Understanding the IEP Process

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

    • Federal law enacted to ensure all students with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living. 
    • To ensure the rights of students with disabilities and their parents are protected.
    • Assist states, localities, educational service agencies, and federal agencies in providing for the education of students with disabilities.
    • To assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate students with disabilities. 

    Evaluation and Eligibility

    • Evaluations can be requested by you, the parent(s), teachers, or other school personnel. 
    • Written parental consent is requested to evaluate the student. 
    • Once parental consent is obtained and received by the school, the school has 60 days to complete the initial evaluation and hold an eligibility meeting to discuss the evaluation results. 
    • If parental consent is not obtained, evaluations cannot be conducted, and the school will issue Prior Written Notice (PWN).  
    • Based on the data presented at the eligibility meeting, the team will determine if the student is eligible for special education services and under which categories the child meets eligibility criteria.

    Eligibility Categories

    • Autism
    • Deafblind
    • Deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/HH)
    • Emotional and Behavioral Disorder
    • Intellectual Disabilities
    • Orthopedic Impairment
    • Other Health Impairment
    • Significant Developmental Delay
    • Specific Learning Disability
    • Speech Language Impairment
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
    • Visual Impairment and Blindness

    GCPS adheres to the Special Education eligibility guidelines as presented by the Georgia Department of Education: https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Special-Education-Services/Pages/Eligibility-Categories.aspx

  • IEPs & Re-Evaluations

    • If eligible, the team will meet within 30 calendar days to develop the initial IEP for the student.  By law, IEPs must be reviewed annually, but IEP meetings can be requested as needed during the year.
    • Once the student is determined eligible for special education services and the IEP is developed and offered, parental consent for services will be obtained.
      • If the parent(s) choose not to provide consent for services following the initial IEP meeting, the student will not receive special education services.
    • Re-evaluations are conducted every 3 years and new data/information is reviewed to reassess the student’s eligibility.
      • New data/information can result in a student being determined ineligible for special education services or eligible in additional areas.
    • You, the parent(s), also have the right to revoke consent for special education services.
  • Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP)

    Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance or PLAAFP

    This portion of the IEP contains several sections:

    • Previous Semester Grades and Current Grades
    • Summary of Standardized Test History
    • Results of Initial or Most Recent Evaluations
    • Description of Academic, Developmental and/or Functional Strengths
    • Description of Academic, Developmental and/or Functional Needs 
    • Parental Concerns Regarding their Child’s Education
    • Impact of the Disability on Involvement and Progress in the General Education Curriculum (for preschool, how the disability affects participation in appropriate activities)

  • Annual Goals and Measuring Progress

    Annual Goals & Measuring Progress

    • Describe what the student is expected to do or learn within a 12-month period. 
    • Designed to address the needs of the student. 
    • Should describe skills that can be observed and measured.
    • Must be reviewed at least every 12 months.
    • Can be reviewed sooner if the student mastered goals or is making limited progress. 


    IDEA requires that each student’s IEP describe how progress on Annual Goals will be measured. 

    • How will the student’s progress be measured?
      • Examples:  Data collection, observation, performance on classwork assignments, standardized testing. 
    • When will the student’s progress be measured?
      • Examples:  Throughout the day, during instruction, on the playground, in the cafeteria, etc.
    • How well will the student need to perform in order to achieve the IEP goals?
      • Examples:  Percentage, 4 out of 5 consecutive data collection opportunities 


  • Extended School Year

    Extended School Year or ESY is special education and/or related services that are provided beyond the normal school day/year. 

    • Consideration of ESY is a required part of IDEA.
    • ESY must be considered at least annually. The IEP team will discuss the following questions:
      • Does the student demonstrate a significant regression of critical skills caused by the normal school break and a failure to recover those lost skills in a reasonable time that limits the student’s ability to achieve IEP goals/objectives?
      • Is the student demonstrating less than expected progress related to critical skills that may limit the student’s ability to achieve IEP goals and objectives?
      • Is the student at a critical point of instruction, such as the presence of emerging skills or breakthrough opportunities, which require ongoing instruction during the school break?
      • Are there other special circumstances that require ESY, such as age, nature and severity of the disability, transitional needs, delays, or interruptions in services?
    • ESY is an IEP team decision based upon the student’s identified needs and data.
    • ESY services are provided at no cost to the family. 


    If the IEP team determines ESY is required, an ESY IEP will be developed. 

    • The IEP team will determine what goals and objectives will be addressed during ESY. 
    • The IEP team will identify the type and the duration/frequency of services. 
    • You, the parent(s)/family member(s) may decline the offer of ESY services. 

  • Special Considerations

    For some students, special factors may prevent a student from performing certain tasks. This section of the IEP guides the IEP team through the following special factors to consider.

    • The IEP team will discuss the following areas:
      • Behavior: Does the student have behavior which impedes his/her learning or the learning of others?
      • English Proficiency: Does the student have limited English proficiency?
      • Blind or Visual Impairment: Does the student have blindness or visual impairment?
      • Communication: Does the student have communication needs?
      • Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Is the student deaf or hard of hearing?
      • Assistive Technology: Is the student currently using Assistive Technology?
      • Alternative Format for Instructional Materials: Does the student require alternative format for instructional materials? 

  • Supplementary Aids and Services

    Supplementary Aids & Services are aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education class settings and nonacademic settings, to enable students with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate. 

    • Why are Supplementary Aids and Services important?
      • They are intended to improve access to learning and participation across the spectrum of academic and nonacademic activities and settings. 
    • What are some examples of Supplementary Aids and Services?
      • Adapted equipment: pencil grip, special seat, adapted desk. 
      • Adapted materials:  large print, highlighted notes, audio books.
      • Training for staff, student, and/or parents.

  • Accommodations and Assessments


    • A change that helps a student overcome or work around a disability. 
    • Allows the student access to the material by learning the same material, but in a different way. 
    • Leveling the playing field for students by changing “how” they work through the general education curriculum. 
    • Typically physical or environmental in nature.


    • Accommodations used for standardized assessment must be consistent with accommodations used for classroom instruction/testing and specified in the IEP. 
    • Some accommodations used for instruction may not be allowed for statewide assessment, as it will break standardization. 
    • Two specific questions asked in the IEP:
      • Will the student participate in district/state standardized testing?
      • Is the student being considered for the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA)?

  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and Placement Options

    Special Education is Not a Place

    • Special Education is not to be used as a label or to indicate a place, but rather is a continuum of specialized instructional services, individually designed, to afford each student, regardless of disability, the right to receive a high-quality public education and to participate in the regular education environment to the maximum extent appropriate. 

    Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

    • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) means that students with disabilities are educated, to the maximum extent appropriate, with students who are not disabled, and that special classes, special schooling or other removal of students with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only if the nature and severity of the disability are such that education in the regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
    • IEP questions asked:
      • Are Special Education Services INSIDE the General Education Classroom required?
      • Are Special Education Services OUTSIDE the General Education Classroom required?

  • Related Services

    Related Services are a wide array of supportive services provided to students with disabilities to assist them in benefitting from special education. 

    • Related Services are designed to provide extra help and support in identified, needed areas.
    • Review of all evaluation and assessment information available will enable the IEP team to determine what, if any, Related Services are needed by the student.
    • If it is determined that Related Services are needed by the student, those services are included in the student’s IEP and the IEP team determines the frequency, location, and duration of the Related Services, based on the individual needs of the student. 

    Related Services include, but are not limited to:

    • Audiology Services, Nursing Services, Psychological Services, Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy, Sign Language Interpretation Services, and Special Education Transportation.