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The IEP meeting: An overview

By Understood Team

At a Glance

  • The purpose of an IEP meeting is to discuss, develop, and review a student’s IEP.

  • Schools are required to hold an annual IEP meeting each year to look at a student’s progress.

  • However, parents can request an IEP meeting at any time for specific issues.

The IEP meeting is one of the most important parts of the special education process. In this meeting, school staff and parents come together to discuss, develop, and review a student’s IEP. They make sure the IEP meets the student’s needs.

There are rules for IEP meetings. They cover who must attend and what happens. The best way to understand these rules is to remember the goal of the meeting. The school and parents are working together to plan a student’s special education experience at school.

Dive deeper

Notice of the IEP meeting

Before holding an IEP meeting, the school must tell parents or guardians when and where the meeting will be held. There must be information on what the meeting is for and who will attend. 

It’s important that parents have an opportunity to attend. This means scheduling the meeting at a convenient time and place. It can also mean holding a meeting by phone or videoconference. 

Learn about rights parents have in the IEP process

The first IEP meeting

After a school evaluates a student and determines that the student is eligible for special education, the first IEP team meeting is held. By law, this meeting must be within 30 calendar days of eligibility. This is an important meeting. It’s when the IEP is developed.

During the meeting, the school and the parents discuss the student’s needs based on the results of any evaluations. Then, they discuss what services and supports the student needs. This information is put into the first IEP.

Some schools present parents with a recommended draft IEP for them to consider at the meeting. This is acceptable, as long as the IEP isn’t decided ahead of time. Parents must have a chance to weigh in and say what they think should be part of the IEP.

See what goes into an IEP .

Annual (and other) IEP meetings

After the IEP is developed, an IEP meeting must be held at least once a year. This is called the annual IEP meeting.

Schools typically use the annual IEP meeting to review how things are going. They look at how the student is progressing on grade-level standards. They also make any necessary changes to the IEP.

Some students may need more frequent IEP meetings. New challenges can come up all the time.

Parents don’t need to wait for an annual meeting if there’s a problem. They can request an IEP meeting at any time.

Who attends the IEP meeting

The law requires a specific group of people — called the IEP team — to attend every IEP meeting:

  • A parent or guardian of the student 

  • At least one of the student’s general education teachers

  • At least one of the student’s special education teachers

  • A school district representative who has the power to approve services and resources

  • An expert like a school psychologist who can interpret the student’s evaluation results

Once the IEP team begins to develop a transition plan for after high school, the student must also attend. This happens at age 16. Sometimes, kids attend even earlier if they’re ready.

It’s also possible to invite others to the meeting. For example, a parent might ask that a health care provider attend — or even a friend or advocate. 

If parents and the school agree, an IEP team member can be excused from attending. But it’s generally best to reschedule so everyone can be there.

Learn more about the IEP team .

What’s discussed and decided at the IEP meeting

IEP meetings can cover many different topics.

Sometimes, the entire meeting will be about solving a specific problem. For example, the student might be missing out on services listed in their IEP. Or services may need to be adjusted. There might also be a conflict with a teacher or another student. If so, the meeting will often end with the school and parents agreeing on what to do, including changing the IEP. 

With annual IEP meetings, the focus will be more on the student’s overall progress. The school and parents will look at the child’s present level of performance. This is based on data like grades or test scores. Then, the team will review progress toward annual goals and the student’s individual supports and services. Depending on how the child is doing, the team might agree to changes. They may also create a draft version of a new IEP.

For parents: Learn how you can take an active role in IEP meetings .

For teachers: Learn what to expect in an IEP meeting .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom