Process, Referral, and Evaluation


The special education process can seem confusing and complicated because it encompasses many Federal and State regulations.  In order to present the highlights of this information in a simplified format, the following areas will be discussed here: referral, evaluation ,and IEP.  This overview outlines the three major steps in the identification of students with special needs.
It is particularly important that parents and others involved in the special education process understand their rights.  For a complete handbook of parents' rights in special education, the New Hampshire special education web site offers the Procedural Safeguards Handbook .  For a summary of these rights, this version presents a more concise explanation, and is probably a good starting point when first being introduced to special education rights.  Areas covered in parental rights include:
  • Parent Participation
  • Right to Consent
  • Right to Evaluation Procedures
  • Right to Independent Evaluation
  • Right to Placement in the Least Restrictive Environment
  • Access to Record
  • Surrogate Parents
  • Transfer of Rights at Age of Majority
  • Right to Due Process Hearings
  • Statute of Limitations
  • Notice of Limitations on Reimbursement for Placements by Parents in Private Schools
  • Mediation
  •  Procedures for Students who are subject to Placement in an Alternative Educational Setting
  •   Attorney's Fees
  •   Right to File a Complaint


When a student is experiencing difficulty in making progress in school, parents and teachers are urged to meet to discuss reasons for this. At the high school, the student's guidance counselor should be involved in these meetings in order to explore appropriate interventions to help the student meet with success.

After monitoring the student's progress with the noted interventions and it is suspected that the student may have an educational disability, then it would be appropriate to prepare a referral to special education. This form asks for the concerns about the student's progress, interventions that have been tried, and information regarding the student's strengths.

When the school district receives the referral, a team meeting will be set up with the parents to discuss concerns and to decide if existing pupil support services available to all students can meet the student's needs or if further evaluation is warranted. If the team decides that further evaluation is needed because of suspected concerns about a possible handicapping condition, then the special education process moves into the evaluation step


The first step in the evaluation process starts with the Evaluation Planning Meeting. At this team meeting, the plan for the evaluation of the student will be made. The team will determine what questions they have regarding the student's progress, what tests will be given to address these questions, and the name of the person who will do each test. Areas of assessment that the team will consider are academic achievement, cognitive functioning, classroom performance, emotional/social status, vocational aptitudes/interests and health-related issues.

After the tests are completed, another meeting called the Evaluation Summary meeting will be held. At this meeting, the results of the testing will be shared with the team, and a form will be completed that summarizes the findings. As part of this process, the team will determine if the student has a handicapping condition. If the Team agrees that the student does have a handicapping condition, AND requires special education services due to that handicapping condition, then a meeting will be set up to write an Individual Educational Plan(IEP) for the student.

The first and most important step toward success is the feeling that we can succeed.

--Nelson Boswell