Planning an educational program for a student with special education needs is best accomplished through the combined efforts of, and with close communication among, the student, the student's parents, school staff, members of the community, and other professionals involved with the student. A collaborative IEP process that includes the development of a transition plan provides an opportunity for all who are involved with the student to work together to provide a program that will foster achievement and success. The team process should include the student and the student's parents, as outlined in sections 9 and 10 of this part of the guide. Appendix E-4 provides a detailed description of the roles and responsibilities of educators and other professionals.

Once a student has been placed in a special education program, successful practice suggests that the principal should assign to one teacher the responsibility for coordinating the development, implementation, and monitoring of the student's IEP. In special circumstances, the principal or another teacher may be assigned the responsibility for coordinating the transitions.

Regardless who is coordinating the IEP process, decisions related to program planning (represented in the sample IEP template in Appendix E-2 by the sections covering Current (Baseline) Level of Achievement, Annual Program Goals, Learning Expectations, Teaching Strategies, and Assessment Methods) should be made by the individual who teaches the student and prepares the report card – usually the classroom teacher. This teacher is responsible for instructing the student and for assessing the student's learning in relation to the learning expectations identified in the student's IEP.

A team approach should underlie the IEP process, and the process should focus on how the student is expected to progress through the Ontario curriculum – with or without accommodations, modified expectations, and/or alternative programs (those not described in the Ontario curriculum) – as well as on how the student will make key educational transitions, including the transition to a postsecondary destination.

The IEP process can be broken down into five phases:

  1. gathering information
  2. setting the direction
  3. developing the IEP as it relates to the student's special education program and services
  4. implementing the IEP
  5. reviewing and updating the IEP

The tasks that need to be undertaken in phases 1 to 3 may be delegated to or assumed by different team members in order to facilitate completion of the IEP within 30 school days of the student's placement in a special education program. Educators on the student's team may focus on the particular subject or course in which they are responsible for direct instruction.

The box below outlines the main steps in each phase of the process and provides a reference to the sections of this part of the guide that deal with the requirements and effective practices connected with the phase.

Overview of the IEP Process

  1. Gather Information (consult sections 1–11)
    • Review the student's Ontario Student Record (OSR) (including the IPRC's statement of decision and/or previous IEPs)
    • Consult with parents, the student, school staff, and other professionals
    • Gather information through observation of the student
    • Conduct further assessments, if necessary
    • Consolidate and record information
  2. Set the Direction (consult sections 1–3 and 9–12)
    • Establish a collaborative approach
    • Establish roles and responsibilities
    • Begin work on the IEP (e.g., record the reason for the IEP, record personal information, list relevant assessment data)
    • Indicate the student's strengths and needs on the IEP (as identified in the IPRC's statement of decision, where applicable)
  3. Develop the IEP as It Relates to the Student's Special Education Program and Services (consult sections 4–8)
    • Incorporate program suggestions from the IPRC or Special Education Tribunal (if applicable)
    • Incorporate applied behaviour analysis (ABA) methods into the IEPs of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), where appropriate
    • Record decisions about program exemptions, course substitutions, and eligibility for a diploma or a certificate
    • Determine, for every subject or course, the program option that will best suit the student's needs (i.e., whether the student requires accommodations only or accommodations and modifications) and decide whether alternative programs are needed
    • Determine accommodations; record subjects or courses in which the student is to be provided with accommodations only
    • Plan and document subjects or courses with modified expectations
    • Plan and document alternative programs or courses
    • Determine and record teaching strategies and assessment methods for modified and alternative expectations
    • Plan for and document required human resources
    • Record information about individualized equipment
    • Record information about evaluation and reporting
    • Record information about provincial assessments
    • Develop a transition plan
    • Record details of parent/student consultations
    • Secure the principal's approval
  4. Implement the IEP (consult sections 6.2, 13, and 14)
    • Share the completed IEP with the student, parents, school staff, and other professionals (providing a copy to parents, and to the student if 16 or older)
    • Put the IEP into practice (classroom/subject teachers and support personnel)
    • Continuously assess the student's progress
    • Adjust the IEP as necessary (recording any changes in goals, expectations, teaching strategies, and other accommodations, etc.)
    • Evaluate the student's learning and report the results of the evaluation to the student's parents
  5. Review and Update the IEP (consult sections 13 and 14)
    • Update the learning expectations at the beginning of each reporting period, on the basis of the results of last period's assessments and/or evaluation
    • Review the IEP regularly, including the transition plan, and record revisions
    • Store the IEP in the documentation file of the student's Ontario Student Record

Most IEPs follow the timetable of a school year or semester: They are developed in the early fall and cover the time up to the June reporting period or the end of the semester. While the outline of the IEP process in the box above appears linear, it is important to note that the IEP process is cyclical. It involves ongoing review, evaluation, and adjustment on a term–by–term basis.