What’s in an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Justice Center of Southeastern Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Advocates for Children

This article explains what is included in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP has 8 sections. See a blank IEP form [Microsoft Word document].

To learn more about if your child can get an IEP and what the process is like, see IEPs and 504 Plans


Sections of the IEP

1. Parent and/or Student Concerns

Parent and/or Student Concerns is the first section of the IEP. It lists concerns that you, your child, or both of you have about your child's development and hopes for their future learning. 

This section can include your concerns about your child’s:

  • Academics,
  • Non-academic things like their behavior at home,
  • Social development,
  • Emotional development,
  • Behavior, or
  • Life skills, in school, at home, or in their community.

At the team meeting, tell the team your concerns about your child and your hopes for their learning and their future. The school should write your concerns in the IEP. You can also give a written statement to the school to put in the IEP.

Your child’s concerns, fears, and dreams should also be written into the IEP. If your child is 14 or older their input is especially important. 


Remember you are an equal Team member. As a part of the Team, you and your child have important things to say about all parts of the IEP, not just the Parent and/or Student Concerns section. 

2. Vision Statement

The Vision Statement section of the IEP lists plans for your child’s future. When your child turns 14, this section should include plans for your child’s whole life. It should include plans for your child’s life as an adult. Your child’s ability to work, have relationships, and be part of the community should be part of the IEP. It is important that the IEP includes your child’s own vision, for themselves. As your child gets older their vision for themselves becomes more and more important.

3. Present Levels of Performance

“Present Levels of Performance” is the section that should describe how your child’s disability affects them and the accommodations or specially designed instruction they need.

The description of how your child’s disability affects them should include the effects of their disability on:

  • their schoolwork and
  • other educational areas, like:
    • their social and emotional needs,
    • their behavior, and
    • their ability to communicate.
4. Measurable Annual Goals

Measurable annual goals are the goals the team expects your child to achieve in a year. These goals are based on the things your child can do right now, your child's "current performance levels."

Under each goal, the IEP lists the ways you will know if your child is meeting the goal. These are called “benchmarks.”  The benchmarks must be measurable. Measurable means that you can count or observe the progress a student is making.

5. Service Delivery Grid

The Service Delivery Grid in the IEP lists the services the school will give your child, and the amount of time each week they will get those services. The Service Delivery Grid, includes any specialists, like special education teachers or counselors, who will be working with your child. 

The grid shows where your child will be getting the services. Your child may get some services in the classroom when they are in class with their peers. They may also go somewhere else for other services, a school's resource room, the gym, or sometimes, services may even be provided at home.

The grid is broken into three sections, Grid A, Grid B, and Grid C.

Grid A

Grid A lists “consultation services,” for the parent or school staff, not the student.

Some examples of the consultation services you might see in Grid A are:

  • a consultation service for the speech-language pathologist to meet with your child’s teacher for 30 minutes per week, or
  • a consultation service for the school’s behaviorist to teach you strategies to use at home.

Grid B

Grid B lists the special education and services your child gets in general education classroom, or the classroom where most students learn. These services are “push-in” services.

An example of a push-in service you might see in Grid B is 30 minutes of special education reading instruction each week in the general education classroom. This means that a special education teacher will go into your child’s general education classroom to teach them in a small group.

Grid C

Grid C lists the special education and services your child gets outside the general education classroom. These are “pull-out” services.

For example, a special education teacher may pull your child out of the general education classroom to work with them on reading. If your child is placed in a “substantially separate classroom,” most of your child’s special education and services will be listed on Grid C. 

6. Schedule Modification

The Schedule Modification section of the IEP lists changes to the normal school day and school year if your child needs a shorter school day or a longer school day, or a shorter school year or a longer school year. You will see these changes in the Schedule Modification section of their IEP.

If your child gets summer special education services or “Extended School Year” (ESY) you will find it in this section.
Your child should get ESY services if they:

  • would lose more skills over the summer than a typical student would lose, and
  • it will take them more time to get the skills back.
7. Transportation

The Transportation section of the IEP describes how your child will get to school. It says your child will have regular or special transportation to school. For example, your child’s IEP might say “special door-to-door transportation” with a “bus monitor.”

8. State or District-Wide Assessment

The State or District-Wide Assessment section of the IEP lists the standardized tests your child will take during the IEP period, such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). For each content area, it says whether your child will:

  • take the test the way other students take it;
  • take the test with accommodations, and what those accommodations will be; or
  • be tested on the content area in an alternative way.

See Can my child get help with MCAS?

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