The Special Education Process
Table of Contents
A how-to for the process of special education. Definitions of individualized education plans, evaluation reports, and the local education agency.
ER…IEP…Help! Is this education or alphabet soup? If you are new to the special education process you may feel as if you have been transported to another country. Something that is supposed to make life easier for you and your child suddenly becomes quite overwhelming as you begin to realize it has its own language and rules. The more you research special education the more your head begins to swim. Should you give up and leave it all to the school to worry about? Of course not! Learning the key terms and abbreviations will help you and your child smoothly navigate the process and get the most from special education.
ER or Evaluation Report
Teachers are constantly assessing students; they do so formally with written tests and informally through observation. When a student isn’t succeeding teachers try many different interventions to help. If those do not work the student may be referred for an evaluation to obtain more information about how he/she learns. An evaluation includes classroom-based assessments and observations by the teacher, local and state testing scores, information from the parents, and formal testing by a school psychologist. All of this information then complies with the evaluation report which is presented at a meeting. Based on the results of the testing, a determination of whether or not the student qualifies for special education is made in the conclusion section of the evaluation report.
IEP or Individualized Education Program
If the conclusion of the evaluation report states that the student is in need of special education services an IEP, or Individual Education Program, is developed. The IEP states how the student is currently functioning in school and how his/her functioning relates to the general education curriculum. It spells out what goals the student will be working on during the year and how the student’s progress toward these goals will be assessed. The IEP explains any changes that need to be made to the general curriculum for the student to be successful and where and when they will occur. Each student’s individual education program is unique and specifically tailored for that student. All who are involved with the education of the student are invited to the IEP meeting to contribute to this plan. The IEP is re-addressed if the student is not meeting his/her goals and objectives or whenever the school, parent or child feels that changes need to be made.
LEA or Local Education Agency
Both the ER and the IEP forms refer to the LEA; in most cases, the LEA or Local Education Agency is the school the student attends. It is the entity (public school, charter school, alternative school, etc.) that is delivering education to the student.
These terms by no means provide a comprehensive review of the special education process, just a foundation for anyone who feels they need a secret decoder ring to decipher what that LEA is talking about. Remember, schools value your input and want to make this experience as positive as possible for all. Don’t give up!