What does the law say?
To qualify for special education your child must have a disability AND that disability must adversely affect the child's ability to make effective educational progress. Schools can deny special education where the lack of educational progress is due to limited English proficiency or lack of appropriate instruction.
What is effective educational progress?
The legal definition varies across the country.
Here in Massachusetts, effective educational progress is defined as:
Documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social/emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to chronological age and developmental expectations, the individual educational potential of the students, and the learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the curriculum of the district. The general education program includes preschool and early childhood programs offered by the district, academic and non-academic offerings of the district, and vocational programs and activities. 603 CMR 28.02(17).
It is important to note that Massachusetts' definition of educational progress is not limited to traditional academics, but specifically includes social/emotional development. Unfortunately, some school officials do not understand this, and refuse special education services because the child is getting good grades.
If you feel your child was erroneously found ineligible for special education, contact a Massachusetts special education lawyer for advice.