How to Read an IEP

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  • 0:04 The IEP
  • 0:35 Common IEP Terms
  • 2:57 Reading an IEP
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shannon Orr
In this lesson, we'll define and explain what an IEP is before discussing different terms found in an IEP and explaining how to help parents and guardians understand what's listed.


Whether you set out to be a teacher when you first started school or decided later on in life that teaching was your calling, one thing you are likely to remember from your courses is how many acronyms are used in education. In addition to all these acronyms, there are also many new terms specific to the educational world. An IEP is one of these key terms in special education. It's important to understand the key components of an IEP so that you can explain these terms to parents when you begin implementing the plans.

Common IEP Terms

An individualized education plan (IEP) is a document that's designed to help teachers assist students with disabilities in reaching academic goals. Once teachers are equipped to serve these students, they can ensure that these students are given opportunities to succeed similarly to students who don't have disabilities. They can also then explain the IEP to parents or guardians.

One of the terms that may be new to parents or guardians as they read an IEP is accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments students with disabilities need in order for them to learn or perform well academically. For example, some students may do better when they are sitting near the teacher during class and/or during tests, so one accommodation listed on their IEP may be preferred seating. As students progress, some accommodations may become necessary that once weren't, and students may outgrow the need for others, so it's important that these accommodations are reviewed annually and adjusted appropriately.

Modification is another common component to an IEP. A modification is a change that's made in an academic expectation so that students with disabilities have a greater chance of understanding and performing well on an assignment. For instance, the class may have to list, draw, and describe five different chemical changes. A student who has modifications in his or her IEP may only have to identify three chemical changes and verbally explain what makes them chemical changes rather than listing and drawing them. The content of the lesson hasn't changed, but the expectation of the student's performance is changed to a level that's attainable by the student. Modifying assignments helps these students master the basic understanding of a concept without getting overwhelmed.

Annual goals is another term parents and guardians will see in an IEP. Annual goals are goals set for the student by teachers based on their current performance and how the teachers would like to see the student develop. For instance, if the student is reading at a 300 Lexile Level, the teachers may decide that a reasonable goal would be to achieve reading at a Lexile Level of 350 by the end of the year. Even if the student doesn't reach the set goal, teachers can work with the student to get them as close as possible so that they'll not fall behind and will be eligible for promotion to the next grade.

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