Increasing Capacity for Developing High-Quality IEPs/IFSPs (2018)

Virtual Event
Meeting Who

The live event is open to current OSEP Grantees (State and discretionary)

Symposium Details 

OSEP’s second symposium of the 2018 Symposia Series was held on June 18, 2018 from 1:30 – 3:30 PM Eastern. All grantees were invited to attend! 

The topic of this symposium was supporting high-quality special education services to children with disabilities by addressing the capacity needs of educators, IEP (individualized education program) teams, and administrators to develop and implement quality IEPs. 


  1. Increase capacity of school leaders, teachers, service providers, and families to facilitate effective IEP/IFSP meetings and develop high-quality IEPs/IFSPs.
  2. Provide resources to assist school leaders, teachers, service providers, and families in facilitating effective IEP/IFSP meetings and developing high-quality IEPs/IFSPs. 
  3. Provide examples of schools' efforts to facilitate effective IEP meetings and develop high-quality IEPs/IFSPs.

Archived Meeting Recording & Resources

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.

High Expectations

  • 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.
  • Endrew F. Advocacy Toolkit on
    The landmark Supreme Court decision is an opportunity to improve the services IEPs offer students. This toolkit provides a sheet of talking points with key language from the Endrew F. decision, and a worksheet to help improve your child’s IEP based on the legal standards in Endrew F. The toolkit was created by looking at key government resources, which you can view or download.

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.

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).
  • Next Steps New Hampshire Transition IEP Tool
    This is a multimedia training and reference tool about the transition IEP process: what must be part of the process and what must be written into the IEP itself. It goes beyond compliance with the federal requirements (known as Indicator 13) and will help increase understanding of transition planning best practices.

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.
  • IEP Parent Guide
    NCLD has created this Parent Guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) so you can become an informed and effective partner with school personnel in supporting your child’s special learning and behavioral needs.
  • Understanding IEPs
    This guide is designed to help families through every step of the IEP journey.
  • Record Keeping 101: An Overview
    Gathering your child’s records will help you keep track of how much progress she’s making. Having these documents will also help you push for the resources she needs for success in school. Here’s what you need to know.
  • IEP Personal Stories
    You can learn a lot from how other parents and IEP team members navigate the IEP process. Explore this collection of IEP personal stories. You’ll find insights and tips about how to make the most of your child’s IEP.

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.
  • 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 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.
  • Individual Education Programs Linked to the DLM Essential Elements
    This self-directed module focuses on the process of writing SMART annual goals and short-term objectives or benchmarks that are linked to the Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) claims, conceptual areas, and essential elements. This module should be used in conjunction with information provided by each State educational agency regarding IEPs.
  • 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.

IFSP to IEP Transition

Student-Led IEPs

Assistive Technology Resources

IEPs/IFSPs for English Learners with Disabilities


  • The Importance of Self-Advocacy for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues
    Loving parents advocate for their children’s needs. They talk with teachers, family members and others about those needs. And they help their children get support in and out of school. Part of being an effective advocate is teaching the skills needed for self-advocacy. It’s something parents can start working on early with their children—and continue to work on over time. They can build the foundation for self-advocacy when their children are young and then teach more complex skills to grade-schoolers, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers.
  • Resource Package | Inclusive Academic Instruction
    When kids have confidence, it makes it easier for them to speak up when they need help. It also helps them explain their challenges to others. But younger kids who are just starting school don’t always have that level of self-awareness—or the words to express what they’re struggling with. Parents can help their young children start building the foundation for self-advocacy, however. And the earlier they do, the sooner the student will be able to speak up their own behalf. This article describes some things that can be done to build the self-advocacy foundation.


Symposium Postwork

Special Needs

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Lodging, Dining, Activities

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Speaker Bios

Renee Bradley Headshot

Renee Bradley, Ph.D., has over 30 years’ experience in special education. She began her career as a teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. During those eight years, she worked in a variety of settings from self-contained to an inclusion program to providing homebound services working with children in preschool through high school. In 1997, Renee joined the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) as a program specialist and now serves as the Deputy Director of the Research to Practice Division. Among her responsibilities she is the project officer for the National Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. She coordinated the OSEP Learning Disabilities Initiative and served as the project officer for the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities and the Partnership Project. She has written and contributed to numerous publications, serves on several professional publication boards, and is a frequent presenter on special education issues. Renee has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education from the College of Charleston and her Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy from the University of South Carolina.

Melissa Turner Headshot

Melissa Turner is the senior manager for State Policy with the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She is part of the public policy and advocacy team, and supports parent mobilization and advocacy around issues that impact students with learning and attention issues, including policies related to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Melissa also serves as an adjunct instructor of education policy and grant evaluator for American University’s School of Education. Previously, Melissa served in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), analyzing education and disability budget, policy, legislative and regulatory proposals for the U.S. Department of Education, and working closely with the White House and advisers to the President developing the President’s annual budget.

Prior to her role at OMB, Melissa worked in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, providing technical assistance and monitoring state special education and general education programs to improve results for children with disabilities. Melissa started her career as a parent advocate in New York state, counseling parents of children with disabilities and advocating for them throughout the special education process.

Melissa holds a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from American University.

Nicole Bucka Headshot

Nicole Bucka, M.Ed., is an educator who currently coordinates Response to Intervention Supports at Cumberland School District in Rhode Island. She is also a parent of two sons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her 10-year-old son excels on academic standardized assessments and is considered high-functioning; but, he is not without need. Her youngest son is non-verbal, has an intellectual disability, a variety of medical ailments, and sensory needs. Nicole is an active participant in her sons’ individualized education programs (IEPs) and advocates for their appropriate educational services. She participates at the local level on a Special Education Parent Advisory Council to encourage parents in her community to be advocates.

Chris Coulston Headshot

Chris Coulston is a Project SEARCH ™ graduate and is now an employee at Christiana Care Health Systems. He has keynoted at the 2015 and 2016 California Transition Alliance conference, and presented workshops at the 2014 and 2016 NTACT conference, 2011-2015 Delaware Transition conferences, 2016 Pennsylvania Transition conference, and the 2012 National Transition conference. He is a graduate of Jr. Partners in Policymaking®.

Kevin Fortunato Headshot

Kevin Fortunato is a graduate of Technical College High School, Brandywine in the Early Childhood Education program. A keynote presenter at the California, Deleware, Texas, and South Carolina annual transition conferences, Kevin has also presented at the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition’s (NTACT’s) Capacity Building Institute in 2016 and 2017. Kevin’s experience as a paid actor in the Bates Haunted Motel led to the development of job and life skills showing the need to design and stretch learning beyond the school walls.

Johnny Collett Headshot

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.

David Bateman Headshot

David F. Bateman, Ph.D.,  is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses about learning disabilities, special education, and special education law to future teachers and administrators. Dr. Bateman has been a classroom teacher of students with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, intellectual disabilities, and hearing impairments.

The former due process hearing officer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and past president of the Pennsylvania Council for Exceptional Children, he is public policy chair of the Division for Learning Disabilities and is active in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities in Washington, DC. He is coauthor of The Principal’s Guide to Special Education, 3rd Edition (Council for Exceptional Children) and The Special Education Program Administrator’s Handbook (Pearson).

He has a B.A. in Government and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, an M.Ed. in Special Education from the College of William & Mary and a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Kansas.

Laura Brown Headshot

Laura Brown, Ph.D., is the projector director for Georgia’s State Personnel Development Grant. In this role she has worked with state and regional leaders to develop infrastructures and capacity to sustain initiatives. Dr. Brown’s professional interests include the impact of adult learning on student performance, engaging students in educational decision making, and evidence-based practices to reduce dropout. Dr. Brown’s current work is focused on helping educators respond to early signs of disengagement to reduce dropout, and she coordinated the activities of GraduateFIRST, a nationally recognized initiative, aimed at helping students with disabilities stay in school and graduate. She was honored by the National Dropout Prevention Network with the Crystal Star Award of Excellence, Students with Disabilities, and she received the Phil Pickens Leadership Visionary Award for her work to address dropout issues in Georgia.

Sarah Melton Headshot

Sarah Melton, Ed.D., is the principal of Beverley Manor Middle School in Augusta County, Virginia. She has just completed her 11th year as an administrator for Augusta County Public Schools, where she has served as a special education administrator and school testing coordinator, school based 504 coordinator, assistant principal, and currently, as a principal. Prior to working in school administration, she was a middle school band director in Augusta County. Dr. Melton has held several leadership positions in the division, including co-coordinator of the school division's Assistant Principal Committee, where she was tasked with creating professional development opportunities in instructional leadership for assistant principals. She currently serves as a middle school representative on the Profile of a Graduate Task Force for the school division. Dr. Melton graduated from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, in 2011 with a Doctor of Education in Organizational Theory and Leadership. In 2006, she graduated with a Master of Science in Education Administration, also from Shenandoah University. Dr. Melton graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 2000 with a Bachelor of Music degree. She currently resides in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, with her husband and three children.  

Toby Long Headshot

Toby Long, Ph.D., PT, FAPTA, is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University and the training director of the Center for Child and Human Development, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Long is the director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Early Intervention offered by Georgetown University and teaches Children with Disabilities, within the undergraduate Minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice. Dr. Long is also the director of the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development for the District of Columbia’s early intervention program, Strong Start. Dr. Long is an internationally known speaker and consultant on service delivery to children with disabilities and special health care needs. She is the author of multiple publications, including The Handbook of Pediatric Physical Therapy, Second Edition. The recipient of a variety of awards, Dr. Long was recently named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow from the American Physical Therapy Association.