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.

IDEA Part B Application

In accordance with the provisions of the General Education Provisions Act, the Hawaii State Department of Education’s application for Federal Fiscal Year 2015 funds under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) will be available for review from March 12, 2015 to May 15, 2015 by clicking here.

The Hawaii State Department of Education, Special Projects Office will accept public comments regarding the application from March 12, 2015, to April 13, 2015, at 4:00 p.m. Please include contact information with your comments so that Special Projects staff can contact you if there are any questions or clarification is needed.

Submit comments to:


Comments may also be sent to:

Gwen Yamanaka
Special Projects, Office of the Deputy Superintendent
1177 Alakea Street #B-100
Honolulu, HI 96813

Comments must be received by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 13, 2015.

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. OSEP has also released responses to frequently asked questions about the SSIP here.

SSIP Stakeholder Meetings

To formulate Hawaii’s submission, the Special Projects Office staff along with the Core SSIP Team members held meetings with Department and Community Stakeholders. At each meeting, the Department and Community Stakeholders worked on the various components of the SSIP submission. Discussions with Stakeholders about the SSIP began in December 2013. Following the USDOE’s release of final requirements, the Special Projects Office staff held the following initial Stakeholder Meetings:

  • 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
  • September 17, 19, 22, 2014 – Listening Tour (Call-in sessions to hear from teachers)

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.

Based upon the work that was done in the initial stakeholder meetings, Leadership decided to focus on reading improvement as the state-identified measurable result. The next SSIP Stakeholder Meeting was held on December 12, 2014, and was attended by 96 Stakeholders; 66 stakeholders representing the Department and 30 stakeholders representing our Community.

To prepare for the meeting, stakeholders were asked to review this presentation providing information and data. During the meeting, Stakeholders reviewed data and went through a Root Cause Analysis exercise completing a template that was available for download here. Stakeholders also went through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis exercise relevant to the focus area of reading improvement. Stakeholders reviewed previous input on the SWOT analysis that was available for download here. We informed attendees that the input from the Data and Infrastructure Analysis activities would be gathered and analyzed, then sent out to stakeholders for final input and comment so that each group would see the input received by all stakeholders. We would then use such information from the December 12, 2014 meeting and the final input and comment via the feedback process described below, to bring us closer to final recommendations for our Phase I submission. In analyzing the input from the December 12, 2014 meeting, we see five (5) common themes around improvement strategies that were provided by stakeholders, which are:

  1. Professional Development and Technical Assistance for Quality Instruction to Improve Reading;
  2. Strategies to Improve Student and Parent Engagement;
  3. Improvements for Early Interventions;
  4. Data Improvements to Identify Student Supports Necessary to Improve Reading; and
  5. Fiscal Improvements to Adequately Fund Improvement Strategies.

In order to provide final input and comment to close the loop on the December 12, 2014 meeting, we asked Stakeholders that attended the December 12, 2014 meeting, Stakeholders that attended previous meetings in August and September, and Complex Staff, Principals, and Teachers at a particular complex area to assist in providing input and feedback on information provided at the December 12, 2014 meeting (see input by downloading Excel file here). We received input on priorities for improvement strategies, focus areas, and obstacles for implementation.

On February 5, 2015, Department and Community Stakeholders were convened for another meeting to build off of the work and input and feedback from previous stakeholder meetings. The goal of the February 5, 2015 meeting was to come to final recommendations on the following: Coherent Improvement Strategies; Focus for implementation; Theory of Action; and Targets.

Final Decisions

Final decisions for the SSIP have been made by Department leadership, and we are requesting stakeholder input. Prior to providing input please review the following information:

Please provide feedback on any of the following information by close of business on March 24, 2015 using this online form to submit feedback http://goo.gl/forms/Ywgah6gpcO, or by sending feedback to the Special Projects email address (special_projects@notes.k12.hi.us):

  1. Feedback on Improvement Strategies
  2. Feedback on State-Identified Measurable Result (SIMR);
  3. Feedback on Targets;
  4. Feedback on Theory of Action;
  5. Feedback on the connections made between the infrastructure analysis and data analysis to the improvement strategies.

Please note that the preferred method for obtaining feedback would be through the online form available here: http://goo.gl/forms/Ywgah6gpcO.

Should you have any questions, please contact Special Projects staff at (808) 586-3428 or by email. Thank you for your continued participation.

​Report Finder​Search for Special Education reports by year, by keyword and more.

Contact Information

Debra Farmer

Phone: 808-305-9806

Email: debra_farmer@hawaiidoe.org

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