What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a written document that outlines the special education program and/or services that will be provided to the student.
An IEP is a living document – open to change and growth. It tells us who is responsible for supporting the student (accountability) and how that will happen (plan of action).
The IEP must be developed within 30 days of a student being formally identified by the IPRC.
The IEP is stored in the student’s Ontario Student Record (OSR).
Who writes the IEP?
The IEP is usually written by the classroom teacher, in consultation with the school resource teacher and others that support the student.
The IEP must be developed in consultation with parents/caregivers, as well as students 16+. Consultations may take place in a variety of ways, including meetings, or IEP questionnaires developed by the school.
If a student has been formally identified as having an exceptionality through the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC), the principal has up to 30 days to give the parent(s) and student if 16+, a written copy of the IEP.
The IEP must be reviewed three times a year in elementary and each semester in secondary, but it is meant to be changed or modified as needed. It is designed to adapt to the changing needs of the student as they grow through all their years in school.
Purpose of the IEP
IEPs describe the special education program and/or services being put into place for a student. They outline appropriate strategies to support the student’s learning needs.
Students may be provided with an IEP in one of two ways:
- Student Identified by IPRC: Every student that has been identified as exceptional by the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) must have an IEP developed within 30 days of the decision.
- Student Not-Identified by IPRC: IEPs can be created to accommodate a student’s needs, without the formal IPRC process. Sometimes this is done prior to an IPRC process, while needs are still being assessed, or to better support a student.
What is included in the IEP?
The IEP is a document that includes a lot of information about the student and how to best support their special education learning needs. This includes:
- Student profile, including name, date of birth, student number, school, most recent IPRC date, and IPRC annual review date, if applicable. If identified through the IPRC as exceptional, it also includes:
- Identification of exceptionality: Behaviour, Communication, Physical, Intellectual or Multiple
- Placement: type of classroom, special education program and/or services
The IEP also includes any relevant:
- Assessments and assessment information
- Medical conditions or diagnoses
- Health services or supports needed
- Strengths and needs
- Courses or programs that the IEP applies to Accommodations and/or modifications
- Special education program placement
- Annual Goals
- Learning Expectations
- Transition plan
Flowchart on the IEP process:
In the IEP: Accommodations, modifications and alternative programs
Accommodations and modifications support student success and achievement. This includes graduation and post-secondary readiness.
Accommodations are the teaching and assessment strategies, supports, or equipment that support a student’s individual learning needs. Accommodations do not change the learning expectations for the grade level. An accommodation changes the way the student is taught the material. This means that the curriculum stays the same: HOW the curriculum is delivered is changed.
Modifications are the changes made to the grade level learning expectations for a subject or course, to support a student’s individual learning needs. A modification changes what a student is taught, or what they are expected to learn. This means that the curriculum may be changed or modified.
Alternative programs, or alternative skill areas, are developed to support students in acquiring knowledge and skills outside of the Ontario curriculum.
Types of accommodations
There are three types of accommodations:
- Instructional accommodations are when the teacher adjusts teaching strategies (e.g. presenting materials in a different way)
- Environmental accommodations are when the teacher adjusts the classroom environment (e.g. providing a quiet setting)
- Assessment accommodations are when the teacher adjusts evaluation methods (e.g. additional time to complete a test)
Types of modifications
There are different ways to modify expectations:
- Different grade level, where the expectations may be taken from either a higher or lower grade level in core subjects, such as Math or Language
- The complexity of the grade level are adjusted in content subjects, such as Social Studies, where the number or complexity of learning expectations may be adjusted from the regular curriculum
Alternative programs (or alternative skill areas) are available in both elementary and secondary schools.
The alternatives will be listed on the Program page of the IEP, and will include the current level of achievement, annual goal(s), learning expectations, the teaching strategies to be used, and how learning will be assessed.
Alternative programs at the secondary school level are non-credit courses and prepare students for daily living. Examples include Culinary Skills (KHI) and Transit Training and Community Exploration (KCC).
These programs are developed to help students gain experiences outside of the Ontario curriculum. At the secondary school level they are:
- individualized for the student
- usually focus on skills for independent living
- use K course codes
All students need guidance when moving from secondary school to whatever their next step may be. Transition planning helps students prepare to be independent young adults to the best of their abilities.
A transition plan must be developed for each student 14+ that has an IEP, except when identified as gifted without another exceptionality. Transition plans include:
- Goals to transition to post-secondary activities
- Action steps to meet the goals
- Individual(s) responsible for the actions (for example, teacher)
- Important connections to community resources to support the student
The transition plan can cover many areas including training, education, employment, and independent living skills. As it is meant to be reviewed regularly, the goals and action items listed within the plan may change to meet the growing needs and interests of the student.
What if I disagree with an IEP?
While parents and students 16+ must be consulted and given a copy of the IEP, the school ultimately has the discretion to move
forward with an IEP without parental consent.
Though IEPs are developed with the purpose of supporting the student and their learning, there are times when a parent/student may disagree with the IEP.
These disagreements often fall into one of three categories:
- Content of the IEP: whether the accommodations/modifications meet the needs of the student
- Implementation of the IEP: whether a teacher is providing the student with the listed accommodations
- Putting an IEP in place: when the parent/student feels that there is no need for the IEP
When disagreements over the IEP take place, it is important to start by talking to the school about your concerns. Further complaints can be made through the chain of responsibility at the school and school board.
The IEP is a legal document, but there is no formal process to appeal the IEP – whether on the content, implementation, or creation of an IEP. You can work with the school and school board to resolve problems.
The final step would be to escalate your concerns to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, in extreme circumstances.
Bringing forward concerns
The school does not need consent to provide special education services, but they must still consult with the parent and student 16+. When disagreements over the IEP take place, it is important to start by talking to the school about your concerns.
You should always begin with the classroom teacher. Talk through any challenges, and allow time for your concerns to be addressed.
If discussions with the teacher do not resolve your concerns, you should speak to the following people in this order: the Principal, then the Superintendent, and finally the school board Trustee.
If your concerns are regarding the content or the implementation of the IEP, and you have met with all the people listed above and still your concerns have not been addressed, then you could choose to escalate your concerns by filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
IEP Concerns: Meeting with school / board
Step 1: Meet with the teacher: Identify which accommodations and/or modifications are needed but do not appear in the IEP, or Identify the accommodations that are not being followed and ask that they be put in place.
Step 2: Meet with the Principal: If the meeting with the teacher is not successful, ask to meet with the principal. Ask about how the IEP team is ensuring implementation and concrete steps that are being taken to ensure that needs are met. Schedule a follow up meeting to check in after a few weeks.
Step 3: Meet with the Superintendent: If the IEP team and/or Principal are not taking the right steps, call the Superintendent assigned to your school to request a meeting. Superintendents oversee a network of schools, and some boards have a Superintendent assigned specifically to oversee special education. Bring meeting notes and all documents from all previous meetings.
Step 4: Meet with the school board Trustee: If the meeting with the Superintendent is not successful, ask for a meeting with the school board Trustee. The Trustee is an elected official, and represents the interests of the school community. Bring meeting notes and documents from all previous meetings.
You can ask for an IPRC review after a student has been placed for 3 months. This may help with concerns related to the implementation or content of the IEP. While the IPRC cannot enforce specific IEP contents, they can make persuasive recommendations.
IEP Concerns: The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal
If there is a failure to accommodate the needs of the student, and you have followed the process of speaking with the school and school board personnel, your final option could be to file a human rights complaint. This is a process outside of the school system.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) can determine whether the failure to accommodate the student’s needs is discrimination under the law. They can make an order requiring the school to properly accommodate a student with special education needs.
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre has created a “How To” guide on the process to file a human rights complaint.
Making a claim to the HRTO can be challenging It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer beforehand, some options: