IEP Components


IEP Components:

An IEP can be of any length and can contain any amount of information. However, what is really important is the information in the IEP needs to be useful to parents and school staff in guiding the student’s educational program so the student can make meaningful educational progress. 


Overview of IEP:

The following is a breakdown of the various sections of an Individualized Education Plan.


Special Considerations: In the first section of the IEP, the IEP team must ask whether the student is blind or visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, if the student has needs in the areas of communication, if the student needs assistive technology (AT) devices and/or services, if the student has limited English proficiency, or if the student has behaviors that get in the way of his/her learning or that or others. The Team should keep these “special considerations” in mind when it writes the student’s IEP. PDE’s annotated IEP form explains these considerations in detail.

  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing – IEP team must complete a communication plan (Input statement from IEP)
  • Assistive technology includes devices or special equipment that improve the student’s functional or communication skills. Assistive technology services may include help in determining the need for a specific service (usually through the SETT process) and training for the student, school staff, and possibly the student’s family on how to use the device.
  • Behavior that impedes the student’s learning or the learning of others – a FBA must be completed
  • Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) addresses a student’s behavior. These strategies must reflect individual student’s needs and be based on positive – not punitive approaches. This could mean that behavior goals and support services are included in sections 5 and 6 of the IEP. Or, the IEP Team might write a positive behavior support plan as part of the IEP. Defensible behavior plans are developed following the completion of a functional behavior assessment (FBA) – [See section on Discipline and Behavior Support]


PRESENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS: The second section of the IEP contains information on the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (including social and daily living skills). It is important for this section to be completed because knowing where the student is currently helps the Team decide where the student should be going – meaning what goals should be written for the student. Questions that this section of the IEP should answer include: What can we learn about the student’s strengths and needs from the latest school district and other evaluations? What insight can the parents or the other Team members contribute from their experiences or training? This section should include the student’s present levels related to current postsecondary transition goals (such as results of vocational evaluations, career surveys, etc.) Information from any Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) should also be part of this section. This section should include information on how the student’s disability affects involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. Furthermore, with passage of Chapter 14, other specific questions need to be answered specific to the disability category of a student. These questions are as follows:

  • Autism: Services for students with the disability of autism who require services to address needs primarily in the areas of communication, social skills, or behaviors consistent with those of autism spectrum disorders. The IEP for these students must address needs as identified by the team which may include the verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the student; social interaction skills and proficiencies; the student’s response to sensory experiences and changes in the environment, daily routine, and schedules; and, the need for positive behavior supports or behavioral interventions. 
  • Blind-Visually Impaired: Services for students with the disability of visual impairment including blindness, who require services to address needs primarily in the areas of accessing print and other visually-presented materials, orientation and mobility, accessing public and private accommodations, or use of assistive technologies designed for individuals with visual impairments or blindness. For students who are blind or visually impaired, the IEP must include a description of the instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP team determines, after the evaluation of the student’s reading and writing needs, and appropriate reading and writing media, the extent to which Braille will be taught and used for the student’s learning materials. 
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Services for students with the disability of deafness or hearing impairment, who require services to address needs primarily in the area of reading, communication, accessing public and private accommodations, or use of assistive technologies designed for individuals with deafness or hearing impairment. For these students, the IEP must include a communication plan (include link to forms (blank and annotated) to address the language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the student’s language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the student’s language and communication mode; and assistive technology devices and services.

TRANSITION: The third section of the IEP lists the student’s postsecondary goals (these are goals for life after high school) and the transition services that the school will give the student to help reach those goals. The point of “transition planning” is to build a bridge between school programs and the opportunities of adult life, including higher education, employment, independent living and community participation, and to make sure the student is being prepared for life beyond high school. This section must be filled out for all students who are age 14 or older during the school year that the IEP will cover. The school and parent can agree to fill this section out earlier if that is appropriate for the student. Questions to ask include: What academic and other skills will the student need for adult living? Are the needed skills being taught? What does the IEP Team think should be the student’s measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills? Are these goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments and the student’s own preferences? (If not, why not?) What transition services (including courses of study) are needed to help the student achieve the transition goals?

PARTICIPATION IN ASSESSMENTS: In the fourth section of the IEP, the IEP Team decides whether the student can participate in state-wide (the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment or PSSA) and districtwide (local) achievement testing and whether the student needs testing accommodations. A list of allowable accommodations can be found on PDE’s website at: Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)


If the Team decides that the student has such significant cognitive abilities that taking the PSSA would not be appropriate, the student will take the Pennsylvania Alternative System of Assessment or PASA test. The Team’s decision to have a student take the PASA instead of the PSSA must be explained in the IEP. Please refer to the PASA website for detailed information:


Specific criteria for determining “who is the PASA for?” can be found here: 

 NOTE: The decisions to assign a student to PASA must be made in collaboration with a district special education administrator. If you believe this could be an issue for a given student, you should discuss this prior to the IEP meeting. If it comes up during the IEP meeting, you need to defer that decision until you have reviewed it with your school’s special education administrators. When it is decided that a student qualifies for PASA, you are required to do short-term objectives, it is therefore important to be prepared to write these objectives if there is any question that the student qualifies for the PASA.

In order to help school districts prepare their students for statewide assessments, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has developed “assessment anchors/eligible content.” Assessment anchors/eligible content tells schools which parts of the state standards are most important for students to learn. The assessment anchors/eligible content are also helpful because they explain what students are expected to learn in simpler terms than the state “standards” and include helpful examples on what to teach the students and how. For more information on assessment anchors/eligible content and to get a copy of the Department’s assessment anchor “tool kit,” visit:


TIPS: The “Assessment Anchors/eligible content” line up with the general curriculum. The IEP Team should focus on the content that is most essential to the student’s ultimate functioning because there is a lot of eligible content, and the IEP could become unmanageable if the Team tried to develop goals for all the reading and math anchors. 

As stated above; For students who take the PASA, the law requires that the IEP includes short-term objectives in addition to annual goals. This is discussed under Measurable Academic and Functional Goals.

MEASURABLE ACADEMIC AND FUNCTIONAL GOALS: The fifth section of the IEP explains what the IEP Team, including the family, wants the student to learn this year. The IEP must list annual (year-long) functional and academic goals for the student. These goals must be “measurable” and must be designed to meet the student’s needs. 

TIP: Writing Effective Measurable Annual Goals – Annual goals in Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) must be functional and measurable. They must provide a clear focus for instruction and address individual student needs identified in the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. A well-written measurable annual goal contains five criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART)

Specific: The goal is specific in naming the skill or subject area and the targeted results

Adam will be able to read a passage orally in a grade-level book at 110–130 words per minute with random errors.

Measureable: How much? How Many, How will you know when the goal is accomplished? The goal is stated in a way that your child’s progress can be measured using formative and summative assessments, curriculum based assessments

With the aid of a calculator, Emma will be able to solve math problems that involve the computation of fractions and decimals, with 75 percent accuracy.

Attainable—The goal represents progress that is realistic for your child, based on known information/data.

Jackson will write a paragraph with at least 5 sentences each greater than 8 words, with no more than 2 errors in spelling and punctuation.

Realisticthe goal is results oriented and clearly lays out what the student will do to accomplish it. \

During small group activities Dana will look at the speaker of the group 90 percent of the time, in 4 out of 5 opportunities.

Timely—the goal includes a time frame in which your child will achieve it, with the right supports and services. It also states when and how often progress will be measured.

During small group activities Dana will look at the speaker of the group 90 percent of the time, in 4 out of 5 opportunities 3 consecutive marking periods.

Measurable annual goal example:

 With consistent use of visual schedules, Tom will independently transition from one activity to the next at school (i.e., end one activity and begin a new one) in four out of five transitions on three consecutive weekly probes.

  • Given controlled passages at the third grade level, Bobby will apply learned decoding and word analysis strategies to read 120 words correctly per minute with 94% accuracy as measured by weekly timed reading probes.

  • During group discussions in her academic classes, Jane will contribute appropriately (raise hand, ask and answer questions, contribute relevant ideas) with no more than two reminder cards for 80% of daily probes for two consecutive weeks by the end of the semester.

These are NOT measurable goals:

X     Bobby will improve his reading this year.

X     Jane will not act out in class.


The student’s goals should be designed in a way so the student’s needs can be met allowing one to make progress and be involved in the general education curriculum. The “general education curriculum” means the curriculum that your school follows for all students at a student’s grade level. A good overview of goals can be accessed through the SAS (State Aligned System) system. More information on SAS can be found at Students with disabilities should be taught what all other students at their grade level are taught unless there is a good, disability-based reason why they should be taught at a different level. The school cannot refuse to include the student in the general curriculum solely because the general education curriculum would need to be modified for the student. 

As previously mentioned, for students who take the PASA or another alternative assessment test, the law requires the IEP includes short-term objectives in addition to annual goals. The short term objectives break down the yearly goals into small bites about what the student is expected to learn during the school year to achieve the annual goals. Short -term learning outcomes are also required for students who are gifted. Short-term objectives are not required for other students, but the IEP team can choose to include them. Please refer to school district policy and procedures on goal and objective writing.

TIP: Writing Effective Short-Term Objectives – Short-term objectives are required for students who take alternative assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards (i.e., PASA). Short-term objectives describe meaningful intermediate and measureable outcomes between the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and the measurable annual goal. They must contain the following criteria: condition, student’s name, clearly defined behavior, and performance criteria.

Condition – The condition under which behavior is performed. It describes the situation in which the student will perform the behavior (e.g., accommodations, assistance provided prior to or during an assessment). Example: Given visual and physical prompts when asked to copy simple lines and shapes

      Student’s Name – Example: Emma

      Clearly defined behavior – A clear description of the behavior in measurable and observable terms

      Example: Will stay within 1 inch accuracy

      Performance criteria – 

  • Criterion level – The level the student must demonstrate for mastery.
  • Number - How many times needed to demonstrate mastery.
  • Evaluation Schedule - How frequently the teacher plans to assess the student, including the method of evlaution.  

        Example: Five out of five times within one week for three consecutive weeks.

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