Once the team agrees to an ETR and agrees that specialized educational services are appropriate for your child, the district has 30 days to draft an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). I always encourage parents to sign agreement with the initial IEP, since it ensures that at the very least your child will get some services. You can always disagree with specific points later!
An IEP takes the strengths and weaknesses identified in the ETR and translates them into a specific action plan for helping your child. The IEP is updated annually by the team. (The IEP team includes the parents.) Parents or the district may always call for an IEP meeting to amend the IEP before the annual meeting.
The IEP should detail what problems the child is having and should have specific and measurable goals for the child. Services should be clearly defined and should list number of minutes specific service providers must spend with your child working toward those goals. Your child will likely need appropriate accommodations also. These should be clearly listed in the IEP. If your child has difficulties with behavior, consider a Behavior Improvement Plan (BIP). A Functional Behavior Analysis done by a qualified individual may be necessary to draft an appropriate behavior plan. If your child has medical needs, a Health Plan may also be appropriate. All of these should be referenced in the IEP.
After the IEP goes into effect you should receive regular Progress Reports that detail the progress your child is making on his or her goals. Make sure that you can understand how staff measure the progress, and make sure that sufficient progress is being made to actually catch up with typical students. For instance, a child may be making some progress on a goal, but still far behind typical students. Ask staff to chart progress on a graph and have them show you what typical student are doing to help you determine if your child is closing that gap.
Signs that the IEP is not working could be that your child’s behavior worsens, grades slip, or goals are not met. The problem may lie in the IEP goals, the number of minutes spent on the goals, the curriculum, the staff, or even an incomplete ETR. Don’t assume it is because your child is not working to the best of his or her ability. Advocacy can help.