June 25, 2017, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel & Enterprise: Region sees spike in IEPs http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_31092061/region-sees-spike-ieps In most local school districts, the number of students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, has risen over the past decades, outpacing a smaller upward trend statewide. This school year, 17.4 percent of Massachusetts students have IEPs -- a personalized program for children determined to need special education services. The commonwealth's percentage is consistently among the highest in the nation, though still well below 2016-17 numbers at some local school districts where more than over a fifth of students have IEPs. In Fitchburg 23.5 percent of students have IEPs, up from 18.1 percent 10 years ago. In Leominster the number is 22 percent, up from 17.4 percent in the 2006-07 school year. Ayer Shirley and North Midddlesex school districts also came in just over the 20 percent mark this year. The reasons for these increases are complex but relate to specifics of the student population, mental-health needs and differing district approaches, according to local officials and experts. In some districts, like Leominster, the number of young students with mental-health needs has dramatically increased over the past roughly 15 years, according to Leominster Schools Special Education Director Ned Pratt.