IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan.
Students who meet federal and state standards for having an educational disability are eligible to receive specially designed instruction meant to help remediate their academic or behavioral skills deficits.
State laws vary significantly as to what qualifies a student as having a disability. What remains much the same across the nation is that schools receive additional funding from the federal or state government in order to cover the cost of providing the additional services to students with recognized disabilities. (However, the federal government has never fully held up its end of the funding. In the IDEA (that’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Legislation, Congress set the goal of providing up to 40% of the total cost of students with special education needs. They have never met that goal. In 2014, they funded about 16% of the total costs, leaving states and districts to make up the rest.)
Students with IEPs have a wide variety of disability types, severity, and receive a whole continuum of services. The services may be as simple as teacher-to-teacher consultation with a special educator, speech pathologist, or occupational therapist, or as intensive as one-to-one support, or services provided in a special school or even a residential treatment setting. The more intensive services are exceedingly rare. What happens most often in schools is that a general education teacher will “co-teach” with a special educator. The students in the classroom are both students with disabilities and students without. This is referred to as “inclusion.”
Special education laws and services are incredibly complicated. This has been as brief an introduction as I could possibly write, but stay tuned, many more special education-related Ed101 posts are coming.