HomeLearning DifficultiesLegal Rights & AdvocacyIndividuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004

IDEA 2004 Close Up: The Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Page 6 of 6

By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute

Changing an IEP.

IDEA 2004 provides new ways that parents and schools can make changes to a student's IEP. They are:

  • Once the annual IEP team meeting has taken place, schools and parents are allowed to amend or modify the IEP without holding another meeting of the full team.
  • The entire IEP need not be rewritten in order to incorporate such changes, however, parents may request a revised IEP with the changes incorporated.

PARENT TIP: While these new provisions seem logical on the surface, parents need to exercise caution regarding the extent to which their student's IEP can be amended using this approach. Minor changes involving such things as accommodations can be easily addressed in this manner, but significant revisions such as changes in the services to be provided, the frequency of those services, how behavioral or disciplinary issues are addressed, should call for a full IEP team meeting.

When making IEP modifications without a team meeting, parents should make sure that the school representative who agrees to the change(s) is authorized to do so by the district. Parents should also ensure that they receive written documentation of the changes, including effective dates. All school personnel responsible for implementing the changes should also receive notification.

Meeting Alternatives.

IDEA 2004 allows and encourages the use of alternative ways to hold IEP team meetings, such as conference calls and video conferencing. Schools are also encouraged to consolidate discussions of multiple issues into one meeting when possible. This could include the consolidation of re-evaluation and IEP meetings, or meetings required under the student discipline provisions.

PARENT TIP: Meetings conducted via means other than face-to-face can jeopardize meaningful parental participation and hamper the sharing of information critical to making sound decisions on behalf of the student. For example, sharing and discussing student work samples would be difficult via a conference call. Remember that this new provision in no way negates the parent's right to request an in-person meeting.

While meeting consolidation can frequently save time for both parents and school personnel, parents must be fully informed of all issues to be discussed and should feel comfortable requesting separate meetings if they are uncomfortable with a proposal for a multi-issue meeting.

Notice of Procedural Safeguards

In another move to reduce paperwork, IDEA 2004 revises the provision addressing the notice of procedural safeguards. Long a mainstay of the IEP meeting, the procedural safeguards notice is now required to be distributed to parents of IDEA-eligible students only one time per year. Schools can determine when they will satisfy the once-a-year requirement, and may choose to use the annual IEP meeting for that purpose. Parents can elect to receive the procedural safeguards notice by email.

PARENT TIP: While many parents will welcome the reduction in the number of times the procedural safeguards notice is provided, it is critical that parents have a current copy of the notice on hand at all times. The content of the notice, as required by IDEA 2004, has not changed, with the exception of one additional notice: Unless state law already sets a time limitation, procedural safeguards must now include any applicable statute of limitations period - now set at two years - for the filing of a request for due process hearing.

Moving to a New School District

IDEA 2004 adds important new provisions regarding children who transfer school districts. While slightly different depending on whether the move is within the same state or across states, school districts are now required to provide special education services that are comparable to those described in the previously held IEP until such time as a new IEP meeting is held and a new IEP is developed for the student.

To facilitate the provision of services, schools are also directed to promptly obtain the child's records from the previous school, including the IEP and supporting documents related to the provision of special education and related services. Likewise, the previous school is directed to take reasonable steps to promptly respond to request for records from the new school.

PARENT TIP: Parents moving to a new school district should obtain a complete set of their student's records for the new school to ensure uninterrupted services. Schools should provide special education records at very minimal or no cost to parents.


  1. Special Education Expenditures Project, Total Expenditures for Students with Disabilities, 1999-2000: Spending Variation by Disability, Report #5, June 2003.

Updated January 2010

Candace Cortiella's work as Director of the nonprofit The Advocacy Institute focuses on improving the lives of people with learning disabilities, through public policy and other initiatives. The mother of a young adult with learning disabilities, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Comments from readers

"Free IEP's at and at"