Step 1. The child is demonstrating difficulty learningTop of Page
"Child Find" The district must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the community who may need special education and related services. To do so, the district conducts "Child Find" activities by providing information to area preschools, day care centers, and pediatricians' offices. Early childhood educators from the Preschool program at the Bresnahan Elementary School also provide a series of community forums at which they discuss indicators of difficulties and the referral process. A child may be identified by the school district, through Early Intervention, or parents can ask that their child be evaluated.
Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child's teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated and the evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after the parent gives consent. Under the Response to Intervention (RTI) process a number of interventions must be tried to address the difficulties the child is having with learning.
The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child's suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child's eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about appropriate educational services for the child if he/she is eligible..
Step 3. Is the child eligible for special education services?Top of Page
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child's evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
These three criteria mustall be met before a student can be declared eligible for special education services:
To be eligible for Special Education Services a student must first be found to have a disability
To be eligible for Special Education Services a student must demonstrate a lack of progress in the general education curriculum
To be eligible for Special Education Services a student must requirespecially designed instruction, or be unable to access the general curriculum without the provision of one or more related services
A student can have a disability; be making progress in the general education curriculum; and does not require specially designed instruction - that student is NOT eligible for special education services. The student must meet all three criteria listed above.
Step 4. If the Child is Found Eligible for ServicesTop of Page
If the child is found to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services and the IEP team will write an Individual Education Program or IEP for the child.
Once the student has been found eligible for services, the IEP must be written. Detailed information on the IEP process is available on the DESE Web site.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
Contact the participants, including the parents;
Notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
Schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
Tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
Tell the parents who will be attending; and
Tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.
Step 6. IEP Meeting is Held and the IEP is WrittenTop of Page
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child's needs and write the student's IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate and always after the age of 14) are part of the team.
Before the school system can provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and may request mediation or a due process hearing.
The school makes sure that the child's IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child's teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child as stated in the IEP.
Step 8. Progress is Measured and Reported to ParentsTop of Page
The child's progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child's progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their non-disabled children's progress, which means when report cards are provided..
The child's IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is amended. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement.
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with Program Quality Assurance (PQA) or with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals..
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child's educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child's parent or teacher asks for a reevaluation.