Special Education Process
The special education process determines whether or not your child is eligible for special education services, and if so, what special education services are most appropriate for your child.
There are four(4) basic steps in the special education process.
Step 1: Referral for Assessment
In many cases, the parents or guardians may refer their child for assessment for special education services. Teachers, other school personnel, and community members may also refer a child for assessment. Within fifteen (15) days, not counting school vacations greater than five days, of the receipt of a referral for assessment, you will receive a written response from the school district. If the school district determines that an assessment of your child is not appropriate, you will receive a written notification of this decision. If the school district determines that an assessment is appropriate you will receive a written Assessment Plan.
The assessment plan will describe the types and purposes of the assessments that may be used to determine your child's eligibility for special education services. The assessment plan should include all areas of suspected disability. Your child cannot be assessed unless you consent to the assessment plan by signing the document and returning it to the school. Once the signed assessment plan is received, the school has sixty (60) days, not counting school vacations greater than five (5) days to complete the assessment and hold an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.
Step 2: Assessment
An assessment involves the gathering of information about your child to determine whether your child has a disability. If your child is found eligible, the nature and extent of special education services that your child may need. The assessments may include individual testing, observations, interviews with the child, school personnel and others that work with the child, and a review of school records, work samples, and reports.
Guidelines for Assessment
When your child is assessed, the following guidelines will be followed:
- Your child will be assessed only after you have consented to the assessment plan.
- Your child will be assessed in all areas related to his/her suspected disability.
- The assessment will be administered in your child's primary language or a qualified interpreter will be provided.
- The assessment must include a variety of appropriate tests to measure your child's strengths and needs. The person administering the tests must be qualified to do so.
- The assessment will be adapted for students with impaired sensory, physical, or communication skills.
- A multidisciplinary team, including at least on teacher or other specialist with knowledge in the area of your child's disability, will assess your child.
- Testing and assessment materials and procedures must not be racially, culturally,or sexually discriminatory.
Your right to an Independent Educational Assessment of your child
If you disagree with the school's assessment of your child, you may obtain an independent educational assessment of your child. You may request the school to furnish you with information about how to obtain this independent assessment by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district.
It is your right to request that the school district pay for the independent educational assessment of your child. If the school district pays for an independent educational assessment, the criteria under which the assessment is obtained must be the same criteria used by the district when it initiated the assessment.
The school district may initiate a due process hearing to show that its assessment was proper. If the final decision of the hearing offices is that the assessment was proper, you still have the right to an independent educational assessment at your own expense. The results of the assessment must be considered by the school district in any decision made concerning your child's education. It may also be presented as evidence at a due process hearing regarding your child.
If a hearing officer requests an independent educational assessment as part of a hearing, you will not be required to pay for the assessment.
Step 3: Development and Implementation of an INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)
After the assessment has been conducted, an individualized education program (IEP) meeting will be held. The IEP meeting must be held at a time and place convenient for both you and the school district's representatives. At this meeting, the IEP team will discuss the assessment results and determine whether or not your child is eligible for special education services. If your child is found to be eligible, then the team will complete an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at the meeting.
The following people are members of the IEP team:
- you, as the child's parent or guardian, and/or your representative;
- a school administrator or qualified representative who is knowledgeable about program options appropriate for your child;
- your child's present teacher;
- other persons, such as your child, whom you or the school may wish to invite;
- the person who assessed your child or someone who is familiar with the assessment procedures.
What is an IEP?
The IEP is the written educational plan that describes a child's abilities and needs, the placement and services designed to meet the child's needs. Your child must have an IEP before the child can receive special education services. Your child's IEP must be implemented as soon as possible after the IEP meeting. Your child's IEP must be reviewed at least once per year, or more often upon request.
The IEP will contain:
- annual goals, and may contain short-term objectives focusing on your child's current level of performance;
- the services that your child will receive;
- when the services will begin, how often they will be provided, and for how long;
- the instructional program(s) and where these services will be delivered;
- the amount of time your child will spend in general education. If your child is not educated completely in general education, it should state why; and
- how the school will measure your child's progress.
Children with disabilities should attend the school they would ordinarily attend if they were not in special education. This requirement may be waived when a student's IEP requires it and states why.
You will receive a copy of the IEP at the conclusion of the IEP meeting. If you do not attend the IEP meeting, a copy of the IEP will be mailed to you and someone from the school district will contact you to review it with you. You have the right to agree or disagree with any portion of the IEP. The school must get your consent before the IEP can be implemented. You may consent to some portions of the IEP so that those services agreed upon can be implemented. Those that are not agreed upon may not be implemented. You are entitled to one of many processes to resolve any disputes regarding the IEP. Upon request, you must be given a copy of your IEP in your primary language, whenever possible.
Will I receive notice of the IEP meeting?
The school must provide you with notice of the IEP meeting within a reasonable time prior to the meeting. The notice will include: the date, time, and place of the meeting; the reason for the meeting; who will attend the meeting; and a statement of the right of participants to electronically record the meeting. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may call the school and reschedule the meeting.
When must an IEP meeting be held?
An IEP meeting must be held:
- once a year to review your child's progress and placement and to make any needed changes;
- every three years to review the results of a mandatory comprehensive reevaluation of your child's progress;
- after your child has received a formal assessment or reassessment;
- if you or a teacher believe that the child has demonstrated a significant educational growth, or a lack of anticipated progress;
- when you or a teacher request a meeting to develop, review, or revise the IEP;
- to develop a transition plan, beginning at age sixteen (16) or younger, if appropriate; and/or
- to determine whether a student's misconduct was a manifestation of his or her disability before expelling or suspending the student from school for more than ten (10) school days.
If your child is already enrolled in special education and you request an IEP meeting, you must do so in writing. Once your request is received, the meeting must be held within thirty (30) days, not including school vacations greater than five (5) days.
Step 4: IEP Review
If your child is receiving special education services, his or her IEP will be reviewed in an IEP meeting at least once a year to determine how well it is meeting their educational needs. In addition, every three years, your child will be reassessed and his or her IEP reviewed as part of an overall comprehensive reevaluation of your child's progress. If there are concerns that your child's educational needs are not being met, either you or school personnel may request a reassessment or an IEP meeting to review the IEP at any time during the year. You must make this request in writing.