Diverse Learners

Special Education Supports and Services


Special Education Process

My student is still having difficulty, what next?

Unless a disability is clearly suspected, special education evaluations will be triggered when students exhibit little to no progress in an area of concern even after receiving interventions.

Step 1: Referral & Consent for Special Education Evaluation

Referrals may be initiated by:

  • School personnel (including teachers, counselors, administrators, etc.)
  • Child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s).

The child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must provide informed written consent for the evaluation to proceed.

Step 2: Special Education Evaluation

An evaluation* is to be conducted by a multidisciplinary team that will consist of individuals who can bring different perspectives and expertise to the evaluation. Some examples of team members include:

  • School psychologists, who are qualified to conduct all types of educational assessments, including intelligence (IQ), achievement, and behavior
  • Special and general educators
  • Related service providers (e.g., physical therapist, occupational therapist, audiologist, orientation and mobility specialist)

* The evaluation materials and procedures must be administered in the language and form most likely to provide accurate information on what the child knows and can do.

Step 3: Eligibility

IDEA states that each child is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Within 60 school days of receiving consent for the evaluation, the individuals that took part in the process thus far will meet to determine eligibility. In simple terms, a student is considered eligible for special education services if:

  • The child has a disability as defined by IDEA, which negatively impacts his/her educational performance; and
  • The child needs special education services in order to benefit from education

Step 4: IEP Consent and Implementation

Before the special education services can begin, the parent must provide informed written consent to allow the district to proceed with special education and related services. The services may begin no sooner than 10 days after the parent consents, unless the parent gives permission for it to start sooner.


IDEA Specical Education Process

Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.

    Two ways to identify special education need:
  • Child Find. The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services.
  • By referral or a parent or school personnel

Step 2. Child is evaluated.
The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.

Step 3. Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision.

Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.
If the child is found to have a disability, as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, a team of school professionals and the parents must meet to write an individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child.

Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting.

Step 6. IEP meeting is scheduled.
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. Services as soon as possible after the meeting. If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with IEP team members. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation.

Step 7. Services are provided.
The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP.

Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year.

Step 9. IEP is reviewed.
The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once/year, or as requested by the parents or school. The IEP is revised is necessary. Parent, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disgree with the placement.

Step 10. Child is reevaluated
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if warranted or if the parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.

Have Questions?

Complete and submit this form to request assistance and support for your child regarding special education.


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For questions around special education services, please contact the School Assignments | ODLSS District Representative assigned to support the specific school.

Contact Information

Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services

42 W. Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: 773-553-1800
Fax: 773-553-1801
Email: odlss@cps.edu

School Assignment Services
Phone: 773-553-1847

Student Transportation
Phone: 773-553-2860

Nursing Information
Phone: 773-553-4589

Page Last Modified on Thursday, October 10, 2019