Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. It is provided at no cost to the parents and it is provided in the least restrictive environment that can meet the individual student's needs. Prior to special education, the school district attempts to meet the student's needs and address deficits through interventions and accommodations provided in the regular education classroom.
In order to qualify for special education, a student must meet two criteria.
- The student must meet the criteria for one or more of the 13 disability categories defined by federal law.
- The student must show a need for special education services.
Determining whether or not a student meets these two criteria occurs through a comprehensive evaluation of the student by a multidisciplinary team. Data collected includes input from parents, teachers, and other school staff who interact with the student. It includes observations of the student and rating scales, when necessary. These rating scales may explore behavior, emotional/mental health, adaptive behavior, and executive functioning. Typically, a school psychologist completes individual cognitive and academic achievement testing, as well. Finally, other professionals' expertise may be necessary to explore vision, hearing, or motor concerns. All of this information is documented and interpreted in an evaluation report (ER), which is provided to parents. Based on data collected, a determination is made regarding whether or not the student meets the two criteria necessary to receive special education services.
If the student qualifies for special education services, a meeting will be held to develop the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The parent is a member of the IEP team and is involved in all decisions regarding the child's education. The parent must provide signed consent before the district has permission to implement the IEP. Furthermore, once a student begins receiving special education, no changes to the student's educational placement can be made without signed parental consent. Consent for special education services, changes in services, or dismissal from services is given on a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement/Prior Written Notice (NOREP) form.