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How Does a Student Get Special Education Services?

Several procedural steps are required for a student to be identified for special education services and for reviewing the ongoing need for these services. These steps are:

  • Student Success Team (SST) Meeting
  • Assessment Plan
  • Assessment Period
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team Meeting for Determination of Eligibility and Creation of IEP
  • IEP Implementation
  • Annual Review IEP
  • Triennial Assessment

What is a Student Success Team (SST)?

Sometimes a child does not make sufficient progress in the general school program, even with modifications and remedial instruction. Under current Federal and State law, anyone can refer a child when he or she suspects a child has difficulty at school. The child can be referred to the school's  Student Success Team (SST). The SST, which typically includes the parent/guardian, develops a plan of modifications and/or interventions to be implemented in the general education classroom over a period of time.  If these modifications/ interventions are not successful, the SST may ultimately refer a child for consideration of special education eligibility.

The SST process is not meant to delay a necessary special education assessment.  Rather, the SST meeting provides a forum for discussing identified concerns.  Once concerns are identified, it is a time for problem-solving.  Typically, an intervention is designed, implemented, and monitored for 4 to 8 weeks.  The purpose of this process is to identify the level of support and types of educational conditions that improve a student's progress toward the district standards.

One outcome of the SST process may be a special education assessment.  However, many students are successful after the SST process and do not require special education services.  Parent participation in the SST is particularly valuable.  Parents bring important information to the SST and also receive important information from school personnel.  Parent participation helps ensure that a full discussion of a child's educational performance takes place.

How does the SST meeting process work? Where do we begin? 

Consultation: First, the parent/guardian and the teacher discuss the student, identifying strengths and weakness and possible interventions. The school psychologist, counselor and/or administrator are welcome to participate in this consultation.

Referral: If the interventions that have been developed and implemented are unsuccessful, the parent/guardian, or the  teacher makes a referral to the SST.  If a parent requests a SST meeting or an evaluation for special education services, the meeting will be held within two weeks of receipt of the written referral.

Initial SST Meeting: School staff schedules and invites the parent/guardian to a SST meeting.  The team members may include the parent, psychologist, teacher(s), counselor, and school principal. The SST commonly adheres to the following six steps and approximate time requirements.  It's important to note, however, that SSTs may vary from school to school and from case to case:

  • Step 1: Overview-- The team reviews information about students' strengths and areas of need, preferences, interests, and general health and well being.  All relevant information is examined and discussed, including any outside evaluations the parent/guardian may have gathered.  Information is collected through team discussions, review of records, work samples, observations, and interviews.  (10 minutes)
  • Step 2: Problem Identification--  The team lists instructional and/or behavioral concerns, prioritizes them, and defines the concerns in terms of one or two measurable behavioral goals.  The goals may be based on district content standards, peer performance, or developmental standards.  (15 minutes)
  • Step 3: Define Intervention --  The team brainstorms possible interventions to meet the behavioral goal(s) identified in Step 2.  Interventions are then selected based on their feasibility and likelihood of success.  Creative uses of both community and district resources (e.g. the reading specialist, counseling, etc.) are considered in determining the feasibility of each intervention.  Next, the duration and intensity of the intervention are established.  The individuals accountable for providing the interventions are identified.  In addition, a liaison (i.e., someone to assist the interventionist(s) in fine-tuning the intervention) should be selected.  (10 minutes)
  • Step 4: Identification of Monitoring System--  The team establishes a continuous monitoring technique.  Information on the student's progress toward the identified goal(s) will be collected and recorded frequently.  Adjustments to the interventions are made based on this information.  Progress may be charted.  The responsibility of monitoring student progress is assigned to one or more team members.  (5 minutes)
  • Step 5: Schedule a Follow-up Meeting -- A date is selected for reconvening the SST team.  Most interventions take from 4 to 8 weeks to see an effect.
  • Step 6: Hold the Follow-up Meeting-- The follow-up meeting will be held to determine the success of the intervention. The team will decide whether to:
  1. Discontinue the intervention because the goals have been achieved
  2. Modify the interventions
  3. Develop an additional intervention or consider other options.

In making such decisions, the team will consider:

  1. The discrepancy between actual and targeted behaviors before and after the intervention
  2. Progress towards district content standards and performance indicators
  3. The intensity, duration, and effective-ness (e.g. whether it was implemented as planned) of the intervention
  4. The amount of resources required to implement the intervention

Assessment for special education is probably not warranted in cases where the intervention results and other information reviewed by the SST suggest that the student does not have a disability of such severity that the identified needs cannot be met in general education, with or without accommodations.  If parents/ guardians disagree with the SST decision that special education assessment is not necessary, the team will provide them the basis for its decision in writing.  The notice may be completed at the conclusion of the initial SST or follow-up meeting and given to parents/ guardians, or mailed to them shortly after the meeting.

The notice letter must include:

  1. A copy of the Special Education Parents Rights and Procedural Safeguards
  2. A description and explanation of the district's position as well as a description of any options the district considered and the reasons why those options were not selected
  3. A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the district used as a basis for its decision; and
  4. A description of any other factors that are relevant to the district's decision