Special Education

Special education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Special education may include, but is not limited to: academic services, speech-language services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, counseling services, and parent education. Special education services are provided at no cost to parents.

​​​​​​What is Special Education?

It is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Special education may include, but is not limited to: academic services, speech-language services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, counseling services, and parent education. Special education services are provided at no cost to parents. Please review this brochure, Special Education: Is it for Your Child?

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and state regulations require the Hawaii State Department of Education to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE), which includes a continuum of services for students who are eligible for special education and related services.

Special education services are made available to any student ages 3 to 22 who demonstrates a need for specially designed instruction, after an eligibility determination. An evaluation will determine the nature and extent of the student’s needs. Evaluations are comprised of separate assessments which may include: academic performance, communication skills, general intelligence, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, and motor abilities. If a student is eligible for special education, services are provided to the student through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

​Operation Search

Operation Search is the Department's campaign to find children who may need special education services but who are not receiving them at this time. Any child who resides in Hawaii who is between the ages of 3 and 22 and has met the eligibility criteria may receive special education services. For more information, call Operation Search at 800-297-2070 statewide. View our Operation Search brochure​.

  • For information regarding infants and toddlers between the ages of birth and two years, contact the Hawaii Keiki Information Service System (H-KISS) at (808) 594-0066.
  • For youths over 22 years of age, contact the Hawaii State Department of Human Services, Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division at (808) 586-5268, or the Hawaii State Department of Health, Case Management and Information Services Branch at (808) 733-9172.

How do I get help for my child?

Contact your child’s home school, which is the neighborhood school that the student attends and request an evaluation. The request can be made by [either]:

  • Verbally, in person, or by phone;
  • In a written letter, faxed, or e-mailed; or
  • On the State of Hawaii Request for Evaluation form obtained from the school.

If completing the Request for Evaluation form, write down all the problems that your child is having, even if you may not consider them educational problems. Return the form to the school office.

The school may invite the parent to a meeting, consisting of teachers, and possibly the counselor and/or principal, to discuss the student’s needs. The team may review student records, grades, test scores, etc., to determine whether an evaluation is appropriate and to determine what type of assessment(s) is needed. The school will respond within 15 days if an evaluation will or will not be conducted. Parental consent will be required for an evaluation to be conducted. You and your child(ren) have rights in this process.

Individualized Education Plan

An IEP is a written statement about the educational program for a child with a disability. It serves as a management tool used to ensure that the child receives the needed special education and related services. It also serves as an evaluation device when used to determine the extent of the child's progress toward accomplishing projected goals. It includes:

  • a statement of the child's present levels of educational performance;
  • a statement of annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives;
  • a statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided;
  • the extent that the child will be able to participate in regular educational programs;
  • the projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of the services; and
  • appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether the objectives are being achieved.


  • Community Children's Councils: A partnership of parents, school personnel, private providers and other community members, coordinated by the Department, who are concerned with the delivery of services and support to special needs children and families.
  • Disability & Communication Access Board: For persons with disabilities (Department of Health).
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii: The Parent Training & Information Center (PTI) for the state of Hawaii. Its mission is to enhance education, work and life opportunities for children and youth with disabilities by empowering them and their families through information, training and mentoring, and by public outreach and advocacy.
  • Special Parent Information Network: Information, support and referral to parents of children and young adults with disabilities and the professionals who serve them (sponsored by DOH/Department).
  • Hawaii Autism Foundation: The mission of the Hawaii Autism Foundation is to educate and help Hawaii families find and fund treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP)

The US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (USDOE-OSEP) has created a new indicator within the State Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report – Indicator 17, also known as the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP).

The SSIP is one component of the USDOE-OSEP’s plan to ensure that states focus on both: (1) improving functional outcomes for students with disabilities, and (2) maintaining compliance with IDEA. There are three phases of the SSIP:

  • Phase I – Analysis (due April 1, 2015) requires the State to submit information regarding: Data Analysis; Analysis of State Infrastructure to Support Improvement and Build Capacity; State-identified Measurable Result(s) for Children with Disabilities; Selection of Coherent Improvement Strategies; and Theory of Action.
  • Phase II – Plan (which, in addition to the Phase I content outlined above, the State must include with the February 1, 2016 submission of its SPP/APR for FFY2014) requires the state to submit information regarding: Infrastructure Development; Support for the implementation of Evidence-Based Practices; and Evaluation.
  • Phase III – Implementation and Evaluation (which, in addition to the Phase I and Phase II content outlined above, the State must include with the February 1, 2017 submission of its SPP/APR for FFY 2015, and update in 2018, 2019, and 2020) requires submission of the results of the ongoing evaluation and revision to the SSIP.

For more detailed information regarding the requirements of the SSIP, the osep.grads360.org site provides the Final Part B SPP/APR Measurement Table for download. USDOE-OSEP has also provided a states with the Part B SSIP Phase I Evaluation Tool as a preliminary guide on how states will be evaluated through this reiterative process.

During August and September 2014, stakeholder meetings were held with various internal and external stakeholders regarding the SSIP as follows:

  • August 6, 2014 – State Operations Stakeholder Meeting
  • August 7 and 8, 2014 – Meetings cancelled due to impending hurricane
  • September 18, 2014 – District Educational Specialist Stakeholder Meeting
  • September 19, 2014 – State-level Program Stakeholder Meeting
  • September 20, 2014 – Parent and Community Stakeholder Meeting
  • September 23, 2014 – Teacher Focus Group Meeting

General information in this powerpoint was shared at the meetings where stakeholders went through a broad data analysis, broad infrastructure analysis, and provided a rationale for the initial State-Identified Measurable Result. Further work to complete the Phase I submission is necessary.

DEC. 12, 2014 — SSIP Stakeholder Meeting

Invitations have been sent for the SSIP Stakeholder Meeting. If you were not a part of the initial stakeholder meetings and would like to participate, please send your contact information within an email indicating your interest to special_projects@notes.k12.hi.us. You will be contacted and provided with further information on how to participate.

  • To prepare for the meeting, stakeholders are asked to review this presentation​ providing information and data. Note that data will be added as we near the meeting date.
  • The Root Cause Analysis template referenced in the presentation is available for download here.
  • The information from the SWOT Analysis relevant to the focus area of reading improvement is available for download here.

We look forward to stakeholder involvement in providing input and/or feedback as we conduct the in-depth and infrastructure analysis to identify the final measurable result, identify necessary infrastructure improvements, and identify improvement strategies.  ​

​Special Education Reports

Contact Information

Debra Farmer

Phone: 808-305-9806

Email: debra_farmer@hawaiidoe.org

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