There are seven essential steps in the IEP Process:
- Referral – Typically, referrals are made by teachers who recognize that a child is having difficulty and may need special services. Regardless of the source of the referral, however, each school should have a clearly understood, uniform procedure for processing referrals.
- Pre-evaluation – Immediately after a referral is made, all available information related to the suspected disability—including information from the parent and information about the interventions that have been attempted within the regular class—should be collected. Unless appropriate intervention strategies have been provided, the team (which includes the parents) may need to delay the process until appropriate interventions have been provided within the context of the general curriculum. All relevant information must be considered before determining whether additional data, such as medical information or evaluation results, are needed. This decision cannot be made by an individual teacher or administrator but must be made by a group of people. In cases where the referral has been made by the parent, the group’s decision regarding evaluation must be documented in written notice to the parent, regardless of the decision. If the decision is to conduct an evaluation, the school district must obtain informed written consent from the parent before proceeding with the evaluation. If the team determines that an evaluation is not warranted, prior written notice must also be given to the parent. The notice must include the basis for the determination and an explanation of the process followed to reach the decision. If the Local Education Agency (or LEA) refuses to evaluate or if the parent refuses to give consent to evaluate, the opposing party may request a due process hearing.
- Evaluation – Referral information and appropriate involvement of the child’s team lead to the identification of specific areas to be included in the evaluation. All areas of a suspected disability must be evaluated. In addition to determining the existence of a disability, the evaluation should also focus on the identification of the child’s special education and related service needs.
- Eligibility Determination – The determination of eligibility for special education services is two-pronged. After the completion of the evaluation, the IEP team meets to determine whether the evaluation results indicate the existence of a disability, and whether the child needs special education.
- Development of IEP – The IEP should focus on educational needs that cannot be met in the general education program. Goals and objectives in the IEP are based on the strengths and needs of the child, concerns of the parents, and results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child, as needed.
- Implementation of IEP – The LEA is responsible for obtaining informed written parental consent prior to implementation of the initial IEP placement. The written IEP reflects the beginning and end dates for the goals and objectives agreed upon by the IEP team.
- Annual Review – The student’s IEP team must review the IEP at least annually. Review of the child’s IEP and the goals and objectives therein may be requested at any time by any member of the IEP team.
What is reevaluation?
State law requires that a reevaluation must be conducted at least every three years, or sooner if necessary. Reevaluations may be requested by any member of the IEP team prior to the triennial due date.
Reasons for requesting an early reevaluation may include:
- Concerns, such as lack of progress in the special education program
- The acquisition of new information or data by an IEP team member
- Review and discussion of the student’s continuing need for special education (e.g., goals and objectives have been met and the IEP team is considering the student’s exit from the special education program)
Depending on the child’s needs and progress, reevaluation may not necessarily include formal assessment or tests. However, the IEP team must thoroughly review all relevant data when determining each child’s evaluation needs.
When does an IEP end?
A child’s eligibility to receive special education and related services from a local school district may be terminated if an IEP team evaluation shows that:
- The child no longer meets Tennessee eligibility standards
- The child no longer requires special education and related services
- The child graduates with a high school diploma
- The child reaches 22 years of age before the start of a school year
- Parents request in writing that the child be removed from special education (in which case, the LEA must stop all special education and related services and return the child to general education)