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Special Education Process

Special Education Process

Once a child or young adult is identified as eligible for special education services, the school district provides a free and appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet his or her unique needs and prepares the student for the transition from high school.

Students may be found eligible for special education under one of the 13 categories :


Autism Deaf/Blind Developmental Delay
Emotional Behavior Disability Health Impairment Hearing Impairment
Intellectual Disability Multiple Disabilities Orthopedic Impairment
Specific Learning Disability Speech or Language Impairment Traumatic Brain Injury
Visual Impairment    

  • Some children need extra assistance in their school career, and this need may be the result of a disability.  Not all students who have disabilities need or qualify for special education services.  Students qualifying as disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEIA) require "specially designed instruction" which is designed and monitored by a certificated special education staff member.   Some students with disabilities do not require specially designed instruction, but do require formalized accommodations in order to access their education.  These students are supported by a Section 504 Plan.


    If you suspect that your child has a learning disability of any kind, you should contact his/her teacher, counselor, or school psychologist for further information to determine whether the school can address the child's needs through the pre-referral (problem-solving) intervention process or if an immediate evaluation for special education services is necessary

  • Each school has a student support/intervention process, which is managed by general education personnel to support the success of students. One of the main purposes of these teams is to identify and attempt interventions in the general education environment to support student access to the general education curriculum and activities and achievement of district standards. Typically, only after general education resources have been exhausted is a student from these teams referred for a special education evaluation.

    When a team refers a student, they are saying that they suspect the student has a disability and needs specially designed instruction. The intent of this pre-referral process is to ensure the team has afforded the student all necessary interventions appropriate to the general education setting and to prevent the inappropriate referral of students to special education.

    Anyone who is involved with the child may make a referral when they suspect a disability.  A referral is usually made by the parent, teacher, school psychologist, counselor, or doctor. 

  • After receiving a written referral, district staff, and parents will study existing information, and school records, and may talk with others who know the student, including teachers, family, and healthcare providers.  Input about the student at school, at home, and at play creates a more complete picture of the student's strengths and needs. 

    Within 25 school days, the district must determine whether the student should be evaluated for eligibility for special education services.  After studying the information gathered within this time frame, the district and parents meet to determine if an evaluation is warranted.  If the district recommends an evaluation of the student, the district must get the parent's written consent before the evaluation begins. Regardless of the determination, parents are provided written notice of whether or not an evaluation is needed.

  • Before a student receives an initial evaluation to determine special education services, the parent must be provided with a "Prior Written Notice" and a copy of "Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards".  The parent must also give informed, written consent to evaluate the student. The "Prior Written Notice" explains the actions to be taken and will contain:

    • A description of what the school proposes or refuses to do;
    • An explanation of why the school has made this decision;
    • A description of other options that were considered in making the decision, and the reasons why those options were rejected;
    • A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report that was used as a basis for the action to be taken;
    • A description of other factors considered in deciding on an action.

    The "Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards" is a complete explanation of parents' rights and protections for children who receive special education services.  This notice must be provided to the parent(s) upon:

    • Initial referral for evaluation
    • Each notification of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting
    • Reevaluation of the child
    • Registration of a due process complaint
    • Intent to revoke special education services
  • It is the responsibility of the school district to obtain informed, written parental consent before conducting the initial evaluation.  The school will inform the parent of all types of testing instruments to be used.  Parental consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time.  If a parent revokes consent, it is not retroactive and does not negate any action that occurred after the consent was given and before the consent was revoked.  If a parent refuses to provide consent, then a school may consider using mediation or due process as an avenue to pursue the evaluation of the student.

    Once written consent is provided, the school must complete the evaluation and meet to determine eligibility within 35 school days, or such other time period as agreed upon by the parent and the school district

  • The evaluation team is made up of educational specialists with knowledge in the area of the child's suspected disability, and includes the parent.  The team members include:

    • At least one of the child's general education teachers,
    • At least one special education teacher,
    • An individual to interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation results,
    • The child's parent(s), and
    • At the discretion of the school or parent, other persons with knowledge or special expertise about the child.
  • Based upon the results of the evaluation, the evaluation team must determine if the child has one or more disabilities.

    As a result of having one or more disabilities, the evaluation team must then determine if the child requires specially designed instruction in order to benefit from the educational program.  A child may NOT be determined to be in need of specially designed instruction (special education) if the dominant factor impacting progress is lack of instruction in reading, math, or limited English proficiency.

    Eligibility is determined by:

    1. The presence of a disability,
    2. Adverse educational impact, and
    3. The need for specially designed instruction.
  • The evaluation report must include, but is not limited to:

    • A review of current evaluations, including types of tests and the results of those tests.
    • Information provided by the parents, including medical and developmental information and history;
    • Educational history, including the reason for referral, current classroom-based assessments, and observations by teachers and related service providers;
    • Determination of whether the child's educational problems are related to or resulting primarily from reasons of educational disadvantage;
    • Documentation that the child was assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability including behavior, assistive technology, and current vision and hearing status;
    • A comprehensive developmental assessment (for preschool children);
    • A determination of whether the child has a category of disability (as defined by state law)
    • The child's present level of academic performance and current educational needs;
    • A determination of whether the child needs special education and related services;
    • A determination of whether any additions or modifications are needed to allow the child to progress in the general education curriculum, and;
    • Team findings on eligibility determination.
  • Yes, the school will provide the following documents to the parent:

    • Copy of the evaluation report, which will include documentation of the eligibility determination.
    • Prior Written Notice that will document the decisions made by the team.
    • Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards.
  • Once a student has been determined to be eligible for special education services, the team collaborates to create an individualized education program (IEP). The student's parent(s) are important members of this team.  This plan contains, at a minimum, a statement of the student's present levels of performance, annual goals, a statement of related services or supplementary aids and services, an explanation to the extent the student will and will not participate with typically developing peers, projected dates for beginning services, the location of those services, and how the student's progress will be measured and reported to parents.  The IEP is the framework for ensuring that students with disabilities have a free, appropriate public education.  The IEP team includes:

    • The parent(s) of the student;
    • At least one general education teacher (or preschool education provider) if the student is or may be participating in the general education environment;
    • At least one special education teacher of the student
    • A district representative who is qualified to provide or supervise specially designed instruction; is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and is knowledgeable about the availability of district resources.
    • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results;
    • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student including related services personnel as appropriate and at the discretion of the parent or school district/public agency;
    • Transition services participants (if appropriate); and
    • The student (if appropriate).
    • Participants can serve in more than one capacity.
  • Services outlined in the IEP may occur in several different environments for students, however, students with disabilities are to be educated in the least restrictive environment. This means that students with disabilities should be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent that they are allowed by their disability while still receiving meaningful educational benefits. The least restrictive environment requirement does not mandate inclusion or mainstreaming but rather focuses on participation in the general education environment with general education peers. Placement refers to the extent educational services are provided in the general education environment.