High Expectations and Appropriate Supports: The Importance of IEPs (2018)

Virtual Event
Meeting Who

The live event was open to current OSEP Grantees (State and discretionary). The event recording is linked below.

Symposium Details 

High Expectations and Appropriate Supports: The Importance of IEPs 

During this presentation experts, including current OSEP grantees, discussed what we know about:

  1. Determining the factors that drive high expectations, such as child, family and other stakeholder engagement;
  2. How to support each child and family in establishing and meeting those expectations;
  3. Working towards each child having access to an education that meets her or his unique and individual needs;
  4. How high expectations relate to State academic content standards; and
  5. Incorporating evidence-based practices in the IEP.

All of this will be presented in light of how these practices and principles relate to the United States Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, commonly referred to as “Endrew F.”

Purpose and Goals

This virtual event provided participants with an understanding of:

  • What Endrew F. means for OSEP grantees and how it can positively impact outcomes for children with disabilities;
  • How the Endrew F. standard can and is being implemented and how OSEP-funded efforts support this standard;
  • How the IEP can be used to ensure a focus on high expectations and appropriate supports; and
  • The role participants in this symposium play in setting high expectations for children with disabilities and supporting states to help children achieve those high expectations.

Archived Meeting Recording & Resources


If you have any questions, please visit the OSEP Meetings page or contact the Symposium planning team at osep-meeting@air.org

Presenter Information


Symposium Prework

As part of our effort to create an engaging and meaningful event, we invite you to explore the following resources.

This document contains resources that are provided for the user’s convenience. The inclusion of these materials is not intended to reflect its importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered. These materials may contain the views and recommendations of various subject matter experts as well as hypertext links, contact addresses and websites to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. The opinions expressed in any of these materials do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any outside information included in these materials.

Endrew F. Question and Answer Document
On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, 137 S.Ct. 988. The court held that “to meet its substantive obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a school must offer [a child] an IEP [individualized education program] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” In December 2017 OSERS released a 9-page Q&A to give parents and other stakeholders information on the issues addressed in the case and the impact of the Court's decision on the implementation of IDEA.

Least Restrictive Environment

  • Placement, Short and Sweet
    IDEA clearly states that students with disabilities are supposed to be educated in regular education classrooms alongside their peers without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate. How is placement decided? What resources are available to support students with disabilities in the regular classroom?
  • Considering LRE in Placement Decisions
    Least restrictive environment (LRE) is one of several vital components in the development of a child’s IEP and plays a critical role, influencing where a child spends his or her time at school, how services are provided, and the relationships the child develops within the school and community. LRE is a foundational element in building an appropriate IEP that can improve outcomes for a child—in school and in life.
  • Resource Package | Inclusive Academic Instruction
    This resource package (which begins with a video) focuses on how inclusive academic instruction provides a variety of instructional and assessment options that meet every student’s needs and promote learning. Comes with a discussion guide, PowerPoint presentation, and steps to get you started.

Data Use and IEP/IFSP Goals

  • Enhancing Recognition of High Quality, Functional IFSP Outcomes: A Training Activity for Infant and Toddler Service Providers
    This training activity was created to support participants’ understanding of the criteria needed to develop and write high quality, participation-based Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) outcomes. The term “functional” is often used to describe what outcomes ought to be, yet many providers struggle to define what makes an outcome “functional.” Still others struggle with making outcomes meet the criteria set forth in regulations, as well as have meaning for families. Reviews of existing resources developed by national experts provided a framework for considering IFSP outcomes to determine if the outcomes are high quality and support the child’s participation in everyday routines and activities.
  • Enhancing Recognition of High Quality, Functional IEP Goals: A Training Activity for Early Childhood Special Education Staff
    This training activity was created to support participants’ understanding of the criteria needed to develop and write high quality, participation-based Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. The term “functional” is often used to describe what goals ought to be, yet many Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) staff (e.g., teachers and related services staff) struggle to define what makes a goal “functional.” Still others struggle with making goals meet the criteria set forth in regulations, as well as have meaning for families. Reviews of existing resources developed by national experts provided a framework for considering IEP goals to determine if the goals are high quality and support the child’s participation in everyday routines and activities.
  • Developing High-Quality, Functional IFSP Outcomes and IEP Goals Training Package
    A NECTAC-convened workgroup of diverse stakeholders (researchers, higher education faculty, state policy makers, regional and local program administrators, family representatives, service providers, and technical assistance providers) engaged in a consensus process to articulate principles for the IEP Process that support family participation, inclusive practices and positive outcomes for preschool children with disabilities. They also developed a companion document on practices. A list of the workgroup participants is included in each of the documents.
  • Using Academic Progress Monitoring for Individualized Instructional Planning (Professional Development Module)
    This training module demonstrates how academic progress monitoring fits into the Data-Based Individualization (DBI) process by (a) providing approaches and tools for academic progress monitoring and (b) showing how to use progress monitoring data to set ambitious goals, make instructional decisions, and plan programs for individual students with intensive needs. Slides 40-92 describe how to use progress monitoring data to set ambitious individualized instructional goals, and slides 62-81 provide information specific to developing IEPs.
  • Using Academic Progress Monitoring for Individualized Instructional Planning (Webinar)
    This webinar is a condensed version of the training module described above. However, it does not include as much IEP-specific information.
  • Using FBA for Diagnostic Assessment in Behavior
    This module serves as an introduction to important concepts and processes for implementing functional behavior assessment (FBA), including behavior basics such as reinforcement and punishment. Key topics include (a) defining FBAs in the context of DBI; (b) basic concepts in behavior, including antecedents, behaviors, and consequences; (c) levels of FBAs; and (d) considerations and procedures for conducting FBAs.

The IEP and IFSP Process

  • Key Practices Underlying the IEP Process: Supporting Family Participation, Inclusive Practices, and Positive Outcomes for Preschool Children with Disabilities
    This document is a companion to “Key Principles Underlying the IEP Process.” The practices reflect considerations important to fostering a partnership with families throughout the process of developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for preschool children with disabilities. They are based on validated and/or best-known information from the field, do not represent a specific model or approach, and are not intended to include practices for implementing IEP’s. The practices listed suggest a flow of activities occurring during the IEP process from first contacts with the family throughout development of the IEP. It is recognized that there may be variability within state and local procedures.
  • Outcomes Measurement: IFSP/IEP-Outcomes Integration
    States and local programs are making child and family outcomes measurement more efficient and more effective by integrating those processes with IFSP and IEP development and implementation. The ECTA Center works to support states that are making changes to their systems and materials to integrate these two processes.
  • ECTA: The IFSP Process
    Although programs have different procedures, there are key steps in the IFSP process. The link shows a chart of a typical flow of steps and responsibilities and indicates the activities that must be completed within 45 days, from referral to the IFSP meeting. For convenience, the chart uses the term "service coordinator" as the person likely to be coordinating the process. More accurately, it should say "service coordinator or other service provider" since states and programs may have different team members assigned to such duties. Different roles may have different names as well, such as intake coordinator, family guide, primary service provider, etc.
  • Videos | The IEP Team Process
    There are 5 videos on the IEP process for families, staff, board members, and others: IDEA and IEPs, the IEP Team, the Team Process, Getting Ready for the IEP Meeting, and the IEP meeting. From the ECAC Center, North Carolina’s PTI.
  • Training Modules on the IEP and Webinar
    Three modules on the IEP are available at CPIR, with trainer guides, slideshows, and handouts for participants. There is also a 2016 webinar introducing Parent Centers to the modules and giving suggestions for how to use them with families and others.

Students with Deaf-Blindness

  • Are Intervener Services Appropriate for Your Student with Deaf-Blindness?: An IEP Team Discussion Guide
    This guide is designed to help teams make informed decisions about whether an intervener (a paraeducator who has received specialized training in deaf-blindness) should be provided as part of a student’s related services and supplementary aids and services. Interveners provide access to visual and auditory information, instruction, and social relationships that are unavailable due to severely limited vision and hearing.
  • HomeTalk: A Family Assessment of Children who are Deafblind
    HomeTalk is an assessment tool designed for use by parents and care providers of children who are deafblind and who have other disabilities. Its purpose is to help you participate more actively in the planning of your child's educational program. HomeTalk is designed to provide a broad picture of your child's skills, special interests, and personality.

Transition in the IEP

  • Transition Considerations in the IEP: Indicator 13 Checklist Form B
    Indicator B-13 is reported annually as part of each State's Annual Performance Report and is the measure of compliance with the transition requirements in IDEA (2004), reflected in the IEP for students 16 and older. Form B is designed to meet the minimum requirements for collecting and reporting data on Indicator 13 of the Part B State Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report and is approved for use by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). It allows a school, district, or state to analyze professional development and program change needs by providing data on each item for each postsecondary goal area. The checklist also provides guiding questions to facilitate accurate data collection for each item.
  • Age-appropriate Transition Assessment Toolkit
    This toolkit introduces the topic of age-appropriate transition assessment (a mandated component of transition planning in IDEA, 2004) and provides a linkable suggested timeline for conducting assessments.
  • Secondary Transition: Student-Centered Transition Planning
    This Module will help users to better understand the benefits of student-centered transition planning, identify ways to involve students in collecting assessment information and developing goals, and be able to prepare students to actively participate in their own IEP meetings (est. completion time: 2 hours).

Individualized Instruction

  • High-Leverage Practices in Special Education
    In partnership with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR), the Council for Exceptional Children has developed and published a set of high-leverage practices (HLPs) for special educators and teacher candidates. The selected practices are used frequently in classrooms and have been shown to improve student outcomes if successfully implemented.
  • Differentiated Instruction: Maximizing the Learning of All Students
    This Module discusses the importance of differentiating three aspects of instruction: content, process (instructional methods), and product (assessment). It explores the student traits—readiness level, interest, and learning preferences—that influence learning (est. completion time: 3 hours).
  • RTI (Part 5): A Closer Look at Tier 3
    This Module describes which students will receive Tier 3 intervention (i.e., special education services), components of Tier 3 reading interventions, and students' response to this individualized intervention. This Module also explores parent involvement and issues related to English language learners (est. completion time: 2 hours).
  • Data Meeting Tools
    These materials are intended to assist teams in structuring data review for students with severe and persistent learning and behavior challenges. Although they not designed solely for the purpose of IEP development, IEP and multi-disciplinary teams may find the structure and recommendations useful if they are looking to refine their data collection and meeting procedures.
  • Student-Level DBI Implementation Checklists
    This resource is intended to help teachers and data teams evaluate the extent to which their intervention plan was implemented as intended. Although it was not specifically designed to be used to evaluate an IEP, it could easily be adapted for that purpose.
  • Accessible Educational Materials in High Quality IEPs (Video)
    The use of Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) by students who need them must be reflected in any high quality IEP. There is no specific requirement in IDEA, however, regarding where to include the consideration of AEM in developing the IEP. This video by the AEM Center introduces viewers to AEM, how to address accessibility of materials in the IEP, as well as considerations for transition programs.

Resources for Parents and Families

  • Transition from Early Intervention to Special Education Preschool: What You Need to Know Before Your Child’s Third Birthday
    Families are the most important people in a child’s life. Parenting is a big responsibility. Parents and family members make sure their children are safe and have good care. They watch to see that their children grow and develop as they should for their age. This is a big challenge. It can be an even bigger challenge when parents know their child has a disability or if they think their child is not developing like other children the same age. It is hard to know what a child should be doing and what to expect. At times parents may feel alone and not know where to turn for help. But parents do know their children better than anyone else does. Know that you are your child’s best advocate and also the one who will be most affected as you share your child’s joys and challenges.
  • Parents as Partners in the IEP Process
    The Utah Parent Center has developed this booklet to be used either independently or with the Parents as Partners in the IEP Process workshop. It provides a brief overview of some the laws and suggestions about what you, a parent, can do to prepare for your important role as an equal member of the team that designs the individualized education plan or program to meet your child’s needs.
  • All about the IEP
    This suite of pages at the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) provides parents and professionals with 4 stand-alone articles: The Short-and-Sweet IEP Overview; The IEP Team; Contents of the IEP; and When the IEP Team Meets. These pages, in turn, branch off to provide more detailed information about each member of the IEP team, each component of the IEP, special factors to consider in IEP development, and more. Also available in Spanish.
  • Developing Your Child’s IEP
    Updated in 2017, this CPIR document (once a product of NICHCY) takes parents through the entire IEP process, with examples (e.g., how to write a strong present levels statement, how to tie the annual goals to that statement and identify what supports (related services, supplementary aids and services) will be provided to the student, based on his or her needs. Also available in Spanish.
  • Online IEP training in English, Spanish, and Creole
    Parent to Parent of Miami (Florida’s CPRC serving Miami, Dade, and Monroe counties) has an online training series about the IEP in three languages. You must be a registered user to access these trainings, but it’s easy and it’s free. Use the sessions to train new staff or help families learn about the IEP process.

Symposium Postwork

Special Needs

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Lodging, Dining, Activities

Call for Proposals

Speaker Bios

Photo of Melody Arabo

Melody Arabo is a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary School in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She held a hybrid role in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District as both a 14-year classroom teacher and district leadership developer. Arabo is the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year and plays an active role in her school and local community. She facilitates professional development in a range of topics, including implementation of Common Core State Standards, reading comprehension strategies with an emphasis on metacognition, math fact fluency, and her biggest passion, bully prevention. She is the author of the Chaldean for Kids book series and Diary of a Real Bully, a children’s picture book which teaches the difference between real life bullying and the bully stereotypes we see on TV and in the media.

Photo of Johnny Collett

Johnny Collett is the assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U. S. Department of Education. In this capacity, he serves as the advisor to the U.S. education secretary on matters related to the education of children and youths with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youths and adults with disabilities. The mission of his office is to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes, and to raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation.

Prior to joining the department, Collett served as the program director of special education outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers. Collett also served at the Kentucky Department of Education as the state's special education director, as an assistant division director, and as an exceptional children consultant.

Collett, a former high school special education teacher and church pastor, graduated from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky in 2005 with a Master of Arts in education. In 1994, he graduated with a bachelor's degree from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and in 1991 he received an associate degree from Southeast Community College, at that time a part of the University of Kentucky college system. Collett also holds a certification in learning and behavior disorders from Kentucky.

Photo of Karen Erickson

Karen Erickson, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, a professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, and the Yoder Distinguished Professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former teacher of students with significant disabilities whose current research addresses literacy and communication for students with significant cognitive disabilities. She is an associate director of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment Consortia and the principal investigator of two Office of Special Education Programs Stepping-Up Technology Implementation projects.

Photo of Barbara Guy

Barbara Guy, Ph.D., is the director of special education at the Iowa Department of Education. In this role she has worked with regional and local special educators to build state infrastructures and capacity to provide quality special education services and supports.  

Prior to her current work, Dr. Guy was Iowa’s education consultant for secondary transition. Her broad perspectives of secondary transition derive from her work at the University of Minnesota with state systems change grants on transition, her experiences at the University of Kansas, and teaching students with significant intellectual disabilities. This background has led to her recognition of the diverse needs of learners with disabilities and the belief that services and practices need to be flexible and broad enough to meet that diversity. She is the author of several articles and book chapters on secondary transition of youth with disabilities. In 2009, she was honored with the Mark Gold Innovative Practices in Transition Award from the Division on Career Development and Transition.

Photo of Kelly Henderson

Kelly Henderson, Ph.D., is executive director of Formed Families Forward, a northern Virginia non-profit family organization that trains and supports foster, adoptive, and kinship care families raising children and youth with special needs. Formed Families Forward operates a Community Parent Resource Center, funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, and is a family partner to the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support project.

A special educator by profession, Dr. Henderson is a former public school teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and has worked in national special education policy and federal research settings. She is also adjunct faculty of special education at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia. Her family is formed in part through public foster care and adoption. Her three sons have a range of disabilities and special needs. Dr. Henderson trains and consults with adoptive, foster and kinship families and agency personnel on special education-related needs of children and youth. She serves on a number of non-profit boards and public agency advisory bodies. 

Photo of Christopher Lemons

Christopher J. Lemons, Ph.D., is an associate professor of special education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. His research focuses on improving academic outcomes for children and adolescents with intellectual, developmental, and learning disabilities. His recent research has focused on developing and evaluating reading interventions for individuals with Down syndrome. His areas of expertise include reading interventions for children and adolescents with learning and intellectual disabilities, data-based individualization, and intervention-related assessment and professional development. He has published studies in peer-reviewed journals including Exceptional Children, Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, and Remedial and Special Education. Dr. Lemons has secured funding to support his research from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, both within the U.S. Department of Education and from the National Institutes of Health. He chairs the Executive Committee of the Pacific Coast Research Conference. Dr. Lemons is Co-Director of the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention and a Senior Advisor for the National Center on Intensive Intervention, both funded by the Office of Special Education Programs. He received his doctorate from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 2008. Dr. Lemons is a recipient of the Pueschel-Tjossem Research Award from the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Distinguished Early Career Research Award from the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research. In 2016, Dr. Lemons received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers, from President Obama. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Lemons taught in several special education settings including a preschool autism unit, an elementary resource and inclusion program, and a middle school life skills classroom.

Photo of Janine Rudder

Janine Rudder started her career in education as a middle school special education teacher in Oakland, California. She also trained primary school teachers and started several initiatives aimed at supporting and providing resources for teachers in Belize, Central America. After returning to the United States, she worked as a master educator, evaluating teachers' instructional practice and conducting targeted professional development.

Through her work at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Special Education Programs, Rudder currently supports state educational agencies in building the capacity of school districts in order to support teachers and school leaders in their efforts to provide an excellent education for all students. Rudder received a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from Northeastern University and a Master of Arts from Teachers College at Columbia University. 

Photo of Rose Milagros Santos

Rosa Milagros Santos, Ph.D., is professor in the Department of Special Education the University of Illinois. She studies how families and culture influence the development of young children with disabilities. Her research focuses on young children with disabilities and their families within the context of early intervention and early childhood special education services. Specifically, she is interested in developing an understanding of the ecologic influence of families and culture on parents and professionals in facilitating young children’s development and learning. She is currently the principal investigator of multiple leadership and personnel preparation grants from the U.S. Department of Education, a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a research grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and grants from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Through her research activities, she aims to make a positive impact on the lives of children with disabilities and their families by enhancing the practices of professionals who work directly with these children and families. Dr. Santos is currently serving as the associate provost for faculty development in the Office of the Provost at Illinois.

Photo of Sarah Sayko

Sarah Sayko is the deputy director of the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL) that seeks to increase access to evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and instructional support students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia.  She leads the Parent and Family Engagement work of NCIL.  Sayko is also the West Virginia state coordinator for the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center (ARCC), which helps state Departments of Education in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia to enhance their capacities to undertake state education initiatives successfully.

Photo of Sarah Vazquez

Sarah Helena Vazquez is a motivational speaker, advocate, and author. She is a true believer that everyone can pave their life's path by way of having dreams. As a child, Vazquez asked God why was she born with cerebral palsy. Although the reason was not apparent to her then, she did know that she was someone with dreams just like any other person. With the support of her mother, who instilled in her that she should be defined by her abilities not of her disability, today Vazquez is sure that she was born with cerebral palsy to change the face of what having a disability "looks" like. With the confidence she gained from her mother and the high expectations of her teachers, Vazquez is now regarded as one of the nation's leading advocates for people with disabilities.

During her freshmen year of high school, Vazquez’s resource room teacher introduced her to the art of writing. For the first time Vazquez realized that writing allowed her to express the way she felt about the world. After graduation, Vazquez want on to earn a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University where she double majored in English and Psychology. She also holds a master’s degree in Disability Studies from the City University of New York. In 2001, Vazquez released an autobiography titled "Paved Roads”, which details her early life's journey.

Vazquez currently works for the non-profit organization Neighbors-Inc, which helps adults with disabilities find community-based supports so they can enjoy the benefits of self-directing their lives. Whether she is giving advice to transitioning youth, facilitating workshops about self-advocacy, or challenging an audience of educators to adopt more inclusive practices, Vazquez's message expresses a commitment to high expectations and her unwavering belief that people with disabilities are an important part of the fabric of society.

Photo of Mitchell Yell

Mitchell L. Yell, Ph.D., is the Fred and Francis Lester Palmetto Chair in Teacher Education and a professor in Special Education at the University of South Carolina. His professional interests include special education law, IEP development, progress-monitoring, and parent involvement in special education. Dr. Yell has published 112 journal articles, 5 textbooks, 26 book chapters, and has conducted numerous workshops His textbook, Special Education and the Law, is in its 5th edition. He also serves as a state-level due process review officer in South Carolina. Prior to working in higher education, Dr. Yell was a special education teacher in Minnesota for 16 years.