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Understanding Special Education

What is Special Education?

Special education means providing students with identified disabilities specialized instruction designed to meet their unique learning needs, giving them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. It includes instruction; accommodations, modifications, supports; and related services needed as determined by a child’s individualized education program team.


When parents, school personnel, or a family member/friend of a student notices that a student might have a suspected disability that requires special education services, they should provide that information in writing to the school system. A team will review information provided by the school and parent to decide if an evaluation is needed or if the current data is enough to find the student eligible for special education services.


An Evaluation is an essential beginning step in the special education process for a child with a disability. Before a child can receive special education and related services for the first time, a full and individual initial evaluation of the child must be conducted to see if the child has a disability and is eligible for special education. Informed parent consent must be obtained before this evaluation may be conducted.


In order for a student to receive special education services, the student must meet the criteria of one or more of the thirteen disability categories. At the eligibility meeting, a team of qualified professionals and the parents of the student make a decision as to whether or not a student meets the requirements to receive special education services.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) describes the educational program that has been designed to meet that child's unique needs. Each child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP. The IEP is developed in an IEP meeting with a group of individuals such as teachers, parents / guardians, administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) who work collaboratively to create a plan that provides meaningful benefit for the student with disability.

Annual Review

At least once a year, the Individualized Education Program team will meet to review and revise the student’s IEP. At the annual review meeting the team discusses the student's progress for the past year to revise the plan for the upcoming school year.


The IEP team must convene a reevaluation meeting at least once every three years. The purpose of a reevaluation meeting is to determine whether additional information is needed to determine if a student continues to have a disability requiring specially designed instruction and related services, and the nature and extent of special education and related services that the student needs.