What to Expect in
an IEP Meeting 

Checklist Before Your IEP Meeting

There are several steps you should always look to follow before an IEP meeting: 

1) Ask your team chair if you can receive a copy of the draft IEP in advance 

Your team chair should be able to provide you with a draft copy of the IEP a few days before the meeting. They may sometimes provide this automatically, but not always, so you should always as a parent. Reviewing the draft in advance of the meeting can be very helpful in providing you time to prepare questions or concerns.

2) Review your child's records 

If your child is young and this is your first meeting this might only include the evaluation, but for subsequent IEPs it might include their current IEP and most recent progress reports. Depending on your child's age, this might also include report cards and any examples of tests or homework. Ideally you should track your child's records in a binder to make this step easier. You should also gather any outside resources that might be of help such as outside examinations or assessments.   

3) Consider whether to invite guests 

Consider whether you'll need support during the meeting. Some examples of people you can invite includes friends or family members, educational advocates and specialists who work with your child. For more information see Your Child's IEP Team. If you do invite someone make sure you let the team chair know in advance of the meeting, providing the guest's name, your relationship and what role you are expecting  them to play. Also make sure your guests understand what you are expecting of them and the importance of being punctual. 

4) Prepare any questions, concerns, priorities or suggestions

Review your records and create a list of questions you want to ask, concerns you want to raise and suggestions you want to make. Make sure to prioritize these and write them down to make sure you don't forget and to provide yourself time in the meeting to address what's most important first. Think about how best to raise any subjects you think might be potentially contentious so they are presented clearly and collaboratively (see Foundations for Effective Collaboration) 

5) Review your plans with other parents or active participants

If you created your list of questions, concerns and suggestions separately you'll want to set time aside to review with any other parents who will be representing the child at the meeting as well as guests who you expect to be active participants, such as an advocate. Your aim is to work through any differences you might have as much as possible before the meeting to better represent your child's interests

6) Be prepared to discuss your vision and concerns for your child

Part of the IEP  includes documenting your concerns as a parent and a shared vision for your child. While this will be updated in subsequent IEP meetings, typically these statements don't need to be substantively updated each year. However, if this is your first IEP meeting or a meeting marking a major transition such as the move to middle or high-school it can be worthwhile to reflect and prepare to discuss.     

7) Make sure you understand if the meeting is virtual or in-person

If the meeting is in person it will typically be at the school, but you should confirm and look to arrive five to ten minutes early. If the meeting is virtual make sure you have the software needed installed and know how to use

8) Make sure you have a designated note-taker

Participating and taking notes at the same time can be difficult. Often its a good idea for parents to split primary duties in the meeting so that one of you is making sure to take good notes. If that's not an option then consider bringing a guest such as friend or family member whose primary role is note-taking. In particular you want to take notes on any agreed upon changes to the IEP that are not made during the meeting

Additional resources for preparing for an IEP meeting:

Virtual IEP Meeting Tips for Parents - FCSN

IEP Checklist  - Understood.org

5 Things to Do Before an IEP Meeting - Understood.org

IEP Meeting Checklist for Parents - SPAN Parent Advocacy Network

What to Expect in Your First IEP Meeting

If this is your first IEP Meeting, the goal of the team will be to ensure that the IEP document reflects consensus regarding a shared vision for your child, his or her current performance and challenges, goals for the year, and services. This section covers the general flow of how the meeting is structured while the next section covers how these areas are broken out within the document

What Goes Into an IEP?

An IEP is a formal document broken in several sections. 

Parent and/or Student Concerns

Summary of your concerns as parents and your child's concerns if they are 14 or older and part of the IEP team 

Student Strengths and Key Evaluation Results Summary

The IEP document as a whole focuses on your child's challenges but this is the place to call out their strengths. The school will also provide a short synopsis of the key findings from the evaluation  

Vision Statement: What is the vision for this student?

This is where you or your child can provide your long term goals over the next several years, so you can make sure the IEP team is working toward their achievement 

Present Levels of Educational Performance - General Curriculum

Depending on your child this may be broken out separately for different areas of the general curriculum such as math, language arts, science etc. if there are different challenges that apply. For each, this section will detail how your child's disabilities impact their ability to make progress in the curriculum area and will outline the accommodations your child needs to make progress. This section will also specify what specially designed instruction your child needs. This might include one or all of the following: a) changes to what they are taught, b) changes to how they are taught or c) changes to how their performance is measured

Present Levels of Educational Performance - Other Educational Needs

The content of this section is the same as for the general curriculum but it covers areas more general to their education as a whole, such as social skills, behavior, the need for assistive technology or accommodations tied to visual or auditory impairments and so forth

Current Performance Levels/Measurable Annual Goals

This section breaks out goals for your child for the year. Each goal includes a description of what your child can currently do, what the goal is for the end of the year, what steps the child will need to undertake to achieve the goal and how progress will be measured. Strong goals are the keystones to a good IEP, and should be challenging but achiveable

Service Delivery 

This will be a detailed breakout of the special education services that will be provided to your child broken out to include consultation services between educators or parents, and direct services either within the general classroom setting or in other settings. An examples of a services would be speech and language therapy

Nonparticipation Justification

If your child is removed from the general education classroom at any time for services this will need to be specified here and written explanation provided why its considered necessary

Schedule Modification

This section details any modifications to the general curriculum such as a longer or shorter days or years. For instance if your child needs classes over the summer, a longer year would be specified and a description of why this is needed would be provided

Transportation Services

Any special transportation requirements or services would be broken out here

State or District-Wide Assessment

Any accommodations for state-wide tests such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) would be broken out here 

Additional Information

Transition related information will be included here as well as any other relevant information the team wants to include in the IEP that doesn't naturally fit into any of the earlier parts  

Response Section

This section is completed after the IEP meeting and will contain the signature of the school representative and parents. As parents you can indicate that you accept, reject or partially accept the IEP. For more information see Signing Your Child's IEP.

Additional Resources

IEP Form - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

IEP goals for reading: What they look like - Understand.org


Placement occurs as the last step in the IEP process after the document has been completed as the intention is to ensure that the IEP team should not be considering the specific services offered within the school district while developing the IEP. 

The guidelines require that placement be considered for the education classroom as the default and provide guidelines for where the student would belong in a partial inclusion or substantially separate programs.

Full inclusion - 80% of the student's services are in the general education classroom

Partial inclusion - Between 21 and 60% are outside the general education classroom

Substantially separate class - More than 60% of the services are outside the general education classroom

Additional placement options are also possible, most of which would likely be outside the school district. In the case of out of district placements the school is obligated to cover the cost. 

Placement requires a separate sign-off from parents distinct from the IEP plan itself. Both the IEP and placement form are typically bundled together along with an administrative form completed by the school and a separate transition form if applicable. 

Additional Resources

Reading Public Schools: Program Descriptions - Town of Reading Student Services

Reading Public Schools: Student Services Program Guides - Town of Reading Student Services

Placement Form PL1 (age 3-5) - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Placement Form PL1 (age 6-21)- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Annual Reviews and Other Meetings

Once the IEP is in place it will need to be reviewed an updated at least once a year. Typically annual reviews occur in the fall so the IEP is updated for the new school year. The team will review each section of the document and make updates as needed to reflect changes in the students progress, needs and changes in relation to the general curriculum as the student progresses in grade level.  

More substantive updates to the IEP will occur follow re-evaluations of the student, which occur every three years. Following a re-evaluation the existing IEP will be updated to reflect the more recent findings. 

Parents or educators can also call an IEP meeting at any time throughout the school year to discuss issues or concerns in relation to the student's progress, discipline or other topics. Schools will also typically schedule end of year meetings to provide transition continuity for students advancing from elementary to middle school, and middle school to high-school.

For More Information

Official Resources

IEP Process Guide - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

A Guide to the Individualized Education Program - U.S. Department of Education (Archived)

IEP Forms and Notices - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

IEP Form - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Placement Form PL1 (age 3-5) - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Placement Form PL1 (age 6-21) - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Is an Interpreter Needed at the IEP Meeting? - Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)

General Resources

Video: 8 insider tips on navigating IEP meetings (Video) - Understood.org 

The IEP meeting: An overview - Understood.org

What is an IEP? - GreatSchools.org

5 things to do before an IEP meeting - Understood.org

10 defusing phrases to use at IEP meetings - Understood.org

What Can Go Wrong at IEP Meetings and How to Fix It - The Intentional IEP (aimed at educators, but potentially interesting for parents)

IEP Meeting Do’s and Don’ts  - The Intentional IEP (aimed at educators, but potentially interesting for parents)

IEP Team Effectiveness Checklist - Region 13 Education Service Center

Developing an IEP - Wrightslaw

FAQs: Developing Your Child's Individualized Education Program (IEP)  - Wrightslaw

FAQs: Your Child's Reevaluation - Wrightslaw

The Paper Chase: Managing Your Child's Documents Under the IDEA  - Wrightslaw

Parent Advocacy: What You Should Do . . . and Not Do - Wrightslaw

5 Things To Know About “Effective Progress”  - Moor, Perlman & Gregg, LLC

Academic Progress Alone Is Not FAPE - Moor, Perlman & Gregg, LLC

Good Grades are not enough to Support a Finding of Ineligibility - McAndrews Law Offices  

Please note that we at Reading SEPAC cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information presented on any third-party website listed on this site, nor do we endorse any informational content appearing on third-party websites of any of the providers listed. We endeavor only to provide a listing of potentially helpful information available. Its up to you, as a consumer, to do your own diligence and research. Also note that any summarization of the laws, rules, regulations, processes or similar related to special education, or advice proffered is based exclusively on the experience of Reading SEPAC members as parents of children with special needs. Its in no way an official reflection of the position of the FCSA or the Reading School system and we make no claims of expertise in communication, law, education or any other areas. While we have endeavored to provide simple-to-read language for parents, we are not experts, do not claim to be, and make no warranties or claims of accuracy related to the informational content of this website.