the measures aren’t compatible, talk to the teacher or IEP team.
Prepare for IEP reviews and re-evaluations
Once your child has the IEP, there are regular times to review their progress.
- Annual IEP Review — Every year, you will have a meeting to review the IEP with the team. If you think your child’s IEP needs adjusting, you can discuss it here.
- 3-Year Evaluation — Every 3 years, the school must do another full evaluation and decide if your child’s needs have changed.
These are both required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Don’t forget that if your child’s IEP isn’t working, you can ask for an extra meeting at any time.
Here’s what you can do before each IEP meeting:
- Check your IEP binder and make sure you have all your information ready. If you are missing an official document, like evaluation results, you can request copies from the child’s school or the district’s special education office.
- Review the progress reports for an overall picture of your child’s progress.
- Write down your questions.
- Decide if you need a supporter at the meeting. This could be a friend, a relative or an education advocate.
- Ask for a team meeting if you have concerns, even if it’s between the annual meetings.
If your child has an IEP, the school must do a full re-evaluation every 3 years. This is important. But sometimes schools ask parents to sign a waiver, which lets them skip the re-evaluation. Do not sign this until you have had time to think it over. It may be helpful to talk this through with your child’s teacher, a friend who also has experience with special education, or an education advocate.
The school may say that your child’s needs have not changed and there’s no reason to put them through the hassle of doing the evaluation again.
But we know that kids change so much every year, even in subtle ways:
- Maybe your child has caught up in some of their skills and doesn’t need all the services.
- Maybe you’ve noticed new challenges that should be addressed with a new IEP goal or service.
- Maybe your child is dealing with new social, emotional or behavioral challenges that weren’t assessed in the first evaluation.
- Maybe the reading or math skills are getting more challenging, and uncover a learning disability that you didn’t know about before.
It’s almost always in your child’s best interest to do the re-evaluation. Only agree to waive this right if there is a very good reason and you are confident your child’s needs have not changed at all.
What you can do:
- Ask the school why they are suggesting waiving this important right.
- Ask for a meeting to discuss it with the whole team.
- Look closely at your child’s progress and see if you agree.
When you do get a re-evaluation:
- Make sure that it addresses all of your current concerns.
- You can ask for different kinds of testing than they did before.
- For example, maybe you are now concerned with your child’s behavior. You can ask for a Functional Behavioral Analysis, or FBA.
- Be sure to get a copy of the re-evaluation report and discuss it with the IEP team. (Remember you have a right, through IDEA, to ask for all records and reports. If you request it, they must give it to you 2 days before the meeting.)
- Work with the team to adjust the IEP to address any needs discovered in the new evaluation.
If you don’t agree with the new IEP in your annual review: “Stay Put”
If you disagree with the new IEP, the school is required (by IDEA) to keep providing the services from the current IEP until you resolve the problem. This is called your right to “Stay Put”.
You should use your “stay put” right when:
- You disagree with a district’s new proposed IEP, or
- Your child had an IEP but the district now says they no longer qualify
Tip: If you use your stay-put right, you should reject the IEP (in full or in part), and write a note to the district. The note should say that you are ”asserting your right to stay put” and want your child’s services or placement to stay the same.
Is the IEP still working for your child?
This is the main goal of monitoring IEP goals and your child’s progress. During the year, talk with your IEP team if you think changes to the IEP are needed. If you have questions or concerns, ask the IEP team to set up a meeting. You do not have to wait for the annual meeting; you can ask for a meeting anytime!
If the IEP needs a small adjustment, you can do an IEP amendment–sometimes without a meeting. If it needs a big change like a new service, you will need a meeting. The district cannot make any changes itself to the IEP without telling you.
Stay involved, get support and learn more
There are many resources to support families of children getting special education services.
Learn the details of your rights in the special education system, and your state’s processes and regulations.
- Connecting with Support Organizations and Other Parents: You don’t have to be alone! There are many other parents out there who have been through this and are happy to share what they know.