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Understanding Evaluations & Eligibility

Per federal and state rules and regulations, for a student to be eligible for special education services and supports, the student must have both a disability and a need for specially designed instruction in order to access and make progress in the general education curriculum.  AEAs, local districts, and families work together to complete comprehensive evaluations that examine whether a student needs specially designed instruction due to an educational disability. Comprehensive evaluations are completed to determine both initial and continued eligibility for special education.

Initial Evaluations

In Iowa, the process for identifying a learner as a “child with a disability” is known as “Child Find”. The Child Find process involves the suspicion of a disability, the completion of a comprehensive evaluation with parental consent, and the determination of eligibility by an evaluation team.


IDEA requires eligible individuals to be reevaluated at least every three years. The purpose of a reevaluation is to determine if a student’s needs have changed and if the student continues to be eligible for special education. Reevaluations may be completed sooner per teacher or parent request or when an IEP team determines additional information is needed to develop an IEP.

Exiting Special Education Services

Typically, eligibility for special education ends when a student graduates with a regular high school diploma, reaches the maximum age for eligibility (21yrs), the IEP team determines that an individual is no longer eligible, or the parent or age of majority student revokes their consent for special education and related services. IEP teams may also need to consider exiting special education services under other circumstances.