The annual review of the student’s IEP is step 6. By this point, your child’s IEP contains:
- a robust PLAAFP statement;
- well-written goals;
- a description of evidence-based specially-designed instruction, supplementary aids and services, and related services which will be provided to your child;
- identification of an appropriate placement.
You’re done, right?
The next step in the IEP process is to review the IEP at least annually in an IEP team meeting. However, the parent can – and should – call an IEP meeting at any time they have concerns.
The primary questions in these annual reviews are:
Is the student making progress on IEP goals and in the general education curriculum?
Is there data to support this?
The first step should be to review each goal from the past school year and discuss whether the goal was met or not met, and why. In many IEP meetings, the team gushes about how well the student is doing, proposes new goals, you all smile and leave the meeting, and as far as the district is concerned, they are done. But often, those same students who are doing ‘so great’ actually did not meet any of their previous goals. However, that wasn’t discussed because new goals were introduced, and the old goals magically disappeared.
If goals are not met, two key possibilities must be considered:
- The student needs more or different instruction or other services to meet their goals.
- The goals are poorly written, generally because the goals are not measurable. They are based on insufficient baseline data, or new assessments are needed to develop appropriate goals.
You should not learn that your child’s goals were not met at the annual review, as the district is required to provide you with progress reports on every IEP goal. Progress reports on goals are expected as frequently as general education report cards (generally quarterly or every trimester), or more often if stated in your child’s IEP. If you have not received a progress report all school year, that’s a red flag.
Request to meet with your child’s case manager every 8 weeks to review your child’s progress, if needed, or at least every reporting period. Don’t wait until the annual IEP to find out that your child has slipped behind, as it is much harder to make up those lost skills. You want to review progress and data often. At the very least, before every annual IEP meeting, request the data on goal progress so that you can review it beforehand and then discuss it with the team.
Note that the IEP progress report is not the report card – you must receive both.
Understand progress monitoring
Progress monitoring measures the student’s growth from year to year and the progress (or lack of progress) on their goals using data. This is the key to a strong IEP.
Evaluations are not progress monitoring. Examples of evaluations are psychoeducational assessment, a speech evaluation, or a functional behavioral assessment. However, the findings from these evaluations can help to determine baseline data for goal development. Generally, evaluations take place every 3 years, and progress monitoring is data that is collected regularly and consistently on each and every goal.
Academic and functional goals and related progress updates should be based on data collected throughout the school year, specific to the child’s goals, and as described in the IEP. You can define additional data that needs to be collected for your child, how often, and by whom, as well as any other details unique to your child’s situation – be sure to document this in the IEP.
Parents are entitled to receive any data collected on their child, although sometimes even school teams are not aware of this. You can make a written request for data, citing FERPA, if the school won’t give it to you after you’ve asked nicely. The data used to determine progress on goals should be consistent, meaningful, and objective data – not anecdotes or a summary. This data may include grade-level assessments, course grades, assignments, work samples, data collection charts, benchmark data, running records, ABA/ABC data, behavior logs, program-specific data points, test scores, or curriculum-based measurements. The data collected must align with the goals.
If you don’t understand how progress is being monitored, ask your child’s teacher or special education case manager to sit down and explain it to you.
How to measure progress
It’s important to regularly compare your child’s state progress on goals and your state’s common core standards to get a sense of your child’s progress and the need for any new goals. You may want to collect your own data to share with your child’s team, especially during online learning, as you may know more about your child’s progress at this time than the teacher does. Be sure to include things like your child’s attention span, fatigue, tolerance level, and mood. How long do they spend on each assignment or on homework? How are their executive functioning skills? What coping strategies do they have for any anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues they may face? What social/emotional progress has been made, or have you seen regression? How are their day-to-day functional skills (beyond handwriting, look at their daily living activities across the day)? You can list all of these observations in a written Statement of Parent Concerns and ask that they be included in the IEP.
Pull out your child’s most recent “final” IEP – not the draft IEP (if you can’t find the current, final IEP, email your child’s school and request a copy). Use a progress monitoring chart or make a simple spreadsheet. Take a look at your child’s goals and objectives – compare the goals from year to year. Take a look at the progress reports on previous goals and note whether the goal was continued, modified, or just disappeared.
Review the following:
- District or state assessments;
- Probative measures (such as AIMSWeb, Dibels Fountas & Pinnell, etc.) – standard measures given to all students in the school;
- Data charts and comments;
- Behavior logs or observations (and consider if your child can generalize their behavior skills – if they can’t use a skill outside the therapy room, then it’s not truly learned);
- Homework – how much do they do independently? can they explain their work to you?
- Classwork and work samples;
- Ask your child what’s working for them, what’s not working, and what would help them in their school setting?
- The IEP team will not write measurable goals; the goals have no baselines or don’t make sense (you should be able to picture what your child will be doing when the goal is met and understand the goal).
- The goals are changed slightly or disappear entirely from year to year.
- The goals are repeated from year to year with no progress made.
- Your child is passing their classes and advancing from grade to grade, yet their skills are stagnant (such as a second-grader who still can’t read).
- The district refuses to provide data to the family upon request or provides meaningless data (such as a summary observation only).
- The district is not taking the same type of data from year to year or is not collecting any data.
- The team refuses to consider parent input and data in terms of goal progress and development
Progress in the general education curriculum
You also need to ensure that your child is making progress in the general education curriculum, to the extent possible for your child. Your child should be working towards meeting the school district’s educational standards that apply to all children. Passing grades does not necessarily mean that content has been mastered. Review your state’s common core standards each year to determine if needed skills were acquired or if remediation is needed.
You need to know: Is the achievement gap between your student and their typically developing peers closing? If not, could the school try additional instructional time, a change of instruction type (methodology), a change of setting, or a combination of these factors? If changes in programming are made, you will need to outline how long the team agrees to try the new system before additional changes are required or determine that the new program is working.
Revise the IEP
At the annual review, you must update the Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) and write new goals. The PLAAFP must be present, current data. This could be derived from data collection throughout the year, or perhaps additional assessments are needed. Baseline data for new goals is determined by what is written in the PLAAFP statement. Make sure that section is comprehensive and accurate, covers every area of need, is based on assessments, progress data, and parent input. Always include a statement of parent concerns.
Consider more than your child’s goals and academics. How are they doing functionally? Do they like school? Are they happy? Do they have friends? Are there any new concerns that need to be addressed?
Note on Parent Participation: Any time a decision is made without the parent, it’s a lack of parent participation, a fundamental IEP violation. If you don’t understand the IEP goals, how they will be measured, or how it was determined that a goal was met, that’s a lack of parent participation.
Suppose the school refuses to provide you with information or change the student’s program at your request. In that case, they need to state their position via Prior Written Notice.
A Day in Our Shoes: IEP Data Tracking | IEP Progress Monitoring, for Parents | Free IEP Goal Tracker
A Day in Our Shoes: How to organize your IEP files and paperwork.
A Day in Our Shoes: How to Prepare for an IEP Meeting | Checklist | Be a Better Advocate
Great Schools: How to know if your child’s making progress toward IEP goals | Parenting