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).
Individualized Education Program
An Individualized Education Program (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.
Each Individualized Education Program includes:
- a statement of the child's present levels of academic achievement and functional 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.
The IEP for each student, beginning at age 14 (or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team), shall include a statement of the transition service needs of the student under the applicable components of the student’s IEP that focuses on the student’s courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational educational program).
The IEP for each student, beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16, (or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team) must include:
- Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessment.
- The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the student in reaching those goals.
- Age appropriate transition assessments based on the individual needs of the student to be used to determine appropriate measurable postsecondary goals.
- Beginning no later than one year before the student reaches the age of majority under State law, (18 years of age in the State of Hawaii), the student’s IEP must include a statement that the student has been informed of his/her rights under Part B of IDEA, if any, that will transfer to the student on reaching the age of majority.
The IEP is required to address only those areas concerned with the provision of special education and related services and the extent that the child can participate in regular education programs. For some children, the IEP will address a very limited part of the education, e.g. speech therapy. For others with more involved impairments, a greater portion of the educational programming may be addressed in the IEP.
Developing an IEP
A meeting to develop an IEP must be held within 30 calendar days of the date eligibility for services is determined. An IEP must be in effect before special education and related services are provided to a child. The appropriate placement cannot be determined until after determination of the child's needs and the type of services to be provided.
The following participants need to be present at an IEP meeting:
- a representative of the public agency, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, special education;
- the child's teacher;
- one or both of the child's parents/legal guardians
- the child, if appropriate; and
- other individuals at the discretion of the parent or agency.
If the purpose of the meeting is the consideration of transition services for the student, the following shall also be invited:
- the student; and
- a representative of any other agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services.
For a child with a disability who has been evaluated for the first time, either of the following needs to be present:
- a member of the evaluation team; or
- an IEP team member who is knowledgeable about the evaluation procedures used with the child and is familiar with the results of the evaluation.
As the IEP team is developing a child’s IEP it is critical to keep in mind the United States Department of Education’s 2017 guidance on the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District decision. This decision emphasizes the responsibilities of districts to improve students' academic outcomes, monitor progress, and ensure appropriate IEPs are developed to meet the definition of FAPE. Additionally, IEP goals in a child’s “…educational program must be appropriately ambitious” regardless of the nature of the student's disability. Schools should be prepared to provide evidence that a student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make appropriate progress in light of his/her unique circumstances.
IEP meetings need to be held at least annually. Depending on the needs and progress of the child, meetings to review and revise may be held more frequently.
While IEP meetings are usually initiated and conducted by the school, it is appropriate for parents to request an IEP meeting when they believe their child is not progressing satisfactorily or they feel there is a problem with the current IEP.
Is the IEP a performance contract?
No. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not require that the agency, the teacher, or other persons be held accountable if the child does not achieve the growth projected in the written statement.