The IEP meeting for General Education Teachers

Below I have an expanded outline for you, to accompany the video or to read on its own.  Thanks for taking the time to check this out. 

How to prepare for an IEP meeting for general education teachers

  •  What is an IEP meeting?  An IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting is a meeting to determine a specific student’s educational needs for that IEP year.  During the meeting, the team will; discuss current strengths, needs, and levels, create goals, determine what services and aids are needed, determine the amount of time the student will be out of class, and discuss accommodations. 

  • Who will be there?

    • The entire IEP team will be there, so anyone that works with the child through special education or has done testing. 

    • This might include the Special Education Teacher, Speech Language Pathologist, School Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, etc. 

    • The parents will also be there.  Also, the parent might bring someone else who knows the child’s needs, like a tutor or grandparent, Educational Consultant, Tutor, or Advocate. 

    • Others that might be there are the Principal, and a Special Education Director or Designee. 

    • Yes, there may be a lot of people there. 

  • The Law Stuff

    • During the IEP meeting, a document is created.  This is a legal document and what is stated in it is now legally binding, meaning you all must do what it says. 

    • A few really important parts from the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act)  that you need to know are

      • you need to be at the meeting

      • you are responsible for determining if the behavior supports, services, program modifications, and personnel are what is needed for the child to attain his/her goals. In other words, you are the one person there who really knows if what is being said can happen in the classroom, so speak up if you have questions or need more support.   (Although I highly recommend talking to the IEP team before the meeting if you are feeling you need more.)

  • Mindset - This is a meeting that directly impacts your student, and can really make a huge difference in this child’s progress. If you come in with the right mindset, it can dramatically change the environment of the meeting for everyone.

    • This isn’t just a formality for the Special Education teacher to get paperwork done- it’s a plan to help a child succeed. 

    • It is a lot to take in, while you are at the meeting.  That is OK, you can review the IEP and should ask for a summary after.  Be in the moment.

    • You are an active and important member of the IEP team, even before the meeting. 

    • Being well prepared will help you have a relaxed, receptive, and confidently expressive state of mind.

    • Be ready to listen for understanding (as opposed to listening to wait for your turn to talk), and ask questions.

    • You are important to the child.  He or she views you as the authority in the classroom, you can make or break this child’s spirit this year.

  • Before the meeting (at least a week before)

    • Ask the others on the IEP team what you should bring. Chances are they will have what they need ahead of time, but it’s always nice to ask.  Even so, be prepared to have (at least ideas for);

      • progress monitoring information, both current and for the past year.

      • Bring any relevant data such as state and district assessments.

      • The student’s strengths, interests, and needs. 

      • Share any information related to the student’s goals to the special education team.  You are also working on these goals in the classroom, so this information is important.  If the student is not transferring skills learned to the general education classroom, this needs to be addressed. 

      • Have accommodation ideas and input on current accommodations effectiveness ready.  If you know there is an area of struggle, but can’t think of an accommodation, that is totally ok.  The team can brainstorm right there and think of an appropriate accommodation for that instance.  Accommodations are for the most part your responsibility, these happen in the classroom.  Be ready to explain to parents how this takes place if they were to ask. 

    • If you have new concerns, this is the time to bring them.  You should communicate any new concerns with the parent and/or IEP team well before the meeting.  (At least a couple of weeks before.) 

    • Talk to your student well before the meeting.  Ask; what is the hardest part about school for you right now?  What do you most enjoy?  What do you see as your strengths, struggles?  Which accommodations help, which should we stop, and what others might help?  What worked in moving towards goals? 

  • During the meeting

    • One of the staff on the Special Education (Integrated Services) team will run the meeting. 

    • If you don’t understand something, ask.  Chances are the parents will be relieved that you asked, and may not even know what to ask themselves.

    • Because you were prepared, you have your progress monitoring information, both current and past.  Feel free to share this information during the portion of the meeting when you create goals.  It can also be used to determine if the child is eligible for “extended school year” (ESY).  

  • Parents

    • Be an active listener.  These meetings can bring up some serious emotions on many levels.  Parents might be coming into the meeting with a past relationship with their schooling that was very negative.  They might feel that this meeting is going to be about how horribly their child is behaving or progressing.  They might just be completely overwhelmed and ready to give up.  You just never know.  Just keep in mind that everyone is at the meeting because they have important information in creating the best experience for your student, and are important in helping the child achieve. 

    • Be a support for the parents.  They know you, and may not know the many other people at the table.  Sit next to them, bring an extra pen or tissues, whatever you can do to make them feel comfortable. 

    • If you and the parent have had a difficult relationship in the past, use this format to let them know you are on their child’s side.  Ask if they understand, need anything, and if they agree with what is being said. 

    • It’s not the time to chit-chat.  Although you want to build rapport at the start of the meeting, try to keep long stories and examples at a minimum.  If you want more time with the parents, you can always ask if they would like to meet in a few weeks just with you.  This would not be another IEP meeting, but an informal meeting to talk about specific school work or other topics.  Building a relationship with parents is very important, not only to get support but in building trust that will transfer over to the child. 

  • During the meeting

    • You don’t need to take notes unless it’s a quick reminder for something you need to act on.  Get a summary of the IEP meeting later.  Use this time to be an active participant in the meeting. 

    • Be “in the moment” and present through each aspect of the meeting

    • I know I said it before, but ask questions along the way.

  • After the meeting

    • Get a summary of the meeting in some way.  Some districts will let you have a copy of the IEP, some just a summary, some nothing.  Ask for something, and know that you do have the right to review the IEP.  If need be, you can take notes as you review the document.  The most important parts you need to know are the accommodations and goals. 

    • If it wasn’t made absolutely clear at the meeting, ask what you are personally responsible for. Are you expected to keep data on progress monitoring for goals?  Which goals?  Is there equipment or tools talked about, how do you get them?

  • Follow up

    • Thank the parents for participating in the meeting yesterday (a personal note, an email, whichever you are most comfortable with.)

    • If you have not received any equipment or tools talked about at the meeting, ask the person on the team who would provide these.  All team members are overworked, just like you, and may forget. 

    • Continue active, positive communications with the parents and all team members. 

    Thank you so much for taking your time to learn about IEP meetings.  If you have any other questions or feel families you work with would benefit from learnings and extra support about the educational process, I would love to help. Contact us.

Thomas Chung