Evaluations and Individualized Education Plans in the Final IDEA


The final version of the IDEA 2004 federal regulations was issued in August 2006. Included in those regulations were mandated changes in the formation and implementation of Individualized Education Plans (“IEP”). An IEP is defined as a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting of diverse professionals, in equal partnership with the parents. The following is a summary of requirements for evaluations that determine eligibility for services; when IEPs must be in effect; and content of the IEP. The authors will note some of the more important distinctions found in Illinois law.



Sec. 300.301 Initial

Sec. 300.305-311


Under the federal guidelines the initial evaluation must be completed within 60 days of receiving parental consent. States are permitted to establish their own timeframes. In Illinois, the state guidelines mandate that the initial evaluation be completed within 60 school days.

Initial Evaluations and Reevaluations

Initial evaluations are conducted to determine if a child is a child with a disability and to determine the educational needs if the child. An evaluation must be conducted before the initial provision of special education and related services to a child with a disability.

Minimum Requirements

The minimum requirements for an evaluation are: tests and other evaluation material used to assess the child are selected and administered so they are not discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis, are provided in the child’s native language or other mode of communication, and materials and procedures used with students of limited English proficiency are selected and administered to ensure that they measure the extent to which the child has a disability, not the child’s English skills.
Variety of Assessment Tools

A variety of assessment tools and strategies are used to gather information about the child including: parent input and observations of classroom teachers to determine whether a child has a disability. Looking at a child’s existing IEP and his or her standardized tests are also useful in determining eligibility. All tests administered must be utilized by trained and knowledgeable personnel in accordance with test instructions. Any tests administered should be designed to assess specific areas of educational need and the test results should reflect the child’s aptitude or achievement level. No single procedure is allowed to be used to determine the presence of a disability. All areas related to the suspected disability must be tested including: health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities.

Other Data

Other data may be provided for determination of eligibility. It is permissible to review existing data on the child such as evaluations and information provided by teachers and special service providers. After all information is gathered, a determination is made to identify what other information, if any, will be necessary to fully determine eligibility.
Eligibility Determination

After all information is gathered the team decides if the child needs special education and related services or continues to need services in the event of a reevaluation. Also determined is whether the child needs any modifications or additions to the services being provided.

Sec. 300.303 Reevaluations

Reevaluations This is a common-sense reduction of “busy work.”

A reevaluation can also be conducted without administering any new tests. This is often referred to as a records review. Based on past test scores and teacher input, a determination of eligibility can be made. This can be done without a meeting. A reevaluation is to occur at least once every three years.

A child is not eligible if a determinant factor is lack of reading or math instruction, or limited English proficiency. If a child is determined eligible, an IEP must be generated.


Sec. 300.323

When IEPs Must Be In Effect

At the beginning of each school year, each public agency shall have an IEP in effect for each eligible child with a disability. Each IEP must be in effect before any special education and related services are provided. The IEP must be implemented “as soon as possible” following an IEP meeting.

Each IEP must be accessible to each and every teacher and service provider who is responsible for its implementation. Each teacher must be informed of his or her part in implementing the IEP, including any accommodations or modifications mandated by the IEP.

Sec. 300.323-324

IEP Meetings

Each public agency is responsible for initiating and conducting meetings for the purpose of developing, reviewing, and revising the IEP of a child with a disability. After a request for an evaluation, the agency shall see that it is conducted within “a reasonable period of time.”
Within 30 Days of Eligibility

After a child is evaluated and if determined eligible, an IEP is written to provide those services, based on the child’s individual needs. A meeting to develop an IEP must be held within 30 days of a determination of eligibility.
Annual Reviews Required

Each agency shall ensure that the IEP team reviews the IEP periodically, but not less than once a year (annual review), to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved. The IEP may be revised as appropriate to address: any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals; results of reevaluations conducted; information provided by the parents; or anticipated needs the child may have.

Sec. 300.321

Note: parents determine whether child attends, not school personnel.

IEP Team:

  • Parents
  • Child (if appropriate)
  • Reg. ed Teacher
  • Sp. Ed. teacher
  • Administrator
  • Test Interpreter
  • Others
  • IEP Team

Each IEP team must include the following people: the parents of the child; at least one regular education teacher; at least one special education teacher; a representative of the public agency who can provide or supervise specifically designed instruction, is knowledgeable about available resources and curriculum; an individual who can interpret test results; any other persons who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child. Also, if appropriate, transition service participants and the child.

Sec. 300.322

IEP Notice:

  • Purpose
  • Time
  • Location
  • Invitees

Parent Participation

Each public agency shall take steps to ensure at least one parent of the child is present at each IEP meeting or is afforded the opportunity to participate. Parents must be notified early enough to ensure they will have an opportunity to attend. The meeting must be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place. The notice sent to parents must include: the purpose of the meeting; time; location; and who will be in attendance. Parents should be notified that they may bring others with them who have knowledge of the child. If a purpose of the meeting is to address postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals, the child must be invited.

Parent Non-Attendance

Districts must keep records of good-faith attempts to contact parents.

If a parent cannot attend, other methods should be used to facilitate the meeting such as individual or conference phone calls. A meeting may be conducted without a parent if the agency is unable to convince the parent to attend. A record of attempts made to convince the parent to attend must be documented.

Interpreters or other actions or personnel as appropriate should be utilized to ensure the parent understands the proceedings at the IEP meeting. The school district must give a copy of the child’s IEP to the parent at no cost, without the parent having to ask for it.

Sec. 300.324

IEP Development

  • Strengths
  • Parent Concerns
  • Evaluation results
  • Behavior – Does it impede learning?
  • LEP needs
  • Communication needs
  • Assistive tech needs

Development, Review and Revision of IEP

When developing an IEP the team shall consider the following: the strengths of the child and the parents’ concerns for enhancing the education of their child; the results of initial or most recent evaluations; and the results of the child’s performance on any assessments. The IEP shall also consider if the child’s behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others and strategies to address the behavior. In the case of a child with limited English proficiency, the language needs of the child. If the child is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in an appropriate manner. Other issues concerning the communication needs of the child. Use of assistive technology and services.

Review/revision of IEPs is to be conducted at a meeting where the team shall consider all of the above-mentioned items.

If the team decides that a child needs a particular device or service in order for the child to receive FAPE (free appropriate education), the IEP team must include a statement to that effect in the child’s IEP.

The regular education teacher must participate in the development, review, and revision of the child’s IEP including assisting in the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and strategies and supplementary aids and services, as well as program modifications or supports to be provided for the child.

Sec. 300.320

In Illinois, the statement of measurable goals must reflect consideration of the State Goals for Learning and the Illinois Learning Standards.

In Illinois, all students with IEPs, not just those who take alternative assessments, are to include benchmarks or short-term objectives developed in accordance with the child’s present level of performance.

Illinois regulations require that there must also be a statement as to whether the child requires the provision of services beyond the district’s normal school year to receive a free and appropriate public education, and if the student does need extended school year services, a description of their amount, frequency, duration and location must be included.

In addition to the requirements listed in the federal regulations, Illinois mandates that each IEP shall include a statement as to the languages or modes of communication in which special education and related services will be provided, if other than or in addition to English.
Content of IEP

The IEP for each child MUST include:

I. A statement of the child’s present levels of educational performance including:

A. How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum or for preschool children as appropriate; or

B. For preschool children, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities.

II. A statement of measurable annual goals, designed to:

A. Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in progress in the general curriculum and

B. Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability.

III. For children with disabilities who take alternative assessments aligned to alternative achievement standards, a description of the benchmarks or short-term objectives;

IV. A statement of how the child’s progress toward annual goals will be measured and

V. How the child’s parents will be regularly informed of such progress.

VI. A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and

VII. A statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child to advance appropriately toward

A. Attaining the annual goals

B. To be involved and progress in the general curriculum and

C. Participate in extracurricular activities and non-academic activities, and

D. To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and non-disabled children.

VIII. An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled peers.

IX. A statement of any individual modifications in the administration of State or district-wide assessments. If the team determines the child will not participate in those assessments a statement must be made as to:

A. Why the assessment is not appropriate for the child, and

B. How the child will be assessed

X. The projected date for the beginning of services and the modifications described, and

A. The anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services.

Section 300.320

In Illinois, school districts must follow the federal guidelines concerning transition when the child turns 14 ½ years old.


XI. The IEP must include, beginning at age 16 or younger if appropriate, and updated annually, appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills. The IEP must also include a statement of the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals. In a State that transfers rights at the age majority, beginning at least one year before a student reaches the age of majority under State law, the student’s IEP must include a statement that the student has been informed of his or her rights that will transfer upon reaching the age of majority.

Sec. 300.325

Note: Theoretically, this can be circumvented through the use of settlement agreements.

Private School Placements By Public School Agencies

Before a public agency places a child with a disability in a private school or facility, the agency shall initiate and conduct a meeting to develop an IEP. The agency shall ensure that a representative of the private school or facility attends the meeting. After a child with a disability enters a private school or facility, any meetings to review and revise the child’s IEP may be initiated by the private school or facility at the discretion of the public agency. If the private school or facility initiates the meeting the public agency shall ensure that the parents and an agency representative are involved in any decision about the IEP and agree to any proposed changes. Even if the private school or facility implements the IEP the public agency is still responsible for compliance with this part.