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Parent Special Education Information

PACER is the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs.

A Guide to the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Every child is unique and learns in different ways. If your child has been identified as needing special education services to support their learning at school, you can play a major role in shaping the services your child receives. 

PACER’s Guide to the IEP for Minnesota Parents has been written for you – the parent, guardian, or surrogate parent of a child (ages 3 through 21 or graduation) with disabilities who receives special education services in a Minnesota public school or charter school. (Please refer to the Appendix on page 26 for a full definition on who may serve in the role of parent.) 

This resource will help you understand the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the importance of your participation in developing your child’s IEP. You are a required member of your child’s IEP team, and your ideas must always be considered in any decisions the IEP team makes. 

The development of the IEP is required as part of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), its regulations (known as 34 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 300 and 301), and state special education rules and statutes in Minnesota. The federal regulations, which have the force of law, explain how the law will be carried out. 

Each state implements the federal laws somewhat differently. This guidebook will help you understand how the IEP process is carried out in Minnesota public and charter schools. For more materials on the special education process, you may contact PACER or visit Understanding the Special Education Process. If your child qualifies for special education and attends a private school or is home schooled, you can call PACER for information on special education for students in these settings. 

 Although IEP forms vary from one district to the next, all must include the requirements defined in federal and state laws. This guidebook covers all the required parts of an IEP that are outlined in the federal and state regulations. Some sections of the IEP require discussion, but the documentation of the discussion on the IEP form may be optional. School districts will want to document that a particular requirement was discussed.

Introduction to the IEP

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the document that outlines the special education and related services that your school district will provide for your child at no cost to you. It is developed for children who have been evaluated and are in need of special education. The IEP provides a written record of decisions made at IEP meetings.

Development of the IEP

When developing your child’s IEP, the team must consider your child’s strengths, your concerns regarding your child’s education, the results of the most recent evaluation, academic, developmental, and functional needs, and special factors.

Content of the IEP

The IEP is a written plan that guides your child’s special education services. The plan must allow your child to advance appropriately toward meeting annual IEP goals, allow your child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum as much as is appropriate for your child, guide the staff in providing services, and record the services the school district has committed to provide.

Parent Action

School districts are required to implement the IEP as soon as possible following the meeting. The IEP must be written and provided to you within 14 calendar days of the proposed start of the IEP services. Read it and ask yourself, “Is this IEP an appropriate step toward a productive and independent life for my child?” Your answer to this question will guide your decision to agree or disagree with the IEP.

Who Is On My Child's IEP Team?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) calls for a team of individuals, including parents and school personnel, to work together to develop an Individual Educational Program (IEP) for a child who qualifies for special education services.

Because IEP decisions are made by a team rather than by any one individual, it’s important and helpful to understand the role of each member. While each person brings a different set of experiences, concerns, and skills to the table, you can expect that they all share a common goal: enabling the child to succeed in school and in life.