Making an IEP binder is a great way to keep information organized and at the ready when you need it. An IEP binder can help you prepare for IEP meetings and stay up to date on your child’s progress. This powerful tool can also help you communicate and collaborate with teachers and your child’s IEP team. Here’s what you need to get started:
- A three-ring binder
- Six tabbed section dividers
- A three-hole punch
Organizing an IEP binder with your child’s evaluation reports, IEP, report cards, and other paperwork may sound like a lot of work. But this guide walks you through what to gather and where to put it.
Start with the IEP binder checklist
Print this IEP binder checklist and put it in the very front of your binder. The checklist has details about what you can put in each of the tabbed sections in your IEP binder.
The checklist has another very important purpose: You can update it as you add new paperwork. As your binder grows, this checklist will help you see what you’ve updated and when you updated it.
Label the tabbed section dividers
Label the tabbed dividers for each of the sections of the checklist: Communication, Evaluations, IEP, Report Cards/Progress Notes, Sample Work, and Behavior. Keep in mind that if you’re just starting the special education process, you may not have much to put in each of these sections yet. Here’s what you’ll be putting in each section over time — and why.
Tab 1: Communication
Print and fill out a school contact sheet and put it in the front of this section. The contact sheet will help you quickly find and reach out to key people with questions or concerns.
Next is the school communication log. Print one out and use it to help you keep track of meetings, phone calls, emails, and other important interactions you have with your child’s teacher and school. As you fill out each entry, be sure to note what was discussed and what was decided.
The rest of this section is for letters and important emails. Put the newest ones on top, behind the communication log. Why keep printed copies of emails? Having a paper version in your binder means you’ll have it on hand for meetings, so you can easily find and reference what was said.
As you file letters and emails in this section, remember to include a brief summary of each one in the communication log.
Tab 2: Evaluations
Down the road, your child might have another school-based evaluation. If so, file it as a trio that includes the new request or referral and the new consent form. Put this new set of documents on top of the previous set.
Also, in this section, you may want to consider flagging key information with paper clips or sticky notes. Come up with a system that can help you quickly find what you want to discuss with the IEP team.
Tab 3: IEP
It’s a good idea to start this section of your IEP binder with a copy of your rights and procedural safeguards the school gives you. That’s because whenever you go to an IEP meeting, the IEP team will offer another copy. It’s important information. But if you show the school you already have it, you can avoid taking home another big stack of paper!
The IEP needs to be updated annually. But you may have more than one meeting a year. And if changes are made to the IEP, put the newest plan and prior written notice on top, behind the procedural safeguards.
Tab 4: Report cards/progress notes
The federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), says you have to be updated on your child’s progress toward meeting IEP goals at least as frequently as you get progress reports on your child’s general education. Keep these progress notes and report cards in this section.
And if you want to keep track of your child’s progress on your own, print and use this IEP goal tracker. It can help you monitor your child’s progress toward each annual goal in the IEP.
Tab 5: Sample work
Use this section to file samples of your child’s homework or classwork that show signs of progress or concern. It’s a good idea to file samples at least monthly. And just like in the other sections of your IEP binder, put the newest stuff on top to help you find the most up-to-date information.
Tab 6: Behavior
Start this section with a copy of the school’s code of conduct. Some teachers may have also sent home class-specific behavior plans and rules. Keep copies of these here too.
If your child has a behavior intervention plan or behavior contract, file it next in this section. This is also the place to file disciplinary notices, if your child receives any. Why keep these in your IEP binder? Because kids have additional rights and protection if the behavior they’re disciplined for could be related to their disability.
Consider including a supply pouch
Since your IEP binder will come to IEP meetings with you, you may want to add a zippered supply pouch. Stocking it with some pens and an extra set of sticky notes means you’ll have one less thing to worry about during your IEP meeting.
And last but not least, remember that organizing your child’s IEP binder may take some time at first. But once the initial steps are done, it’s easy to maintain. When it comes to staying on top of your child’s IEP, the less time you have to spend hunting for paperwork, the more time you can focus on questions to ask before and during the IEP meeting.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.