Individualized Education Program

After an initial evaluation, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be developed and special education services must be provided to the child within fifteen (15) school days of the eligibility determination. In order to accomplish this, an IEP meeting must be scheduled; the purpose of which is to review the results of your child's evaluation, define his/her needs, and to develop and IEP to meet your child's needs. If the school district fails to schedule a meeting regarding your child's IEP, you should contact the Director of Special Education and request that the meeting be held as soon as possible. If the school district continues to delay in scheduling an IEP meeting, you can seek assistance from the RI Department of Education.

The school district must notify you of the meeting at least ten (10) school days prior to the meeting to ensure that you will have a chance to attend, although you can waive the ten (10) day notice if you would like the meeting to take place sooner. The meeting must be scheduled at a time and place that you and the school district agree upon. The notice of the meeting must tell you the purpose, time, and place of the meeting, and it should tell you who will be there. The notice should also let you kow that both you and the school district may invite other people to the meeting. If you are deaf or do not speak English, the school district must provide an interpreter at the meeting. If you cannot get to the school because of illness, transportation problems, work, or other reasons, the school district must try to make arrangements to ensure your participation at the meeting. A school district can only hold an IEP meeting without a parent if it makes a detailed record of its unsuccessful attempts to persuade the parent to attend the meeting.

It is a good idea to become familiar with your child's educational file before the meeting. You should have already met with the Evaluation Team at the meeting where the eligibility was determined at the Team's findings and probable recommendations were reviewed. It is helpful to read the written evaluations in advance of the IEP meeting. The school department must allow you to review your child's evaluations before an IEP meeting and no later than ten (10) days after your request. The school will provide you with copies of the evaluations. This preparation allows you to think ahead of time about whether the program recommendations make sense to you when they are discussed at the IEP meeting. It also allows you to anticipate whether there will be a problem getting a placement or services that you think your child needs, and if so to bring an advocate with you to the IEP meeting.

In addition to you and the individuals you invite, the school district must make sure that at least the following people are present at an initial IEP meeting:

  • At least one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is or may be participating in the regular education environment)
  • At least one special education teacher of the child or, if appropriate, at least one special education provider of the child
  • A representative of the school district who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, special education, who is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and the availability of resources in the district and who has the authority to commit those resources
  • An individual who can interpret the test results and explain how these test results are reflected in the IEP goals and objectives
  • If appropriate, your child

Both you and the school district may invite other appropriate individuals to the meeting.

If your child has been evaluated for the first time, the focus of the meeting should be on the results of the evaluation, and what those results mean in terms of the programs and services your child needs. The goal is to develop an IEP for your child based on the information gathered through the evaluation process. During the meeting, you should ask questions if you do not understand what is being said. If school personnel use educational, medical, or other terms that do not make sense to you, ask them to explain what they mean so that you can understand.

The IEP is usually a multi-paged typed or handwritten document. It must contain at least the following information:

  • A statement of your child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance
  • A statement of how the child's disability affects involvement and progress in the general curriculum (or in appropriate activities for pre-school children)
  • A statement of measurable annual needs, including short term instructional objectives related to meeting the child's needs that results from the disability, to enable involvement and progress in the general curriculum and meeting each of the other educational needs resulting from the disability. The annual goals should be related to the particular needs your child has. Put another way, annual goals should be developed around the needs that the evaluation process and other input have identified. Other pieces of the plan should then identify how those goals will be achieved through materials to be used, strategies, evaluative criteria, and services
  • A description of the specific special education and related services and supplementary aids and services based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable to be provided to your child, and a statement of program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided so that the child will be able to attain the annual goals, progress in the general curriculum, participate in extracurricular and non-academic activities, and be educated with all children
  • An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children in regular classes and activities
  • A statement of any individual modifications needed so that the student can participate in district or statewide assessments of student achievement, including if the decision is that the child will not participate, why the assessment is not appropriate for the child and how the child will be assessed
  • The date that services are expected to begin and anticipate frequency
  • The period of time through which the services will be provided
  • The location of services
  • How the child's progress toward the annual goals will be measured and how the child's parents will be regularly informed of the child's progress and the extent to which that progress will enable the child to achieve these goals
  • Beginning at age 14 (or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP team) a statement of the courses of study needed to prepare for transition (e.g. advances placement, vocational, languages for college bound students)
  • Beginning at age 14 (or younger if appropriate), and updated annually, a statement of the necessary transition services your child needs, including interagency responsibilities. Transition services must assist a student in moving from school to post-school activities, including post secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, or independent living. These services must be based on the individual student's needs. Students' interests and preferences must be taken into account, so their presence is important at the IEP meeting. Additionally, adult service agencies that will be providing services upon completion of school should be identified in the IEP
  • Beginning at least one year before a child reaches the age of majority, a statement that the child has been informed of his/her rights that will transfer to the child at the age of 18

You should receive a copy of the written IEP at the meeting or if not, no later than ten (10) calendar days after the IEP has been developed or after you request a copy.

Your child's IEP must be reviewed at least annually on or about the anniversary date of the last IEP meeting. You should receive notice of the meeting ten (10) school days before the meeting is held.

The focus of these IEP meetings will be slightly different from the very first IEP meeting. The IEP participants should look at your child's IEP to see if your child met the annual goals and objectives established. If not, it is appropriate to consider alternatives such as modification of the program to provide different or more intensive services, additional evaluations to see if your child's disability is correctly diagnosed, or a change of placement. The IEP should be revised as appropriate to address any lack of expected progress toward annual goals, or progress in the general curriculum. The IEP team must consider the results of any reevaluation, information provided to or by the parents, and the child's anticipated needs. The regular education teacher, as appropriate, shall participate in the review and revision. If an agency, other than the school district, fails to provide transition services described in the IEP, the district must reconvene the IEP team to identify alternative strategies to meet the transition objectives.

It is always a good idea to take each page and question on a step-by-step basis and to avoid talking very generally about your child’s progress through the school year. Be wary if you attend an IEP meeting and you hear how poorly your child is doing, but you do not also hear any recommendations for change in their program, or if you hear that your child is making progress but that progress is not reflected in standardized testing or your child is becoming increasingly frustrated. If you are unsuccessful on your own in getting the school district to make some appropriate recommendations for change in your child’s program, you should consult with another educator or advocate. Once it is determined that your child requires special education services, an IEP should always be in effect. Until a new or revised IEP is implemented, the requirements of the present IEP should be followed, even if you move to another school district.

If your child is doing poorly in school and his/her IEP is not scheduled for review in the near future, you need not wait. You should request an IEP review meeting. The meeting must take place within 10 school days of your request.

A recommendation for a specific program placement is made by the IEP team based on the evaluations and the IEP that is developed for your child. The parent is a key member of the team making the decision.

The IEP team, with your input, must carefully select a placement that will meet your child’s needs and is the least restrictive environment (LRE) in the special education program continuum. The District must ensure that the parent is a member of the group making decisions about educational placement. The LRE means that, as much as possible, your child must be educated with children without disabilities. The school district may remove your child from a regular educational environment only if the nature and severity of his/her disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Your child’s placement should be as near as possible to your home and s/he should attend the school which s/he would attend if not in special education, unless the IEP indicates otherwise. Finally, in deciding what the least restrictive placement is for your child, the school district must consider any harmful effect on him/her or on the quality of service which your child needs.

In general, non-public and state-operated programs in Rhode Island must meet the same standards as those established for public school programs and a child with a disability referred to such a placement by a school district has all the rights of a child with a disability who is served by a local school district.

For initial placement and beginning Special Education services a parent or guardian’s written consent is necessary. At all other times your child’s school must ensure that you, the parent or guardian, are part of any group that makes decisions about the educational placement of your child. The law requires the Special Education Director to send a notice after the IEP is developed. The notice should tell you the proposed location and the beginning date of your child’s program, the details of the placement, the fact that your consent is required for initial placement, and a form for you to sign and return giving your consent. As allowed by law, many school districts meet their notice obligation by getting parental consent to initial placement at the IEP meeting. Remember that, in any case, the school district is obliged to place your child in his/her proper placement and begin services no later than 15 school days after their evaluation is completed or within 10 school days of an IEP meeting.

Depending on the severity of your child’s disability and their needs, your child may be entitled to receive extended school day or school year services. During this additional time, the entire educational program may be required, or just some of the services to meet their needs (e.g. speech therapy or counseling), as determined by the IEP team.

If your family moves to another school district, there should not be any interruption in the special education services provided to your child. The new school district must follow the existing IEP unless and until their properly develop a new one with you. It is a good idea to contact the new school district in advance, to let them know that your child is receiving special education services and request appropriate services be available as soon as your child enrolls in the school.

Thank you to Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS) for the provision of the information contained on this page. RILS welcomes and permits the duplication and distribution of this information so long as this is done free of charge and with RILS attribution. No part of the information contained on this page may be altered without permission.