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Special Education
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General Guidance

Considerations for a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) - Addresses "free appropriate public education" as the foundational principle of IDEA and special education services in Iowa.

Distinguishing Schools and Programs: Decision Tree - Provides a decision tree to assist districts in understanding the related rules and ramifications surrounding whether the locations are a school or a program.

Placement of Students Ages 3-21 with Disabilities Under the IDEA - Guidance for teams making placement decisions for children with disabilities. It answers ten key questions about placement decisions, with supporting references from state and federal law.

Procedures and Guidelines for Assessment and Delivery of Special Education Services to Incarcerated Individuals in Iowa's Adult Correctional Facilities

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AEA Procedures for Substitute Decision-Making

Minimum Standards for AEA Procedures - Substitute Decision-Making for Special Education - Provides standards for area education agencies (AEAs) to appoint substitute decision makers for children with disabilities who are at least 18 years old but incapable of making educational decisions and do not have a guardian.

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Achieve Administrator Hints - Recorded 6-8-22. Four district Directors of Special Education discuss their experiences in being amongst the first districts to launch ACHIEVE. Discussion includes ideas and resources for preparing, launching and implementing ACHIEVE. 2022-06-08 PowerPoint and Ankeny ACHIEVE Summary

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Athletic Eligibility

Athletic Eligibility and Students with Disabilities - Guidance on applying the State rule on athletic eligibility for students receiving special education.

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Coordinated Early Intervention Services

Early Intervening Services Guidance Memo (August 2010) - Memo on permissible uses of 15% of Part B funds for coordinated early intervening services in general education.

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Every Student Succeeds Act

Children with Disabilities and 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program - Addresses questions about the participation of children with disabilities in 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and sets clear expectations.

The Relationship between Title I Services and Special Education Services - Explains the relationship between special education services and services under Title I of the ESSA.

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Grades, Diplomas & Transcripts

Diplomas/Certificates of Achievement

  • A student with a disability must meet all state graduation requirements to earn a regular high school diploma. Iowa Administrative Code 281-41.102(1)(c)(4). A district’s graduation policies may give the student’s IEP Team the authority to determine how state graduation requirements are met, but the IEP Team cannot excuse or waive a state graduation requirement. (A district’s graduation policies may give the IEP Team the authority to waive local district graduation requirements.)
  • An IEP Team may add additional requirements for graduation (participation in a Four Plus program) beyond those required by either the state or the district, if those additional requirements are necessary for a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • Granting a student in special education a Certificate of Achievement (or Completion or Attendance) is appropriate for a student who is not able to meet the requirements for a regular high school diploma. Bear in mind the following:
    • Such an award does not end the student’s right to receive a FAPE. The right to a FAPE ends only either when the student reaches age 21, or graduates with a regular high school diploma. The same is true if a special education student obtains a high school equivalent diploma (HSED); if the student is not yet age 21, he or she remains entitled to a FAPE from the district of residence.
    • A district is not required to end a student’s educational program when the student has met the district’s graduation requirements if the IEP Team has determined additional services are required for a child to receive a FAPE (unless the student has reached age 21).
    • A denial of a regular high school diploma to a student who has not met the requirements for that diploma is not a denial of a FAPE or a violation of civil rights laws.


  • If a student has received some reasonable accommodation, but the curriculum has not been modified for the student, the grade shall not reflect that an accommodation was made. The purpose of a reasonable accommodation is to level the playing field so that the grade will truly represent the student’s academic achievement. Another way of thinking about it is that the accommodation merely removes the disadvantage to the student of his/her disability (e.g., giving a student extra time to take a test).
  • If the curriculum has been modified, the report card and transcript may be coded or may include an asterisk to indicate a modified curriculum, but only if such coding is also used for general education students (because the report card cannot indicate that the student is a person with a disability unless the parent consents).
  • Grading on a pass/fail system is acceptable for a student with disabilities if participation in the P/F system is voluntary and the same P/F system is available to all students.
  • Using a grading scale that assigns lower grade weights to special education courses is not a violation of state or federal law as long as the lower weighting is the result of an assessment of actual differences in the difficulty of the course vis-Ă -vis a comparable regular education course, and is not related to the classification of students enrolled in the course. For example, a lower weighting scale for “Basic Science Applications” is permissible if Basic Science Applications is less rigorous than other science courses, but is not permissible if done because only special education students are enrolled in the course.
  • A student with an IEP who is enrolled in a general education course for reasons other than mastery of the content (e.g., to learn social skills or organizational skills) may be excluded from class grading and may be evaluated on the objectives and goals of the IEP for the course.


  • Modifications to curriculum content may be reflected in the transcript via some coding or an asterisk, but only if such coding is also used for general education students. Remember that the transcript cannot identify the student as a student with disabilities unless the parent (or student if student is at least 18 years old) consents.
  • Courses listed on a transcript may not be identified as special education courses.
  • Acceptable:
    • Practical Math Applications
    • Basic Social Studies
    • General Science
    • Language Arts Fundamentals
  • Not Acceptable:
    • Special Education Math
    • Resource Social Studies
    • Strat II/ID Science
    • Level II Language Arts
  • Modifications or exceptions to the grading scale may be identified via asterisks or special coding if done so as not to identify the student as having a disability (unless consent is given). For instance, it is permissible to indicate via an asterisk that the student received a modified grade or completed work at a lower grade level, but using asterisks cannot be limited to students with disabilities.

Graduation Guidance for IEP Teams - Provides an overview of state changes to graduation requirements for students eligible for special education and provides considerations for local districts and IEP teams.

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Nonpublic Schools & Special Education Services

Special Education and Nonpublic Schools Guidance

ICN Follow-Up Questions - Provides answers to the questions received during the 2010 ICN session regarding special education in nonpublic schools.

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Revocation of Consent for Continued Special Education Services - Addresses commonly asked questions that arise when a parent revokes consent for a child's continued special education services.

Revocation of Consent for Continued Special Education Services When Parents Disagree - Explains when one parent requests that special education services be ended, special education services must end, even when the other parent wants services to continue. Also provides guidance about how to determine whether a parent has sole power to make educational decisions.

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Safe Classroom Learning Environments

Safe Classroom Learning Environments Guidance (Senate File 2260) - Provides a comprehensive approach to create a safe learning space for students and teachers. The legislation offers competitive grants and reimbursement for therapeutic classrooms. School requirements include annual reporting of incidents of assault and violence and limitations on the use of classroom clears.

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School Behavioral Health Screening and Telehealth

School Behavioral Health Screening and Telehealth Guidance (Senate File 2261) - Expands the opportunities for students to access behavioral health services with a licensed professional mental health provider in a school setting via telehealth, with parent or guardian consent, and allows for school districts, accredited non-public schools, and Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to contract licensed mental health providers to conduct in-person, universal behavioral health screenings with parent or guardian permission.

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Service Animals

Revised Regulations on Service Animals for Districts, Area Education Agencies, and Accredited Nonpublic Schools - Addresses issues associated with the use of service animals in school districts, AEAs, and accredited nonpublic schools. This document is in response to the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) amended service animal regulations for titles II (districts and AEAs) and III (accredited nonpublic schools) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became effective on March 15, 2011.

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Special Education Finance

Special Education Services in Difficult Budgetary Times - Explains when it is and is not permissible to consider cost or cost savings when deciding programs for eligible individuals.

Student Activity Issues in Special Education - An excerpt related to students with disabilities taken from the Student Activity Fund FAQ state guidance.

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Special Education Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Special Education and Section 504 - Clarifies that parents who withdraw their children from special education are not entitled to demand Section 504 plans.


Iowa IDEA Information (i3)

Procedures, guidance and resources for early intervention and special education for parents, families and educators.

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