For a period of three months beginning in March and ending
in May, I was heavily engaged in writing IEPs for students at our school. It
may be small potatoes for some of you, but this year I wrote at least 20 IEPs,
participated in several ETR meetings, and conducted at least 20 IEP meetings. I
realize many of you may have written more, but I confess that as a first-year
teacher, it was a daunting task.
I did not think I was up to the task or the challenge writing so many IEPs and when I was first given my assignments I was a bit
overwhelmed. Writing IEPs for the students I have worked with all year would be
a piece of cake: I knew them, I had mounds of data, and I knew them. The
challenge was that most of the IEPs I was assigned to write were for children I
had never met and never taught. It is a monumental task. And, to be sure,
‘writing’ and IEP during student teaching (or learning about writing an IEP in
graduate school) is nothing like sitting down before a blank computer screen.
That said, I’d like to share a few of the things that I
learned as I went through the process of writing IEPs this year and things that
I will carry with me into the next season of IEP writing.
First, I learned to really, really, really rely on the
classroom teacher. With the exception of about 6 or 7 students, most of the
IEPs I wrote were for students who were in inclusion classes or the regular
education classroom. The insights offered by the regular education teachers was
invaluable. It was also a great time for me, as a first-year teacher, to get to
know the regular education teachers on a first name basis. Don’t underestimate
the value of the regular education teacher’s insight when it comes to writing
IEPs for inclusion students. They can also give very good insight into whether the
goals and objectives we write for inclusion students are appropriate and
Second, I have grown to love my standards flipbooks. We are
engaged in writing Individual
Education Plans for our students. I worked very hard to make certain that every
IEP I wrote was different from the last—not for the sake of being different,
but for the sake of the student to whom it belonged. So, standards. The Common
Core Standards, which many people seem to dislike, are invaluable. They help me
write standards-based, evidence-based, clear and concise goals and objects that
are tailored to each individual student.
Third, it is tremendously important that the intervention
specialist make time in their otherwise busy schedule to go to the classroom
and make their own observations of the student for whom they are writing the
IEP. It is also important to interview the student. Our objective as
intervention specialists is to advocate for our students. This means the IEP
ought to reflect their personality and concerns too. It is difficult, but with
the exception of maybe two students, I interviewed or observed or did both for
every student I wrote an IEP for this year.
Fourth, I operate with the assumption that the parent is the
expert on their child. Every IEP meeting I conducted was conducted on this
premise. Thus I never made de facto
statements about students. I asked questions. I asked the parents for their
input, their opinion, their ideas—on more than just the future planning part of
the IEP form. I was pleased when some of the parents appreciated when I had
challenged their child, as I was when they offered their insight on how to
tweak an objective to make it more suitable for their child. IEP writing is no
task that should involve teacher ego. I can honestly say that I listened to
everything that the parent or the regular education teacher suggested and
willingly and gladly made adjustments to what I had written.
So, IEP writing. I have to say that I actually enjoy writing
IEPs. It is a challenge each time that I was assigned a student whose academic
career is going to be affected by what I write down on paper. It forces me to
think deeply and forces me to be involved in the life of a child. It is a
tremendous responsibility we are given as intervention specialists. I refuse to
go to the ‘pool’ and use other people’s IEP objectives. I refuse to settle for
the same boring language goal after goal after goal. I refuse to allow my IEP
writing to be a mere exercise in plagiarism.
IEP writing is the most critical activity we perform as
teachers. The meetings should be conducted professionally and quietly. (I also
dislike forcing IEP meetings into a pre-set time frame. They should be reasonably
timeframe free so the parent understands everything that is going on in the
meeting and the IEP.) I work for the students and their parents when I write an
IEP. We must listen to them always.
In closing, here are a couple of final thoughts. First, do not
be afraid to challenge the student in the IEP. Second, have copious amounts of
data available when writing the IEP. Third, make every IEP unique and individualized. There is nothing worse,
in my opinion, than seeing two IEPs, for two students who couldn’t be more
different, sharing the exact same goals and objectives. That’s not teaching;
What do you think? What are some of the tricks or tools or
guidelines you keep in mind when you are writing IEPs?