A Parent’s Guide to the New IPRC and IEP

With the recent changes to the Education Act, the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) have also seen changes. This article presents a summary of these two very important components of special education.

Understanding the IPRC

The Education Act requires that school boards provide, or purchase from another school board, special education programs and services for “exceptional” students. Exceptional students are defined as those whose “behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical, or multiple exceptionalities are such that they are considered to need placement in a special education program.”

The role of the IPRC is to:

  • decide whether or not your child should be identified as exceptional;
  • identify the areas of your child’s exceptionality;
  • decide an appropriate placement; and
  • review the identification and placement at least once each school year.

To start an IPRC, you must contact your child’s principal, in writing, and request that your child be referred to an IPRC. Your child’s principal may also make the referral on his or her own initiative. Within 15 days of making the referral, the principal must send you written notification, including an approximate date of the IPRC meeting and a parent’s guide containing information about the IPRC. The principal may also ask you for permission to obtain a psychological or health assessment of your child. While an educational assessment will also be performed, parental permission is not required for this.

At least 10 days before the IPRC is to meet, you (and your child, if 16 or over) will receive written notice of the meeting and an invitation to attend. This letter will list the date, time, and place of the meeting, and will ask you to indicate if you can attend. Before the IPRC meets, you will also receive a copy of all information that the chair of the IPRC has received.

If you can’t attend this meeting, contact the school principal immediately to arrange an alternative date or to let the principal know that you will not be attending. If, however, you cannot attend, the IPRC’s written decision will be sent to you.

Either you or your child’s principal may make a request for others to attend the IPRC meeting. As well, you are entitled to have a representative or advocate who may speak on your behalf.

What Happens at the Meeting?

After introductions are made, the IPRC reviews all available information about your child. They consider the educational assessments and the health or psychological assessments, if these were obtained. If they feel it will be useful, they may also interview your child (with your permission, if your child is under 16 years of age). They will also consider any information that you submit about your child or that the child, if 16 or over, submits on his or her own behalf. You are encouraged to ask questions during this meeting and to participate in any discussion.

Once all of the information has been presented and discussed, the committee will make its decision. This decision will include:

  • whether or not the child is exceptional;
  • if exceptional, the category and definition of the exceptionality;
  • the strengths and needs of the student;
  • the placement of the student. The IPRC will recommend placement in a regular class with special education services if, in the Committee’s opinion, such a placement meets the student’s needs and is consistent with the parent’s preferences. Note that while the IPRC will consider the parent’s preferences, these preferences are not binding, and the final decision about placement belongs to the IPRC.
  • the IPRC’s recommendations regarding a special education program and services; and
  • where appropriate, the reasons for placing your child in a special education class.

What Happens Next?

You will receive a written statement of the IPRC’s decision. If you did not attend the meeting, this will be mailed to you. You will be asked to sign this document to indicate that you agree with the IPRC’s decisions and recommendations. If you attended the meeting, you may be asked to sign at that time. Note, however, you have 30 days to return the signed document to the IPRC. Once the document is signed and returned, the board will promptly notify the principal of the school at which the special education program is to be provided. That principal will then begin the process of developing your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

What If I Disagree with the Decision?

~If you disagree with the IPRC’s decision, you have 15 days to request a second meeting of the IPRC. If after your second meeting you are still dissatisfied, you have 15 days from the second decision to file an appeal. Your request for an appeal must be made in writing to the secretary of the school board. (The name and address of this person can be obtained from your child’s principal). You must indicate the decision(s) with which you disagree and your reasons for disagreeing. If you disagree with the original decision but do not request a second meeting or file an appeal, the decision of the IPRC will automatically be implemented after 30 days.~~

What Happens in the Appeal Process?

The school board will establish a Special Education Appeal Board to hear the appeal. The Appeal Board will consist of three persons, one of whom is to be selected by the parent, who have no prior knowledge of the matter.

The chair of the Appeal Board will then arrange a time and place for the meeting, to be held within 30 days. All of the materials reviewed by the IPRC will be forwarded to the Appeal Board. As well, the Appeal Board may request additional interviews.

Parents (and students, if 16 or over) are entitled to attend and participate in all discussions held by the Appeal Board.

The Appeal Board must make its decision within 3 days of the meeting. They will either agree with the IPRC and recommend that the IPRC’s decision be implemented; or disagree and make a different recommendation to the school board about your child’s identification, placement or both. The Appeal Board will provide you and the school board with a written statement of its recommendations and reasons for these recommendations. Within 30 days of receiving the Appeal Board’s written statement, the school board must decide what action it will take. Note that school boards are not required to follow the recommendations of the Appeal Board.

If you do not accept the decision of the school board, you may appeal to a Special Education Tribunal. Information about making an application to the Tribunal will be included with the Appeal Board’s decision.

The Annual Review – Or Sooner

A review IPRC meeting will be held each year, during which your child’s progress may be reviewed and the education plan revised. This review may be waived only with your written permission, and it is recommended that you do not waive this review. The annual IPRC is your chance to help ensure that your child begins each new school year in the most appropriate environment and with the most effective accommodations available.

You may also request a review IPRC any time after your child has been in a special education program for 3 months.

Once a final decision about placement has been made, the next step is the creation of your child’s Individual Education Plan.

The IEP

The Individual Education Plan, commonly known as the IEP, is the school’s written plan of action for the special education student. According to the Ministry of Education and Training, the IEP “is a working document which describes the strengths and needs of an individual exceptional pupil, the special education program and services established to meet that pupil’s needs, and how the program and services will be delivered. It also describes the student’s progress.”

The Ministry also defines what an IEP is not. It is not:

  • a description of everything that will be taught to the student;
  • an educational program or set of expectations for all students
  • a means to monitor the effectiveness of teachers; or
  • a daily plan.
  • An IEP must be prepared for all special education students, and a copy of this document must be provided to the parents (and the student, if 16 or over). With the recent changes to the Special Education Act, IEPs may now be prepared without the prerequisite of an IPRC; and schools are suggesting that parents of special needs students take this route. While there is a clear benefit in avoiding the delay of waiting for an IPRC meeting, it is important to note that the IEP is not binding without the IPRC. Despite the best efforts and intentions of your child’s school, the written decision of the IPRC is the only guarantee that your child will receive the services he or she requires. Therefore, while there is no harm in starting to develop an IEP prior to the IPRC, it is inadvisable to forgo the IPRC process.

    After making its placement decision, the IPRC will notify the principal of the school at which the child will be placed. The principal of this school is responsible for ensuring that the IEP is prepared and carried out. The preparation of the IEP involves five phases:

    • gathering the information ;
    • setting the direction ;
    • developing the plan ;
    • implementing the plan ; and
    • reviewing and updating the plan

    Gathering the Information

    According to the Ministry, information may be gathered about the student’s academic achievements; attendance; school behaviour; likes and dislikes; talents; learning style; self-concept; mobility; personalized equipment requirements; and communication, social, and problem-solving skills.

    Sources for this information include the IPRC’s written statement; the student’s OSR and previous IEP; the student’s current work; consultations with parents, teachers, and others who know the student; observations of the student; and, beginning in September 1999, the student’s annual education plan for students in Grade 7 and beyond.

    Once gathered, the information should be consolidated, and any discrepancies should be examined and resolved.

    Setting the Direction

    A collaborative approach should be taken in developing the IEP. The principal responsible for the IEP should, as early as possible, assemble a team of individuals who together can provide a complete and accurate profile of the student. Team members may include the student’s teacher(s), guidance counsellor, principal, and special education and support staff, as well as the student and his or her parents.

    Roles and responsibilities will be assigned by the principal. Typically one teacher is given the primary responsibility for coordinating the development of the IEP.

    Developing the IEP

    The completed IEP document should address the following areas:

    The student’s areas of strength and need . Whereas a statement of needs identifies the student’s weaknesses, a statement of strengths identifies the student’s own “tools” which can be used to address the weaknesses. The basis for these statements should be the description contained in the IPRC’s statement. These statements might take the form “Student demonstrates significant strength in…” and “Student requires significant instruction/ support to ….”For example, “Student demonstrates significant strength in auditory learning”; “Student requires significant instruction/support to develop reading skills.”

    Goals for the student . Goals should be based on the strengths and needs of the student and represent the best prediction of what the student should be able to accomplish by the end of the school year. They may reflect the expectations of the standard curriculum or a modified version, or they may be alternatives that reflect the student’s individual strengths and needs. Because some students may progress more quickly or slowly, goals may require modification as the year progresses. Examples of goal statements include the following: “Student will use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation conventions with support of print and electronic resources”; “Student will develop reading comprehension skills at a Grade [specify grade] level”; and “Student will demonstrate coherent organization of ideas in final-draft writing.”

    Expectations for the student . This area represents the learning required for the student to be able to achieve the identified goals. The achievements reported on the provincial report card are directly related to these expectations. Expectations may be written to cover a standard reporting period; however, they should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Examples of statements of expectations include the following: “Student will identify the main idea and supporting details in a story”; “Student will read and write numerals from 1 to 10″; and “Student will use strategies to proofread, edit, and correct work.”

    Strategies and resources . This section should identify the specific accommodations, human and material resources, and teaching strategies required by the student. It should also state the intensity of the support required and who is responsible. Examples of strategies and resources include the following: “Provide opportunity to use/review problem-solving” and “Use concrete materials when teaching math concepts.”

    Method of evaluation and monitoring cycle . The IEP should identify the criteria for evaluating the student’s progress and establish a monitoring cycle. According to the Ministry, monitoring the student’s progress in meeting the expectations and goals will be most effective if it occurs on a regular cyclical basis.

    Transition plan . For students 14 or older, the IEP must include a plan for transition to postsecondary school activities, such as work, further education, or community living. The transition plan should specify the student’s specific transition goals, the actions required to achieve these goals, and the transition partners and responsibilities. A transition plan should also be developed for students who may experience difficulty making the transition from one grade level or course to another, or from one school or school board to another.

    Implementing the Plan

    Within 30 days of the student’s placement in the program, the principal must ensure that the IEP is completed and a copy sent to the parent (and student, if 16 or over). The IEP team should ensure that everyone involved with the student is aware of the contents and requirements of the IEP. Reviewing and Updating the Plan

    A formal review and update of the IEP should take place at least once every reporting period; and team members should continuously monitor and adjust the plan as necessary.

    Reprinted from: http://www.ldao.ca/about_ld/articles/education/newiprc.php