Annual review time can be stressful for parents and teachers.

Unfortunately, sometimes the child simply doesn’t qualify for what a parent is asking for.  It’s very important to understand your child’s test scores and to know the special education process.

Understanding Your Child’s Standardized Test Scores

The district will only provide special education services to a child who is significantly behind his peers. A child who is “Below Average” is NOT significantly delayed.

Parents are often unhappy with “Below Average” or “Low Average”, but those terms are still within the Average range.

First, a child meets eligibility criteria to be classified as a child who needs specialized instruction in order to access their curriculum. Then, the Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Preschool Special Education will classify that child into one of 13 different categories. They will develop an IEP  (Individualized Education Program).

The classification DOES NOT determine the level of services a child will receive. For example, a classification of Autism does not automatically mean the child will receive more services.

About the CSE and IEP

The Committee on Special Education (CSE or CPSE) discusses each child’s strength’s weaknesses, current levels of performance, and needs in order to make up the child’s Individualized Education Program. An IEP is a very strategic and well thought out LEGAL document containing the child’s:

  • Demographic information
  • Class size
  • Current Levels of Function separated into Social/Emotional, Physical, Academic, and Management categories. (These are sometimes called SPAMS or PLEPS for short.)
  • Medical Alerts such as medications, allergies, prosthetic devices, or diagnosis
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Goals that the child will be working on this year

The Committee on Special Education consists of a chairperson, general education teacher, special education teacher, parents, related service providers, and sometimes a parent member (another parent who can explain things or provide insight from a parents’ perspective).

Different tests use different measures or scores. Most educational standardized tests use standard scores and percentiles. A percentile is not the same as a “percent” on a test. A percentile of 50 is considered Average. As you can see from the illustration above,  percentiles in between the 16th percentile and the 84th fall within the average range.

Why the District Wants to Reduce Services

Parents often assume that a diagnosis (such as Autism or Cerebral Palsy), means the child will “always” qualify for services. But this isn’t the case.

There is no such thing as “lifetime” services. If a child isn’t progressing after a set amount of time, related services may be and should be decreased.

It’s definitely upsetting when your child’s team members don’t feel that your child is progressing. But keep in mind that they’ve been keeping data on your child’s goals. They’ve been working with your child, relying on their education and years of experience in their field to try to help your child as they’ve helped so many others.

When your child is being pulled out of the classroom for a service (for example, speech therapy), they are missing out on class time to participate in a therapy session. If they are not making progress, that isn’t benefiting them.


The district must follow the procedures of Least Restrictive Environment  (LRE) and Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

As a parent, you may feel that the school is “giving up” on your kid. That stinks.

It’s understandable that you feel that way. But there are other perspectives to consider:

  • Your child could be with their peers, socializing and participating in the class curriculum.
  • It’s not productive to keep working on a goal that a child is not making progress with. It can also be very frustrating for the child.
  • Although it’s very hard to admit, sometimes your child has reached their highest level of progress in a certain area.
  • Lack of progress can result in a reduction or discharge from services.

It’s hard to hear, hard to see, and upsetting all around. But sometimes, a child has made all the progress in a certain area that they are going to make.


The truth is that everyone wants the child to succeed

It’s no one’s “fault” that a child is struggling or not progressing as we’d all like to see.

AND some children just aren’t good students. That’s ok. They will excel in something else besides academics.

The purpose of the CSE meeting is to check the progress of a child.  The team carefully reviews the Individualized Education Program.   They make changes as necessary so the child is set up for success.  They also need to follow the state  and district rules about eligibility criteria, Least Restrictive Environment, and 

For parents who are concerned and want more services, this is the time to ask! You are your child’s advocate and that is a very important job.  It’s Ok to be pushy, don’t feel guilty about the CSE thinking you are “too much”.

Always present your concerns professionally and calmly, but understand that your child simply may not meet the criteria to qualify for the service you are asking for.



More Information on Special Education:

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