Federal laws/regulations; Program Description;

OLR Research Report

September 13, 2010






By: Judith Lohman, Assistant Director

You asked us to summarize the information the federal special education law and regulations require school districts to include in the individualized education programs (IEPs) for children receiving special education. You also requested copies of the IEP forms used by a sample of states.


The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a “free and appropriate public education” tailored to their individual needs (20 USC 1400 et. seq.).  The special educational services a child with a disability receives depends on the nature of his or her disability. Federal law requires school districts to document the services each eligible child needs and will receive in a written “individualized educational program” (IEP).  The IEP must be developed and periodically reviewed by the child's planning and placement team (PPT), a group consisting of the child's parents, teachers, and educational specialists.  


Federal law (20 USCA 1414 (d)) and regulations (34 CFR 300.320) require each IEP to include the following elements.

All IEPs

1. The child's present academic achievement and functional performance levels, including how the disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general educational curriculum or, for a preschool child, his or her participation in appropriate activities.

2. Measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet (a) the needs of the child that result from the disability so he or she may be involved and progress in the general educational curriculum and (b) each of the child's other educational needs that result from the disability.

3. For a child who takes alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives.

4. How the child's progress towards the annual goals will be measured and when periodic progress reports will be provided.

5. The special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or support for school personnel to be provided to allow the child to:

● advance appropriately toward the annual goals,

● be involved and progress in the general curriculum and participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities, and

● be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in these activities.

6. The extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in extracurricular and other activities.

7. Any individual appropriate accommodations needed to measure the child's academic and functional performance on state and district-wide student achievement tests.

8. If the PPT determines a child must take an alternate test, the reason why and the particular alternate test appropriate for the child.

9. The date the services and modifications for the child will begin and their anticipated frequency, duration, and location.

The special education and related services and the supplementary aids and services in #5 above must be based, to the extent practicable, on peer-reviewed research.

IEP Including Transitional Services

Starting with the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns age 16, or younger if the PPT determines it appropriate, an IEP must also include:

1. appropriate measurable post-secondary goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and

2. the transition services, including courses of study, needed to help the child reach those goals.

The transitional services information must be annually updated.

Statement Regarding Transfer of Rights at the Age of Majority

Beginning no later than one year before the child reaches the age of majority under state law, the IEP must include a statement that the child has been informed of his or her rights, if any, to special education services that will be transferred to him or her upon reaching the age of majority. (School districts must provide special education services to children with disabilities from age three to age 21. If appropriate, some or all of the special education due process and other rights exercised by the student's parents transfer to the student when he or she turns age 18.)


To ensure the federally required information is included in IEPs, states typically provide school districts with a standardized IEP form. These forms may include information that exceeds the federal requirements. Some states, including Connecticut, require all districts to use a state-designed IEP form; in others, the use of the state form is optional.

The links below lead to copies of the state IEP forms used by Connecticut and six other states. Five of the states, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont, require school districts to use the state forms (New York's requirement starts with the 2011-12 school year) and two, New Jersey and Virginia, do not.

Connecticut (Form ED 620)



New Jersey

New York