The difference between IEP meetings and parent-teacher meetings

If your child has an IEP, it can be confusing to have both an IEP meeting and a parent-teacher meeting. It may feel like both cover the same ground.

But the reasons for each meeting aren’t the same. The people who come to the meeting are different. And the conversations focus on different aspects of your child’s education. Here are the differences between IEP meetings and parent-teacher meeting.

IEP meeting

Parent-teacher meeting

The purpose

To review, revise, and update your child’s IEP.

To discuss your child’s academic and social progress in school.

How long

It depends on what’s being discussed. A meeting can be 30 minutes, or it can last an hour or more.

Schools typically schedule 10 to 20 minutes for a parent-teacher meetings.

Which students

Students with IEPs, or students being evaluated for special education.

All students.

Who attends

•Your child’s general education teacher(s)
•A special education teacher or case manager
•Someone from student services
•Other service providers who work with your child
•A professional who can interpret evaluation results (if there are evaluations to discuss)
•Your child, depending on age and whether you want your child to attend.
•Together, this is the IEP team.

You and your child’s teacher will attend the parent-teacher meeting. A second teacher or administrator may also be there.

Some schools are also moving toward student-led meetings. So your child might attend with you. Depending on what’s being discussed, your child might attend all or part of the meeting.

When they happen

Provincial law requires schools to hold annual IEP meetings. But you can request an IEP meeting at any time. The special education teacher or IEP case manager can also ask for one.

These meetings continue for as long as your child has an IEP.

However, you can ask for a meeting with the teacher at any time. It’s important to do this if you have concerns about your child, or if you need to talk through any specific issues.

Parent-teacher meetings occur until the end of high school

What’s discussed

It depends on the purpose of the IEP meeting.
For example, if your child isn’t making progress toward IEP goals as expected, you’ll talk about why. You’ll also talk about what needs to be changed. If your child has recently been evaluated, the team will talk about the results and recommendations.
At the annual IEP meeting, the team will talk about how much progress your child made over the last year. You’ll also discuss how IEP goals, services, and supports should be adjusted for next year.

Many parent-teacher meetings follow a set agenda. The teacher provides basic information about test scores and shares work samples. Then, the teacher talks through observations about your child’s academics and social life with peers.
It can be helpful to use a parent-teacher worksheet to make sure you cover any questions you may have. You can even email your concerns ahead of time. This is important since time may be limited.

Knowing the difference between an IEP meeting and a parent-teacher conference can help you make the most of both meetings. Learn how to talk to teachers about learning and thinking differences and how to decode teacher comments.