In a recent national survey, 55 participants were asked, on average, how long it took them to write an IEP. What we discovered was that there were three types of IEP writers. There are the minimalists, the detail oriented and organized, and the over the toppers or new teachers. Each teacher described their writing process and how they organized to provide individualized and detailed IEP’s for their students. Each keeping in mind the time investment and how districts compensate for caseload management.
IEP writing traits of a minimalist case manager
Here is a note from one of our special education teacher participants that we can gain some good takeaways from.
Michelle LR writes that a new-to-you or brand new IEP will take hours. But, if it is an annual IEP that she wrote last year, it doesn't take long to update the present levels and goals and proof the rest. She also includes that it is hard to know how much time was spent, because she usually does it in spurts--20 minutes during my prep time, 15 minutes until the staff meeting starts, again the next day when she can, then finishes at home.
J Martin writes that she created a word doc with all the generic blurb and descriptions she might or have included in the past. She goes through the online systems and makes her personalized notes. It has saved so much time.
B Hanson writes that she also has a phrase bank that she uses and includes terms or paragraphs from other Special Education Teachers or School Psychologists that she likes and would like to remember and add in her writing.
There is no harm in reusing when some else said it better!
Takeaway number one - Every special education teacher has a particular writing style that is individual to them. But if looked at carefully, those unique styles form patterns. Specific phrases that you often use to describe the situation are reused and personalized to the student as needed. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you write an IEP. Create a documents of phrases that you use often and have them on the ready when IEP writing time comes. You will write half as much but still give the students IEP the individualized it deserves.
Takeaway number two - taking 20 minutes every day to update your student's IEP binders can save hours in the long run. Whether you are adding PLOPs data or the new district benchmark test results, it will all add up in the end to a well formed IEP that is ready to copy and paste sections or type if handwritten.
Bonus Tip! I have used Dragon Speak to narrate all my IEPs into the system for years. I save so much time in typing and proofreading that it's worth every penny invested in the purchase. ~ Bran
IEP writing traits of the detail oriented and organized case manager
M Pine takes charge with her 2 hours start to finish program. She states that she has a binder with all of her student's curriculum based assessments for reading, writing, and math, with a cover page in each area with the standards and their scores of those curriculum based assessments. With that level of organization, it made it easy to write the present level and figure out what they were ready to learn next.
Save IEP writing time with readily available and compiled data!
ML Magdalera plans ahead with her IEP averaging 2 hours with the help of a copy and pasted doc for the essential things and a go-to goal bank that she likes to use for high school diploma-bound SPED kids.
We have a Goal Bank for that! Teach Tastic IEP Goal Bank
E Hickey make a good point when she included it also depends on your district. She is required to write extremely specific and detailed present levels. It takes about 2-4 hours depending on the needs of the student. Her former district was not as thorough (picky) and it took about an hour for an annual.
IEP Writing traits of the over the toppers or new case manager
B Jo shares that 8 hours was a completion average for her. But she has only done a dozen so far, so time saving tricks are starting to develop. She feels at this stage accuracy is more important than speed.
B Dowdy included that when she first started teaching that it took her about 15 hours to write an IEP but that it included reviewing grades, goals, reading the old IEP, etc.
T Wolf is a 20 vet that says she spends 1.5 to 2 hours per goal area. When she does an IEP for a complex student, it can take 8-10 hours.
H Goldapske laughs, and we sympathize, "Bahahaha, this is my first year, and mine took a good 12-15 hours to write."
The goal for this article is to provide context in how each one of us has our way of doing things. When we collaborate and share tip as well a war stories we can all better ourselves. #SPEDStrong.