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Duke University
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What is an IEP? Can You Get One in High School?

What’s Covered:


If your child has a disability and is in need of assistance, there are several options available. An important one to know about is the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which ensures that students who need it have access to special education. 


How do you secure an IEP for your child? Read on to find out all about the program and how your student can get one.


Overview of IEPs


An IEP is a written, legal document that is developed by your child’s school and district in collaboration with you, the parents. It is an option made available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that all students have access to equivalent learning opportunities. IDEA standardizes some information that should be included in the IEP but not the specific content, although this may differ among states and districts. 


The creation of the IEP starts with a meeting with evaluators, special education and IEP coordinators, teachers, and school administrators. During this meeting, you’ll discuss your child’s needs and what accommodations are necessary to support them. 


The IEP must include three pieces:


  1. Your student’s present level of performance
  2. Goals that are measurable and can be met within the school year
  3. The special education, resources, and services your child requires and will be provided


Examples of IEP Goals and Accommodations




IEP goals must be measurable and specific. For example, a student might have a goal of reading a grade-level passage aloud accurately with no more than a certain number of mistakes for five out of six repetitions. Or, a student will be able to follow simple directions (with the number of steps specified) four out of five times.




Like goals, accommodations will vary depending on the nature of the student’s disability. Some examples include:


  • Extra or unlimited time on tests and assignments
  • Oral tests
  • Someone to take notes for the student
  • Behavior charts
  • Study guides and plans
  • Preferential seating
  • Breaks between assignments, tasks, and other activities
  • Calculator allowance
  • Peer mentorship
  • Alternative assignments or testing methods

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How to Get an IEP


1. Document evidence of your child’s needs.


Keep track of any evidence you have of your child’s disability. This might include teacher reports, evaluations by a professional like a psychologist, and general observations. 


2. Request an evaluation in writing.


To secure an IEP, you’ll need to request an evaluation by the school. Submit your request in writing to the school’s IEP coordinator or the person in charge of special education. Be specific about your request.


3. Have your child evaluated.


The school will schedule an evaluation, and you will need to provide permission to proceed. This will be used to determine when your child is eligible for special education and an IEP. If the school does not find that your child is eligible for an IEP, they may offer an alternative, like a 504 plan.


4. Attend an IEP meeting with your child’s school system.


The school will schedule a meeting with you if they determine that your child is eligible for special education. During this meeting, the IEP team will discuss your child’s needs with you and draft the IEP. You will need to give consent before the plan is put into place. You will also receive a copy of the plan.


Updating Your IEP


During the year, you will receive regular updates on your child’s progress. You may request a review of the IEP if you feel it’s necessary; otherwise, the plan will be reviewed annually. The IEP reviewers may make changes if they’re warranted. Your child must be reevaluated at least every three years.


If you’re not satisfied with the school’s evaluation, you can have your child undergo an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). If you disagree with the IEP, it’s best to take the below steps before signing it. While you can retract your permission later on, this could make things more difficult from a legal standpoint.


To contest an IEP, the first step is to notify the school and try to resolve it with them internally. You may request third-party mediation if you’re still unhappy — they will attempt to help you and the school reach an agreement. 


If mediation doesn’t resolve the dispute, then you can file a complaint with your state’s department of education and request a due process hearing. Filing a lawsuit would be the final step, assuming the due process hearing doesn’t go your way. 


The Bottom Line


Depending on what the IEP team determines, your child may learn in a general education classroom alongside students without disabilities or be placed in a special education classroom. Another alternative is being part of a general education classroom accompanied by a paraprofessional or teacher’s aide. 


Your child will be provided with the resources and support they need as defined by the IEP, but they won’t receive preferential treatment in other respects. For example, they may still be disciplined and be graded according to their performance, with any modifications that are dictated by the plan.


As a parent, make sure you stay involved and track your child’s progress. The purpose of an IEP is to collaborate with your school to meet the needs of your child and help them succeed.


IEPs are not part of higher education, but you can still help your student find a school that’s a good fit. CollegeVine’s free school-search tool will be useful in identifying the best colleges and universities to prepare your child for the future.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.