An annual review is an IEP meeting required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that must be held at least once a year. The meeting brings the IEP team together to review the student’s progress and program, and plan for the following year. As with other IEP meetings, the school district must provide parents with advance written notice of the meeting and consider their availability when scheduling the meeting. The meeting has these parts:

1. Review of Progress since Last Annual IEP Meeting

The team first discusses the student’s progress on IEP goals and objectives that were written last year. Different team members, including parents, report.

The team measures whether the IEP is working by reviewing the gains the team had expected the student to make over the past year, known as the Present Levels of Performance (PLOP). The Annual Review starts with a review of how the plan worked in helping the student meet those goals. If a student did not meet a goal, the discussion should include whether the appropriate support, services, accommodations/modifications and specialized instruction were provided, whether the placement was appropriate, and what factors interfered with the student meeting that goal. If the student easily met or exceeded the goals, this means that the student may need a higher set of expectations for next year—and the placement and support necessary to accomplish greater challenges!

2. Write New Goals and Determine Specialized Instruction and Services Necessary to Support Those Goals

As always, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Relevant, and Time-specific (SMART). Because goals drive the IEP, take the time to have a broad discussion of what areas a student needs goals in—academics, social skills, behavior, mental health, motor skills, etc. All areas of need, regardless of the disability, must be addressed. If not, the student cannot gain skills in each area of need necessary for educational success.

3. Consider Placement and Services

Determine whether the current placement and program are working based on the prior steps, and will support the new goals. If your student is not participating in a general education classroom, this is a good time to ask what supports will be necessary to provide a greater percentage of the time learning with non-disabled peers. If the student attends a state-certified non-public school (NPS), this is a time to discuss how he or she may be provided with integrated learning opportunities with typically developing peers.

4. Create the New IEP

The meeting is “complete” when the IEP team, including the parent, has agreed to an IEP document that fully describes the student’s program for the upcoming year. Any areas where the previous plan did not work well should be identified and corrected. Needs for transitional support (most critical when students are changing from preschool to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, middle to high school, and high school to adult-focused support if the student is not graduating) should also be discussed. Does the new school staff need more training? Should the Behavior Support Plan be modified in light of the new setting? How can the student learn about the physical site, find their classroom, know who to go to for help? What about transportation, or extended school year (ESY)—are these related services needed in the IEP?

5. IEP Notes

A District staff person will take notes/minutes of the meeting, including any parent feedback or concerns, and how the team reached their decisions. Documents a parent brings to the meeting and wants entered into the meeting record should be noted. An IEP Notes summary is part of the IEP document.

The annual IEP is a document to guide a student to a meaningful destination. And it is legally binding. We generally suggest that, given how much is discussed and how important this one-year “roadmap” is, that the parent take the proposed new IEP document home to review for a few days, and sign attendance only at the meeting. But if the parent is in agreement with the proposed plan, he or she can sign the IEP, which then takes effect immediately. If a parent cannot agree with the total IEP, a parent may “sign the IEP with exception” and write which parts they believe are not appropriate or need correction. All other parts consented to must be implemented.

If you are not in agreement with some or all of the IEP, contact your Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) if you need help with next steps. You can also contact your local PTI if you have specific questions about education and students with disabilities age 0-26.

From the California Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund