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Specially Designed Education Services | Developing IEPs: A Guide for New Special Education Teachers

Developing IEPs: A Guide for New Special Education Teachers

Starting your journey as a special education teacher can be both exciting and challenging, especially when it comes to writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). These plans are essential for supporting students with disabilities and helping them thrive in school and beyond. Here’s an overview of the key components of an IEP, with a focus on elementary-level students, to help streamline the process and keep it student-centered. ✨

Starting with the Student’s Needs

A strong IEP begins with a clear understanding of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP). For younger students, this includes their strengths, challenges, and areas where support is needed. By assessing their needs, you can set the stage for measurable annual goals that guide instruction and support their growth.

Key Components of an IEP for Elementary Teachers

To align with federal and state guidelines, an IEP for elementary-level students should include:

  • Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP): Describe the student’s current abilities and areas for improvement.
  • Measurable Annual Goals: Set achievable goals that address the student’s needs and guide instruction.
  • Special Education and Related Services: Outline the services the student will receive, including accommodations and modifications.
  • Supplementary Aids and Services: Provide support in the general education classroom to help the student succeed.
  • Participation in State and District Assessments: Include any necessary accommodations or alternate assessments for standardized testing.
  • Service Delivery and Duration: Specify when and where services will be provided and for how long.
  • Progress Monitoring: Develop a plan for tracking and reporting the student’s progress toward IEP goals.

Student-Focused IEP Development

Involving younger students in the IEP process promotes self-advocacy and helps them take ownership of their education. Teachers can engage students by:

  • Inviting them to share their interests and goals during meetings.
  • Discussing their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Listening to their preferences for accommodations and supports.

Research shows that students who actively participate in their IEP process demonstrate improved self-determination and academic success. 🌱

For resources to guide students through developing their own IEP components, visit SDES. Consider using student portfolio development systems to help guide students and their families throughout the process.

Seamlessly Transitioning to Extended School Year (ESY)

For elementary students eligible for extended school year (ESY) services, smooth transitions are essential. Here’s how to make the most of ESY:

  • Plan Early: Determine eligibility and start planning in advance.
  • Communicate with Families: Keep families informed and involved in the ESY process.
  • Coordinate with Summer Instructors: Share relevant information and data to ensure consistent support.

Importance of Data Collection and Record Management

Accurate data collection and record management help track student progress and inform instructional decisions. Special education teachers should:

  • Maintain Detailed Records: Keep track of student performance, services, and progress toward goals.
  • Use Data to Guide Instruction: Adjust teaching strategies and interventions based on data.
  • Share Information with Future Teachers: Provide organized records to new teachers to ensure continuity of support.

Functional Academics by SDES supports teachers with effective data collection and a streamlined approach. Watch for exciting new platforms coming this summer 2024, designed to help teachers, students, and families thrive. 

Don’t Get Overwhelmed—You Are Not Alone

Writing IEPs is a complex but rewarding process that allows teachers to make a lasting impact on their students’ lives. By focusing on the student’s needs, involving them in the process, and maintaining effective data collection and record management, special education teachers can create meaningful IEPs that support student success throughout the school year and beyond.

At SDES, we are thrilled to share some extremely exciting news that a BRAND new solution is coming this FALL to support you in a game-changing and innovative way!


Remember, you have a community of experienced colleagues and mentors to lean on for support and guidance. Together, we can create a brighter future for our students with disabilities! For more resources and support, visit SDES to explore innovative solutions for champion teachers in special education classrooms.

All the best as you champion IEP excellence! 🌟

Barb Beck
Creative Content Director, SDES

©2024 Specially Designed Education Services

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

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Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
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Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.