IEPs: How Administrators Can Support the Development and Implementation of High-Quality IEPs
School administrators play a critical role in ensuring that high-quality IEPs are developed and implemented for every student with an eligible disability. To do so requires a solid understanding of the IEP process itself, as well as its associated legal requirements. Two landmark rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court—Board of Education v. Rowley (1982) and Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017)—outlined procedural, substantive, and implementation requirements for creating high-quality IEPs for students with disabilities.
An IEP that meets procedural requirements could be considered a technically sound IEP
IEP process (the how and when of IEP development) is followed
IEP contains all of the required information
An IEP that meets substantive requirements could be considered an educationally meaningful IEP. The Endrew ruling clarified a substantive standard.
The content of the IEP (the what of IEP development) is sufficient to enable the student to make progress
The student’s progress is monitored
Changes are made if the student’s progress is not adequate
An IEP that meets implementation requirements could be considered to be providing FAPE.
The instructional services and supports outlined in the IEP are provided as agreed upon in the IEP process
When IEP changes are made, they are completed with parental involvement
Once school leaders understand the IEP process and its legal implications, they can take the necessary steps to address the needs of eligible students. School administrators should oversee the entire IEP process to ensure the actions noted in the table below occur.
Preparing for an IEP Meeting
During the IEP Meeting
After the IEP Meeting
Determine student eligibility
Assemble an appropriate IEP team
Provide data for review
Schedule the meeting
Fully engage all team members in the discussion
Thoroughly discuss and plan all the IEP components
Support school personnel
Collect data on fidelity of implementation
Monitor student’s progress toward meeting goals
Finally, school administrators should create a vision in which all students are accepted and valued for their unique abilities and included as integral members of the school. To support this shared responsibility and the success of all students, school administrators can:
Establish frameworks of academic and social supports and services
Promote strong school-parent relationships
David Bateman and Breanne Venios summarize the role of the school administrator in the IEP process.
David Bateman, PhD Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education Shippensburg University
The overarching role of administrators in supporting the IEP process is making sure that all the players and all the team members first understand their roles, all the individuals who are necessary to be there are there, and that the parents are made available and are brought in and are listened to as a part of the process. It is basically the administrator who kind of checks behind the scenes to make sure that everyone is there and that the appropriate time is allocated. If substitutes need to be obtained for some teachers, or if there needs to be a certain room that we have these things available, that’s what the administrators do, and they need to check and make sure that they understand the development of an IEP. It’s not just at the meeting. There’s a lot of background work that is involved, including getting information from teachers as part of the present levels, getting appropriate observations by everyone, getting the necessary documentation from the parents. All that needs to be gathered and written into often a draft IEP before the meeting, or at least have some notes about what we’re going to be discussing and then also making sure as a part of the process is following up after the meeting with questions that the parents might have, questions the teachers have about implementation, and then making sure that the IEP is being implemented afterwards. Not just the meeting itself, it’s the before, the during, and the after that administrators have responsibilities, and making sure that they understand what their responsibilities are as a part of that.
Transcript: Breanne Venios
My overarching role as an administrator in supporting the IEP process is to support my teachers first-and-foremost and making sure that they understand all the SDIs, which are “specially designed instruction,” and accommodations and that they are following all of them, and also to monitor the student’s progress. In the process of having IEP meetings, I want to be at all of those, if possible. I also need to supply coverage for our regular ed teachers and for our learning-support teachers to make sure that the whole team is there. Also it’s important for me to hold the teachers accountable for their inputs and data collection when putting together the IEPs for the learning-support teachers, because without their input and data the IEP is not where it should be for the parent. Also, anytime a teacher has a question, I help them answer, like, why an accommodation is in there, when they need to do it, how to follow it. But we work very closely as a team. It’s everybody’s job, but I need to make sure that everybody is doing that job. Advice that I would give principals about implementing an IEP is ask questions and be sure that you know everything about the child so that you can be a part of the team to help them succeed. You need to know what’s in that IEP so that you can help the teacher, and you also need to understand that this is not a forever plan. Keep in touch with the parents and know what’s happening in the classroom. Our goal is to be a support for the child and help them do the best that they possibly can.
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your responses to the Initial Thoughts questions at the beginning of this module. After working through the Perspectives & Resources, do you still agree with those responses? If not, what aspects about them would you change?
What is the school administrator’s role in overseeing the IEP process for students with disabilities?
How can school administrators support implementation of high-quality IEPs in their schools?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.