How the Special Education ARD/IEP Process Works:

Step 1: Interventions must occur when concerns are noticed and before a referral to special education is made.

The district or the parent is concerned about problems the student is having that is interfering with their learning in school. Schools get together and try to figure out ways to help the student. These ways are called interventions. Interventions must occur before a student can be referred to special education in MOST cases. In rare cases, a student may have an obvious disability requiring immediate attention. The urgency of each request will be decided by your school district.


Step 2: Initial evaluation or assessment in the area of the concerns

The student is evaluated. This may involve formal testing such as an intelligence or achievement test, observing the student in school, previous tests or work the student has done in school, help from outside specialists. Parents must agree and sign a paper indicating they will allow the school to search for the answers through testing.


Step 3: The committee will determine if your student would benefit from special education services

Based on all the information gathered, a group of qualified professionals and the parent determine whether the student is eligible for special education supports and services. A student may be found to be eligible for services because he or she has a history of a specific disability that directly affects learning. The student may be ineligible because the disability does not directly affect learning, or there is no evidence that a disability exists.


Step 4: Develop an IEP

If the student is found eligible, the same team will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is the overall plan on how to support the student so that the student benefits from instruction. The district must invite the parent(s) to the meeting, and provide opportunities for the parents to participate as a member of the IEP team.


Step 5: The IEP goes into effect

Parents must agree to allow their parents to have access to special education supports and services at the original eligibility meeting. Once consent is obtained the school can implement the plan. If parents do not agree, no additional help will be given to the student.


Step 6: Reviewing and Revising

The IEP team, which includes the parents, will review the student's IEP at least once a year. The IEP team may review the IEP more often if the plan is not working. Parents or teachers may request additional meetings.


Step 7: Reevaluation or Retesting

Every 3 years, the law requires districts to test the student to see what kind of progress has been made. This testing may include intellectual testing, achievement testing, classroom observations, health screening and sometimes help from outside specialists. It is important to document what kind of progress is being made. In some cases the school and parents can decide no reevaluation is needed. If your child is graduating high school and attending college the college may need a new evaluation in order to set up services to help the student in college.


Step 8: Continued Services

After the reevaluation is complete, the IEP team must determine if the student continues to show a problem in the specific area of disability determined at previous meeting. 

  • If the student continues to be eligible the IEP team will go back to step 4 and develop a new IEP based on their new information.
  • If the student is not considered to be eligible then they are dismissed from the special education program and are no longer given the special supports or services.