IEPs: Making the Assessment—Instruction Connection

Nancy Baldree

The Education Act requires individual education plans (IEPs) for students identified as exceptional through an identification, placement, and review committee (IPRC). Boards may also choose to put an IEP in place for students receiving special education programs and/or services but who have not been identified as exceptional through an IPRC.

IEPs are more than an exercise in paperwork. An IEP is a working document that helps define and reflect the fluid program provided to a special needs student. Ensuring that the program and services outlined in the IEP are based on assessment information is a critical step in developing a sound program for our most vulnerable students.

The Ministry of Education document  Individual Education Plan (IEP): Resource Guide 2004 (page 6) defines an IEP as:

  • a written plan describing the special education program and/or services required by a particular student, based on a thorough assessment of the student’s strengths and needs – that is, the strengths and needs that affect the student’s ability to learn and to demonstrate learning
  • a record of the particular accommodations needed to help the student achieve his or her learning expectations
  • a working document that identifies learning expectations that are modified from the expectations for the age-appropriate grade level in a particular subject or course
  • a working document that identifies alternative expectations
  • a record of the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed and evaluated
  • an accountability tool for the student, the student’s parents, and everyone who has responsibilities under the plan for helping the student meet the stated goals and learning expectations.


(The full text of the ministry document is available at  edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/guide/resource/index.html)

Assessment  information  should  be  driving student IEPs. Assessments may be provided by outside professionals, such as psychologists or speech language  pathologists. Special education teachers  and  classroom  teachers  also  provide valuable  assessment  information.  All  of  these should be used to inform programming for the student with special needs.

The reports of outside professionals will identify, if possible, the underlying cause of the student’s difficulty. It is helpful for teachers to know and understand this information in developing the student’s program and to put in place strategies that address it. If an IEP refers only to the student’s academic needs – for example, if each year it says “reading, writing, and math” – we run the risk of each year’s



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