What is my role in designing and implementing my student's IEP?

PLEASE NOTE: The information provided in this module is based on federal law and the requirements of that law. It is very important for you to check with persons in your school district to more fully understand how federal policy is interpreted and implemented in your state and school district.

You may play a role in designing the student's Individual Education Plan (IEP) and you will have a role in implementing it. The two roles are:

  • You may be invited to be part of a team that writes an IEP for a student who has been identified as eligible for special education services.
  • You will use the IEP as a resource when you are teaching students who have disabilities.

Factual Information

Before looking more closely at your role relating to the IEP, you may want to review basic facts about the IEP itself. Several key facts are listed here for your review. You may also read quick facts about the IEP by visiting the website of the US Department of Education.

  • The IEP is a federal requirement under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004). As with most laws, this law has been updated over the years. IDEA 2004 is the current law that guides IEP requirements.
  • The IEP includes specific components, and your state may require more information than the federal law mandates. In general, the sections of the IEP are:
    • Present Levels of Performance
    • Annual Goals
    • Special Education and Related Services
    • Participation with Non-disabled Children
    • Participation in State and District-Wide Tests
    • Accommodations and Alternative Assessments
    • Transition
    • Educational Progress

The Wrights Law website has a description of how these sections have changed under current federal law.

The IEP team is comprised of approximately 7 persons. These members are:

  • The parents of a child who has a disability;
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of such child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);
  • Not less than one special education teacher, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of such child;
  • A representative of the local education agency (LEA) who is: qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities; knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the LEA;
  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described above;
  • At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate;
  • Whenever appropriate, the child who has a disability.

For more information about teams, visit the website of the IDEA Partnership or the the United States Department of Education.

  • The IEP is written after a student has been identified as eligible for special education services. A decision about a child's educational placement is made after the IEP team decides the child's needs, program, and goals.
  • IEPs must be reviewed at least once each year. Members of the IEP team must agree to changes made in the IEP.

Classroom Activities

To understand more about the two roles you play in designing and implementing a student's IEP, the section below contains selected readings, activities, and web sites that you may find useful.

Role 1: Being part of a team to write an IEP - When and Why Would I be on a Team?

You may be asked to serve on the IEP team for a student who has been identified for special education services -- you may even have taught or referred the child yourself. You, like all other team members, will contribute valuable information about the child's needs, program, and goals. The team may meet one or more times and team members must reach consensus about the child's needs, program, and goals.

There are many resources to help you learn more about IEP team membership. Your special education colleague may be able provide you with resources that your school and district use. To learn more about the IEP team process in your own school and district, confer with a special education teacher in your school. In addition to materials he/she may share with you, seek specific answers to questions such as the following:

  • Who actually writes the IEP?
  • What type of information would I provide to other team members about a child?
  • How many times do teams usually meet?

Role 2: Using the IEP when you are teaching - How Do I Use the IEP?

When you have a student who has disabilities in your classroom, you will refer to the IEP on a regular basis when doing your lesson planning. For statistics about the number of children who have disabilities who are served by general education teachers, access information on the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPENSE). While the IEP may be new to you, keep in mind that the special education teacher(s) in your school is your partner in implementing the IEP and in assuring that the needs of students who have disabilities are met.


To learn more about how you will use the IEP in your planning, confer with another classroom teacher in your school who has a student with disabilities in his/her classroom. Discuss how often he/she refers to the IEP, and how he/she connects it to his/her lesson planning.