A title on a blue background says "What is a individual education plan and how to write one ". Next to a picture of a yellow mug on a desk, with a notebook and laptop.
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What Is A Individual Education Plan And How To Write One

A title on a blue background says "What is a individual education plan and how to write one ". Next to a picture of a yellow mug on a desk, with a notebook and laptop.
What is a Individual Education Plan and How To Write One.

What Is An Individual Education Plan ?

If you are a student teacher,  beginning teacher, or parent you might be wondering what is a individual education plan? 

My very first teaching position was at a special needs school, and I had never seen or heard of an individual education plan before.To read more about my teaching background click here.  Sure I had done the mandatory special needs unit in my teaching course, but it definitely did not prepare me for teaching in the field. I had to quickly learn what an Individual Education Plan was and how to write one, as every student in my class needed one. We then used these for reporting so it definitely made writing reports easier. 

In this blog post I am going to tell you everything you need to know about writing an Individual Education Plan! I wish I had this information in that very first year of teaching.

An Individual Education Plan (IEP), sometimes called Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is a document that is created by the school, usually the classroom teacher, to ensure that a student’s individual learning needs are being met.

Text which says an individual education plan is a documents that is created by the school to make sure that a students individual learning needs are being met.
What Is An Individual Education Plan

They can be written for any student in primary or high school that has increased learning needs due to a variety of reasons. These may include; 

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Emotional Disorders
  • Cognitive Challenges
  • Autism
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Visual Impairments
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Developmental Delay
  • Physical Disabilities

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What Is The Purpose Of An Individual Education Plan

The purpose of an Individual Education Plan is to make sure that a student is accessing the curriculum and that their learning needs are being met. It is about making sure that students who have special needs have equity in their education and that reasonable learning adjustments are being made to make sure that they have a positive school experience. The provision of reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities is mandated by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education which apply across Australia.

Text which says " the purpose of an individual education plan is to make sure that a student is accessing the curriculum". On a blue background with a picture of a student reading a book, in the park.
What Is The Purpose Of An Individual Education Plan

Individual Education Plans make sure that schools can demonstrate that they have met their legal obligations to; 

  • Ensure that students with special needs are able to participate in education in the same way as other students. 
  • Plan for and provide teaching and learning adjustments for students with special needs ; and
  • Liaise with the student’s parents or guardian  in developing the educational plan and when deciding on the appropriate adjustments to be made.

How To Get An Individual Education Plan

Generally the classroom teacher will develop the Individual Education Plan in consultation with parents/guardians, and any other professionals that are relevant to the students’ needs such as speech  or occupational therapists. Students are identified as needing a Individual Education Plan if they have a formal diagnosis of any kind of disability, or may be identified by their classroom teacher, because they are not meeting the educational standards for their year level or are having some other kind of issue that is affecting their learning outcomes. 

What Does An Individual Education Plan Include

Individual Education Plans usually include the following things;

  • Any background information about the student that is relevant to the situation. For example living arrangements, siblings, likes and dislikes etc. 
  • The child’s present levels of educational performance.
  • Any related services for which the child qualifies such as any learning interventions, school psychologist, speech therapy etc. 
  • Appropriate educational accommodations necessary for the child to be successful
  • Individualised measurable goals and objectives so that the child can make progress.

What Does An Individual Education Plan Look Like. 

You may already have a template that is used at your school. Make sure to check with your manager to make sure you are using the correct template. It is important that they include the following things; 

  • Name and date of birth of the student
  • Classroom teacher
  • Date the IEP was created
  • Background information
  • Curriculum Area and learning goal(s) for each area
  • A detailed description of how each goal will be supported. 
  • A place to write if the goal was achieved/not achieved with a comment
  • Areas for other teachers to include their goals if appropriate
  • A place for the classroom teacher, parents, specialists, principal to sign that they agree to the plan.

How Do You Write An Individual Education Plan

When coming up with potential IEP goals remember they should be “SMART“ goals. 

When writing  IEP goals remember to use the SMART acronym. You might have heard of these before, but I am going to break them down and give you some examples. 

  • S = Specific –  The goal needs to be clear so that it is understood by the student. 
  • M = Measurable – Progress towards the goal must be objectively measurable.
  • A = Attainable –  The goal needs to be realistic at that time.
  • R = Relevant – The goal needs to be something that will help the student to make progress. 
  • T = Timely – The goal needs a realistic timeframe. 
Text on a blue background: When comiing up with potential IEP goals remember they should be SMART goals.
SMART goals

Specific

Goals need to be specific so that it is very clear what is expected. This helps both the teacher and student. The student understands exactly what is expected of them and knows what they need to work on. It also makes the learning goal explicit, which makes planning easier for the teacher. 

An example of a specific goal would be : X will get 80% of their weekly spelling words correct each week. 

The student knows they need to try to spell at least 8 out of 10 of their spelling words correctly each week. The teacher knows that this is the goal and they need to put into place some learning adjustments to help the student reach this goal. So for example the teacher check in with the student each day during spelling, work with them in a small group, or have an Education Assistant (EA) work with them individually or in a small group. 

This is a great goal, assuming the classroom teacher has the student working on spelling words that are at the right difficulty for that student. Another goal could be, X will learn to spell CVC words using the letters S,A,T,P,I,N at the beginning of the word, with 50% accuracy, by the end of Term 2. 

Measurable

Goals need to be measurable, so we can report if the student has achieved them or not. In the two goals above; 

 X will get 80% of their weekly spelling words correct each week. 

 X will learn to spell CVC words using the letters S,A,T,P,I,N at the beginning of the word, with 50% accuracy, by the end of Term 2. 

The top goal says that each week the student needs to be able to spell 80% of their words correctly. This is absolutely measurable. The teacher can keep a record of their weekly spelling test results. Let their parents know how they are going during the term and then update their IEP with an outcome at the end of the term. The same goes for the second goal, I know that they need to get around 50% accuracy, perhaps in a final test at the end of term 2 to see how much knowledge they have retained. 

Attainable

The goals we give our students need to be attainable. Have I ever given a student a goal that was too difficult or too easy? Sure, it happens! But we need to make sure that they are as realistically achievable without being too easy. Much easier said than done!

If you don’t know the students well, say it is the beginning of the year. It is a good idea to get to know the students and do some diagnostic testing so you know roughly what kind of goals to give them. It is a good idea to go to the curriculum standards in your district and look at the grading rubrics. I use these to get an idea of where my student is at, and what they need to be able to do to improve. 

Relevant


It is also important not to give students a goal “just for the sake of giving them an  IEP goal”. Three goals per curriculum area is PLENTY! BUt they need to have quality goals. For example there is no point giving them a goal that is not going to push them further in their learning. 

Here is an example: a student is currently getting a D in writing. When you are grading them their handwriting is not the best but it’s legible, and they have great ideas. However their spelling and punctuation is really letting them down and they are using lots of common words without any interesting language to give their writing a voice of their own. This is stopping you from being able to give them a C. Would you give them a handwriting goal?

NO! Giving them a handwriting goal is not going to help them achieve a better grade in writing, even if it looks nicer to read. 

I would give them three goals to improve their spelling, punctuation and vocabulary. This is going to help push the student to get a C in writing. 

Timely

Goals need to be timely, so we can report if the student has achieved them or not. In the two goals above; 

 X will get 80% of their weekly spelling words correct each week. 

 X will learn to spell CVC words using the letters S,A,T,P,I,N at the beginning of the word, with 50% accuracy, by the end of Term 2. 

The top goal says the student needs to be able to spell the words correctly each week, so we have a clear timeframe there. The second one says by the end of Term 2. So we know the student needs to be able to spell CVC words using SATPIN letters by that time.

Strategies

Once you have developed your goals, you then need to think about how you are going to achieve these. You need to think about all the different ways you are going to support the student to achieve the goals on their IEP. 

Text on a blue background which says, you need to think about all of the different ways you are going to support the student to achieve the goals on their IEP.
How Are You Going To Support Their Goals?

Here are a list of some strategies you might use;

  • Whole class explicit instruction
  • Teacher-led small group work
  • EA led small group work
  • 1:1 coaching
  • After school homework group
  • Visuals
  • Graphic organisers
  • Scaffolding
  • Extra practise
  • Checklists to monitor individual progress
  • Conferencing
  • Peer coaching
  • Using the gradual release model “I do, we do, you do”
  • Concrete materials and manipulatives
  • Intervention lessons

These are just some of the strategies there are many more! Comment below how you like to support your students to achieve their goals. 

Other Tips For Writing Individual Education Plans

So now that you know what is a Individual Education Plan is, I’m going to give you some more tips to save you time, so you can spend more time with your family and doing the things you love!

Text which says teacher tip: 3 goals maximum per curriculum area. Quote is next to a picture of a desk, on it is a coffee cup, gold watch, paper clips and an open notebook.
Teacher Tip
  • Keep it simple – 3 goals MAXIMUM per curriculum area.
  • Keep a record of their achievements so you can easily report if they have achieved their goal or not. 
  • Students should demonstrate they can do the goal at least three times before they have achieved their goal.
  • When rewriting an IEP for each term or semester, don’t reinvent the wheel. Does the student still need to improve their spelling? Yes! You can still keep the same spelling goal, but increase the difficulty of spelling words, percentage achieved, etc. 
  • Make sure you consult the previous year’s IEPs so that you aren’t repeating goals, making the goals too simple, or too difficult. 
  • Make sure to meet with the students’ parents/guardians each time you create a new IEP. Click here to read all about how to run an IEP meeting. At the school where I currently work we write new IEP’s every term, and meet with the parents at the beginning of the term, so they can agree to the IEP, and then at the end of the term so we can give an update on the progress the student has made. Sometimes I also send home messages or give a quick phone call if the student has been making some good progress. Parents love to hear the good news!

Related Articles

If you would like some more information about Individual Education Plans you can follow the links below.

For Teachers

https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/individual-learning-plans-illustration-of-practice

https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/individual-education-plans-ieps/policy

https://www.ftta.com.au/blog/teaching-strategies/individual-education-plan

For Parents

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/iep.html

Now you know what an Individual Education Plan is and exactly what to include in one. Happy writing!

Don’t forget to comment below on any strategies you like to use in your classroom. If you would like a copy of my free phonics resource click here. 

I’ve recently learned how to blog – and you can too! https://kaysemorris.com/7-helpful-tips-on-how-to-blog/ 

Other articles you might be interested in;

https://myspecialedventures.com/5-simple-and-effective-strategies-for-teaching-cvc-words/
https://specialachieversblog.com/4-exciting-esy-activities-for-kids-with-cortical-visual-impairment/
https://innovatedbehavior.com/?p=164
https://celavora.com/genius-school-supply-list-for-kindergarten-beyond/
https://aslteachingresources.com/2021/07/14/teacher-resource-kit-for-special-education-students/

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