I like to think I’m pretty good at writing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). I pride myself on well-written work of all kinds (goes back to all those advanced English/composition classes, as well as a husband who studied journalism) and poorly written IEPs make me want to claw my eyes out. Seriously. My co-workers can attest that I pretty much Hulk-out over terrible IEPs because it means three things: 1) someone out there thought their product was acceptable and that makes me sad, 2) someone out there is lazy and/or doesn’t understand the process and could get in trouble with compliance, and 3) my team now has to clean up the mess.
“Poorly written” can mean a lot of things: unrealistic goals, a lack of quality information (or you know, any information at all), spelling/grammar errors or the wrong child’s name in the document (ugh!!), no quantifiable data, old/irrelevant information, overly negative… etc. IEPs are legally binding documents that are meant to be a holistic “snapshot” of a child’s current academic, social/emotional, and physical functioning, with appropriate accommodations and modifications to meet their needs, and goals to work on for the school year. That means they’re pretty stinkin’ important.
Since starting at my building four years ago, I’ve slowly taken over writing all initial and reevaluation IEPs from my Committee on Special Education (CSE) chairperson, who admits that it isn’t her strong suit. I definitely did not receive much/any training on IEP writing during graduate school, and have picked things up from supervisors/mentors, in-services, and reading exemplar IEPs. I’ve supported my special education teachers on how to write quality IEPs during annual review time through in-services and consultation. While I’m by no means an expert, I hope that small changes and education can lead to documents that are more in compliance, more representative of the student, and staff members who better understand the IEP writing process. As such, I’m going to start a mini-series here on the blog to tackle some of the “poorly written” IEP issues that come up most often! Keep in mind that I am no expert and am only sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Also remember that I’ll be discussing the way my district writes IEPs and that may not be representative of your district/area/state, but that general tips and tricks can translate into better documents anywhere.
Catch up on all the IEP writing mishaps and blunders here!
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