In the next few years, the revised IEP will be moving from aspirational to operational for all students with disabilities. Districts are expected to transition all new IEPs to the new format by 2024.

The current Individualized Education Plan (IEP) forms and IEP Process Guide have not be updated since the early days of the 21st century (or 2001 if you like firm dates) and are based on late-1900s systems for special education programming. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) ‘s IEP Improvement Project has been working since 2014 to design, pilot and roll out a revised IEP form and process for students with disabilities in Massachusetts.

Take a peek at the new format here and check for updates from DESE here. Your questions may already have answers in the IEP Improvement Project: Frequently Asked Questions. Connecticut has also recently transitioned to a new IEP format.

The new IEP forms are more structured with grids and checklists along with spaces for narratives. The flow of the document is redesigned to increase collaboration among team members so students with disabilities have meaningful access to the curriculum frameworks and life of the school. The new IEP Form centers the students vision, identifies language acquisition issues for English learners in the student profile and intentionally addresses transition planning for all age groups. Curious educators can join DESE staff on a guided tour of the current format here.

Teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals will see a new format, possibly a different IEP electronic platform and a transition period while students in the district may have two different versions of the IEP forms circulating. Existing IEPs will not have to be rewritten until the next re-evaluation or if the team decides to transition to the new format sooner. There is no change to the eligibility of students, the types of disability categories, accommodations, modifications or the services provided under the IEP.

IMPORTANT DESE will be sending a survey to special education leaders to gather more input on when the district plans to transition to the new IEP in spring 2023. This survey data will guide the technical assistance rolled out by DESE over the next few years.

All educators should expect updates from districts to include, but not be limited to:

  • The district/school timeline for the changeover
  • Technical training* offered during the school day
  • Training and professional learning** offered outside the school day or school year
  • Discussions with local association leaders on release time or changes to daily assignments to accommodate working with parents/guardians on transitioning the new format
  • Information shared with the district special education advisory council, English learner advisory councils, school site councils and other local stakeholder groups
  • District procedures and points of contact for directing new or emerging questions and concerns from parents, educators and related service providers.
  • Let us know what else we should add to this list!

*Trainings may include technical assistance/skills related to using the new electronic systems, overviews of the new format and documents as well as district procedures for team meetings, progress reports and/or procedural compliance.

** Training and professional learning should be available and accessible to special education and general education educators, including paraprofessionals who work in instructional settings with students

Future updates on the IEP Improvement project are included in the Special Education Leaders meeting materials. The March 24, 2023 recording of the meeting walks through all the sections of the new format, the transition planning and potential funding resources.

Some More Background

After nearly 10 years of work with stakeholders, the revised IEP format is getting ready to go live for all districts in Fall 2023. It is expected that all other DESE guidance, resources and other templates will be updated to align with the revised IEP format as part of the project.

DESE initially intended to develop an online unified IEP system that would be available to districts. All signs indicate that this project is delayed or shelved entirely. Districts will need to update their systems and ensure third party IEP management vendors can accommodate the revised IEP format. DESE is working with software vendors to review the business rules for the new IEP format.

Want to learn more? Updates, templates and forms will be posted to the DESE IEP Improvement Project landing page. The April 2023 version of the revised IEP is posted below. DESE anticipates additional versions for different grade levels to be available for full implementation in districts.

Need some inspiration about what to ask for or what to expect?

Connecticut has also recently updated the IEP process for students in CT schools.

The CT State Department of Education has published resources for educators and transition planning resources.

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