Special Education

Special education is specially designed instruction and services to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities, and can include academic services, speech-language services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, and counseling services. The Department provides these services at no cost to families to anyone aged 3 to 22 who demonstrates a need for specially designed instruction, after an eligibility determination.

​Special Education Task Force Report

Summary findings of a program review conducted during the 2017-18 school year and presented to the Board of Education on May 17, 2018.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​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. For more information, call Operation Search at 800-297-2070 statewide. View our Operation Search brochure​, and our video​.

  • CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 3: For information regarding infants and toddlers between the ages of birth and two years, contact the Early Intervention Referral Line, formerly Hawaii Keiki Information Service System (H-KISS) at (808) 594-0066​​. You can also visit Early Intervention Services online here: http://health.hawaii.gov/eis/home/eiservices​.
  • PEOPLE OLDER THAN 22: 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.

State and federal laws allow the Hawaii DOE to claim partial federal reimbursements for medically necessary and educationally necessary health-related services that are provided through a student’s IEP. Services may include:

  • Evaluations determined as necessary as part of the IEP process
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Audiology Services
  • Speech Language Therapy
  • Assistive Technology Services
  • Skilled Nursing
  • Behavioral Health Services

Med-QUEST, the State’s Medicaid program, may reimburse the Hawaii DOE for a portion of the costs of eligible services. This is an important federal funding stream for public schools. The following criteria must be met:

  • Parental consent is provided to participate in the School-Based Medicaid Claiming Program;
  • The service(s) is determined to be a medically necessary and educationally necessary health-related service
  • through a student’s IEP; and
  • Student is Med-QUEST eligible.

Learn more via our brochure, letter to parents, and FAQs.

Promising practices

In 2015-16, Kailua Intermediate is implementing a new model for special education inclusion that's yielding results. The school's Instructional Leadership Team identified co-teaching as a way to boost learning for both high-needs and non-high-needs students, learning from the experience of Ewa Makai Middle School.​


This video provides an excellent example of parent involvement in the special education process. Families working with the school's principal, teachers and specialists are more likely to get the right services for their children.


Individualized Education Program

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.

Hawaii’s IDEA Part B Profile

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has created an IDEA Part B Profile for Hawaii that provides a resource for IDEA-related, State-specific information. Hawai‘i's state profile includes:

  • the most recent State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR) and OSEP’s response;
  • the State’s determination letter;
  • the State’s Results Driven Accountability Matrix;
  • and the approved submission for the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP).

OSEP will be adding additional information about the State in the future. Hawaii’s profile can be accessed here: https://osep.grads360.org/#report/apr/2016B/publicView?state=HI&ispublic=true

Notice of Public Comment: Annual State Application under Part B of the IDEA
In accordance with the provisions of the General Education Provisions Act, the Hawaii State Department of Education’s application for Federal Fiscal year 2018 funds under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) will be available for review here from March 16, 2018, through May 16, 2018.

The Hawaii State Department of Education, Monitoring and Compliance Office (previously Special Projects Office) will accept public comments regarding the application from March 16, 2018, to April 16, 2018, at 4:00p.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 at:


Comments may also be sent to:

Dayna Hironaka
Special Projects
Monitoring and Compliance Office
1390 Miller Street, Room 314
Honolulu, HI 96813

Comments must be received by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 16, 2018

IDEA Part B R​eports
  • Special Performance Reports: The Department's Special Education Performance Report encompasses the state's Performance Plan (in accordance with Public Law 108-446) and the Part B Annual Performance Report, which is delivered to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. All components of this report must be made available to the public. View the reports here​.

  • Data Reports: The IDEA Part B Data Reports provide data about children with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These data are collected annually by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Ed​ucation Programs in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA. They are provided in the form of tables produced for the Annual Reports to Congress. Click to download .zip files with each year's data files.
  • Due Process Hearings: The following are links to reports with findings of due process hearings. Decisions posted to this website are redacted and not the official copy. For questions about decisions, please contact 305-9806.

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 (submitted and approved) 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 (submitted on April 1, 2016, USDOE is reviewing) 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.

The SSIP Phase I was approved by the U.S. Department of Education. A copy of the submission is available here. Phase 2 has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education and is currently under review. The HIDOE will implement systemic improvements to advance the results for students with disabilities.  We will monitor our progress towards implementation objectives, and outcomes.  The effectiveness of our strategies will be measured by the 3rd and 4th grade proficiency rates and 4th grade growth rates on the statewide assessment for English Language Arts for students with Specific Learning Disabilities, Other Health Disabilities, and Speech or Language Disabilities. The Phase 2 submission will be posted shortly.​

Should you have questions regarding Phase 2, please contact the Special Projects Office at (808) 586-3428 or at special_projects@notes.k12.hi.us.

  • 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 Education Advisory Council (SEAC)​: A diverse group of individuals with expertise on all aspects affecting special education and related issues. Membership includes a majority of parents of children with disabilities, as well as teachers, administrators, representatives from the Department of Heath and the Department of Human Services, and others.​
  • Special Parent Information Network (SPIN): 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.
  • Chapter 60 Guidelines​: A side-by-side table meant to provide clarification and additional information to the Hawaii Administrative Rules, Chapter 60.​​

​Seeking Special Education Teachers​The Department of Education is seeking qualified Special Education teachers for all grades and specialty areas. 

Contact Information

Special Education Section

Phone: 808-305-9806


Strategic Plan 2017-2020

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