Can a Child with an IEP Fail?

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Does having an IEP guarantee my son will not fail?

The answer to this particular question is No. An IEP does not guarantee that a child will not fail.

If a child has a disability and needs special education services, the school and parents meet to develop an IEP.

The IEP is an educational plan that should be tailored to meet your child’s unique needs. The program, or plan, describes what a child needs to enable him to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.

The IEP does not guarantee that your child won’t fail, although it is unusual for a child with an IEP to fail.

On the flipside of this, a different question.

The school is denying my child services under Section 504 because he is not failing.  Does a student have to be failing to get a 504 plan or an IEP?

The answer to this question is No.  A child does not have to be failing to qualify for services under Section 504 or IDEA. The law does not mention “failing” as a criteria for services under Section 504 or IDEA.

If a child has a disability that limits a major life activity (such as reading and learning), he or she should be eligible for 504 protections.

Recently, the ADA was amended and renamed ADAAA. Section 504 was amended so that it incorporates the ADAAA and applies to public school students under Section 504. See

Take a look at the articles and resources on this page:

Your Challenge

If you have a child that is not failing but needs services, the law is on your side.  But that is not enough. You need to be a salesman and portray your child and his situation so school people want to help. This is your challenge.

Read our “Letter to the Stranger” article to see how a parent changed
their message, and in doing so, got her son the help he needed:

  1. I have a 7th grade son whom attends Middle School in TN and is currently failing Math and has an IEP. I was going to change him to another slower paced class, but apparently that didn’t work out as the teacher doesn’t teach 7th grade curriculum and there are no other classes available for him. I hate to put him back in his previous math class as it is way to fast paced not to mention that my son can’t comprehend the material and don’t want to set him up for failure. Any suggestions?

  2. I have a nephew that is now 19 years old that had an IEP in High School but his mother never followed through after High School Graduation… Is there any possibility to get him back on track with his IEP goals even though he has been out of the program for 1 year?

        • Possibly those or more appropriate ones, based on the state’s age that school special ed services end. Your Patent Training & Information Center can better answer this question. They also work with individuals with disabilities to age 26.

      • Hi Charles, I too am curious about this. After high school graduation, who in the community can we use to help with IEP goals?

        • Parent training & Information centers can help with this. After the end of school services, services are provided by other state, & federal agencies.

      • No, he is currently not in any sort of training or college – he is sitting at home jobless because he keeps getting fired from jobs for being too “slow”… 🙁 And his Mom has no clue on how to get him any help… It is a very sad situation…

        • I’m not sure who will be available in the school system to help with IEP goals since he has graduated, but the documentation may be helpful if there is another community organization.

  3. I have the most AMAZING hero that carries my heart I always wanted children and then finally Chance was born VERY difficult oregnancy and VERY attached to his mom …. He also has severe out toeing and hates school since kindergarten …. He is now a junior in high school ….. Once he reached high school he got severely bullied so we pulled jim out of the regular high school and put him in a school that mainly deals with mental health about a month at the end of 10th grade and then covid hit…. he has excelled with online learning…. Now he wants to return to his high school to graduate with his friends …. The altrrnative school gave me such greif about wanting to fullfill jis wishes that I felt bullied after the 4th meeting to discuss it NOW we find out that he is completely behind.

  4. My son is a senior in Florida and has an IEP. He’s been virtual all year. I was just told that he may not graduate because he is failing Honors English; well first, why the heck didn’t they pull him out of “Honors” English and put him in “Regular” English? Second, if a student is supposed to be in attendance for 180 days, why is that not true for being a Senior? He has accommodations on his IEP and he is not being given additional time, the quarter isn’t even over. Isn’t that a violation of his IEP?

    • Jennifer, There are a number of things wrong here. I suggest contacting your state parent training and information center. They will know more about how your state, & schools do things, & what you can do to help him graduate. In some cases a student can complete a course during the summer or take a test that they have mastered the basic content of a course.

  5. We live in TX and my son has an IEP. He is a Jr in high school. He was held back in 2nd grade & I’m afraid that he’s going to be held back again. He’s having so much trouble & his teachers are not helping him at all! They treat him like a regular ed. kid that is goofing off. They give him a hard time. I have emailed them constantly and have to remind each teacher that he has an IEP. The teachers are always so hard on him & I often wonder why. My brother has a son with an IEP as well, but he goes to a different school. He said that the teachers at his son’s school are very accommodating to his son & always follow his IEP. He said he thinks it’s because my son plays sports & they forget that he’s struggling in life. I’m so stressed. Do you have any advice for me?

    • I suggest writing the district special ed director & describe what is going on with your child & your concerns. You can request that they attend an ARD/IEP meeting regarding your concerns. I work for the TX Parent Training & information Center. We have staff all over TX who can help & support you. Check to find the person in your area, or you can contact me.

  6. My daughter gets pulled out 2x per day for all 5 days. One of those pull outs conflicts with Science lessons. The school has said that she will not learn science and won’t be required to take any exams or get a grade on that subject. I don’t want her to miss an entire subject like this. Is something like this allowed?

    • It might be, based on your state rules, & the grade a student is in. Obviously, the school must think it is allowed. You can ask the district to show the state rules, & district policy that allows this. You could also check with the state educational agency.

  7. My son has recently finished 6th grade and does have an IEP and actually had one since he started public schooling. For the first 3 quarters he excelled in all but math, but still maintained at least a passing grade. However, after the school closure and online schooling he just could not comprehend how to even try to solve equations that were not visibly taught before said assignment therefore he failed 4th quarter miserably. Trying to find the answer as to weather he has been promoted or held back

    • Holding your child back for failing one class does not seem like an effective strategy and may hurt his mental health. I would request a meeting with the special education team to discuss a plan to remediate what he has lost during the next school year while promoting him on to the next grade.

  8. Question: My son just failed his Adapted Math class again. He has dyscalculia. He will be a senior next school year and is behind 15 credits. When asked if he can go to summer school, the IEP team stated that they do not offer the same classes to earn credits that they do in the regular school year and he can take a credit recovery class or ESY to earn elective credits not math credits. However my son is in an adapted math class, there is no way he can understand the material that is geared for general education students in the online credit recovery. Can they do this? Every other student has the opportunity to make up classes they failed credits in summer school, how is that equal access? Now my son may not graduate on time.

  9. My daughter has been at this one school since November. She has an IEP and her teacher told me she hadn’t been adjusting well. She struggles with math. Her teacher has also told me she has an attitude and is a bad influence on other students. She goes to tutoring every day and she also never misses school. Can they hold my daughter back?

  10. My daughter has an IEP and has been at this school since November. She hasn’t really adjusted really well. She is in 6th grade and struggles in math. She is really good with mulication and division. Her teacher has told me her attitude is bad and she Is being a bad influence. She also goes to tutoring and never misses school. Can they hold her back?

    • Possibly. Find the district policy on promoting students. However, with school closures, districts will have to decide how to handle promotions, & how to help all students catching up with what they missed. Try to gather information to try to determine what might be causing the behavior the teacher is reporting. Have you heard comments like this from previous teachers? Are other current teachers saying this? What is your daughter’s perspective on this? You can also ask the special ed department provide additional support to her & the teacher.

  11. My son has an IEP since he started elem. He is now in the fourth and is very behind in reading , writing and math. They will not fail him because of his IEP but I just don’t understand how this helps him. We’ve had numerous meeting to change accomodations as far as extra instructional one on one time, he never misses school and goes to tutoring. Is it the school that is failing him? He is not thriving. What more can I request in his upcoming ARD?

    • ARD = IEP in TX I am with the TX Parent Training & Information Project funded by the federal dept. of ed. Check our website for our staff person that works with your area, & contact them. There is no cost & staff have a lot of expertise. TX law says that schools are to provide intensive/accelerated instruction for students like your son to help them catch up. This is in addition to the requirements of IDEA.

  12. I am a regular ed. teacher I have 15 students in my class, 8 of those have IEP’s ,is this legal? There is also a teacher who is to help me TEACH she give the students the answers rather than then teach them.

          • But whàt about cases where half or majority is SPED and there is no co-teacher?

          • If there is no co-taught teacher then it is not a co-taught class. Perhaps it is a class where the child’s IEP does not call for them to receive specially designed instruction. Otherwise, if the child’s IEP calls for a co-taught placement then there should be a special education teacher in the room.

  13. Question- student is on an IEP, recieving services, IEP is being followed. Student is refusing to do work or take tests/ quizzes (even when having them read aloud). Parent is disinterested because student is passing the 1 class they need to graduate. Thoughts? Help?

    • How is he doing in other classes? Shorten his day, put him in classes he likes, use him as a mentor/tutor for some student. Let him be a helper in an elementary class or life skills class.

  14. My son is a 9th grader with an IEP in reading, writing, math, organization and study skills. He had an SLD eligibility. He also has a medical condition that has caused many absences the fall semester. He has a arms length list of accommodations and modifications. He has a medical leave on file one day a week.
    His ASL gen ed class failed him although he had an A at progress monitoring time. His Sped English class gave him a D and wrote in the comments that with better attendance his grade would be higher.
    Can this really happen? What is my best recourse? The F reflects that the accomos and mods werent followed and the D and the comment reflect that they are discriminating against my son for his medical condition and his absences caused by his health.

  15. can a 2nd grader be held back due to reading. He has already been held back in kindergarten. now they want him held in 2nd. has an IEP and in special ed class

    • This would depend on your state and district rules. You do not say if your child has a disability. In this situation it seems like a referral for special ed testing is appropriate. Either way the district has a responsibility to provide appropriate reading instruction, & retaining them again is not likely to do that. On the main webpage here you can google articles on retaining a student, & find information about the problems with doing this.

  16. If a student is attempting to do their best on a test and gives it a teacher to recheck. Is the teacher allowed to say with one they needed to go back and look over to try an obtain an better score/ grade? If it states in his/her IEP will have an opportunity to pass unit exams.

  17. I am a middle school teacher in a public school district with an inclusion model for SPED. In one class I have 30 8th grade boys with a 10% IEP population and a further 20% 504 population. In this class, there are 4 boys who do not have special needs but are constant behavior issues and a distraction to the class. They aren’t being consequenced by admins for disrupting the class, and thus have escalated their behavior. They will take up a good 60% of my class time between having to redirect and wait for an admin to remove the students. I have been attempting to work with admin to mediate this situation and they have so far done nothing. Is there an argument that our school is not meeting the needs of our IEP students by allowing this behavior?

    • I suggest studying your district policies, & procedures regarding this situation. There may be some help you are not aware of. In TX, if a teacher requests a student be removed, the principal must do so. Districts should have a complaint process for taking complaints above the principal.

  18. I go into classrooms to help people, and I walk around to provide assistance to all so that the person on my caseload does not feel conspicuous. I encounter students who are playing games on the computer, are on a phone, or talking to friends. When I try to re-focus the student, they look at me like I am crazy. When I pull them out to discuss grades, they act as though there is no problem. I show them the receipts. If something missing, and the child is in danger of failing I contact the parent via email.
    I have provided all the students with his or her accommodations, and all of the teachers as well. Yet about 25% of the students have less than a 2.0 GPA. What am I doing wrong?

    P.S. I have 35 students on my caseload.

    • I suspect these students are middle- high school age or near those age ranges. Many students don’t want the attention of receiving services. It is their age and stage of life. Peer pressure plays a major role. They don’t want to feel stigmatized or singled out. Yet, some students (particularly LD, dyslexic, ADHD) thrive in specialized co-taught classrooms where experiential learning is the focus. They do get mainstreamed in many other classes but the goal is to target the deficits and strengths in the specialized classrooms to ensure academic progress. They want to improve and set goals for their future in a safe setting where their deficits are not ridiculed. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a committed school district to service all learners.

    • Regina, I wanted to also add that there are also subcultures that exist in some classrooms. You mentioned that the students seems annoyed with you at times and are on their phones, etc. Well, what are the roles of the classroom teachers who should act as your collaborators? You should not be a “side act” who comes into the classroom. Students know when “side acts” come in and the classroom teachers treat that person as a “side act.” It seems like there is more going on than you trying to do your job. It is the culture of the school or at certain classrooms that may impede your job.

  19. i’m new to this entire situation. i have a six year old who i spent half the school year with trying to get an evaluation done on. i honestly believe he needed speech therapy but the lady who did the testing hardly spoke english herself. he only qualified for SPED academically & it was only for 30 minutes a day. i began requesting he be tested shortly after school started. i was told it would take a long process & he probably wouldn’t get in this year. he didn’t get anything done until around dec/jan. he failed the entry test to advance to first grade & was told he needed to attend summer school to take it again. he went from 8-12 beg of june till the end. he reads fine at home with my husband but doesn’t seem to be doing ok at school. any advice on what to do?

  20. My daughter is in 6th grade and has an IEP. My daughter has maintained a B average the entire school year. There is 3 days left of school and she comes home with a letter stating she has to attend summer school, due to her not receiving the required score on the NYC state math test. Not a happy camper because I received no information that her promotion was in doubt. Secondly, I feel the school is setting children up for failure and retention because of their IEP’s. A B average is not even considered. Just don’t think one test should determine if a child gets promoted to the next grade or not. I have called the school to reach out, but no one has returned my call. I will be calling the school on Monday.Pretty familiar with NYC promotion standards for children with disabilities.

  21. My daughter is in 2nd grade and was put in an IEP part way through her second trimester, but it, both, was not held up fully and was not corrected until part way through her third trimester, at which time the teacher indicated that she did not feel she would meet her benchmarks in state tests. She has both dyslexia and ADHD. She is extremely intelligent but slower than the other students and does not test well. So, while she is passing and many times smarter than her classmates, they want to retain her because of a benchmark that does not indicate her true intelligence. Her grades are all passing… I have been called into a meeting and I need to be prepared with how to address this. HELP

  22. My son is in the 10th grade an has an IEP and is deficient in math. He struggles with addition and subtraction but he is doing geometry. The current teacher is stating that he is refusing to do the work when he just don’t understand it at all. Now she has failed him with a 49 percent and said he has had plenty of time to make up his work but was never pulled out for help in their credit recovery program. I think their is laws against this. I need some advise on this one please.

    • Hello Linda my son is also 10th grade and his Chemistry teacher is failing him using the same excuses. I’m at loss as well. I just put a phone call in to my sons case manager. I’m hoping to get to the bottom of this. I was told that if the children’s needs on their IEP are met then they will not fail. I know my son has been ignored this year and that’s about to change.

      • IDEA rules (300.320a)(4) say that the IEP is to be designed so the student makes progress in the general ed curriculum. So it appears that the school is not providing FAPE to the student. The teacher is placing blame on the child rather than figuring out how to help the student make progress. If the special ed director is not able to get help for your child, the dispute resolution process are available to you.

  23. My almost 12 year old has ASD, ADHD, Anxiety, OCD, LDs, and SPD. He cannot handle transitions. He is currently in an in-district SPED school with his own 1-on-1 behavior therapist all day long every day. He is doing much better than he ever has regarding learning. It took him 2 years at this school in this program to get here.
    Due to his current success with learning only, the district wants to suddenly throw him into a typical elementary school SPED class for 2 months and then place him in the typical middle school right away. How can they expect a child who took 2 whole years to get to this point to (1) adapt to a new elementary school, new teachers, new way of learning, etc. in less than a month and then (2) move him again into a middle school environment 2 months later? Please help!

  24. I was born with autism and it was very severe when I was younger. I’m 17 (almost 18) and I’m a junior in high school but with around almost 9 credits which it’s sophomore level and I’ve been under IEP since middle school after having therapists at a young age. My school literally does nothing with no matter what my transcript looks like or if I’m passing or not, they just keep moving me forward. I can write very clear and my grammer can suck sometimes but distractions from other students with like being loud or whatever, it’s hard for me to focus with what I’m trying to finish and it’s hard to do it at home cause I have to deal with a single mom and two little siblings to watch and I have a job too. My counsler wouldn’t let me take Phoniex so I could make up credits. What should I do?

  25. I work with a student with severe ADHD. It severely impedes his reading abilities. An IEP was developed this past school year, which included provisions for modifying content, timelines, etc. Despite this he receives failing grades because he does not turn assignments in on time. We addressed this with the school stating that his inattention to time management is part of his ADHD issue. We asked for staff to monitor that he stays on task, completes assignments and also that someone insure that he brings homework assignments with him when he leaves school, as he often forgets to pack them. Despite these requests the school fails to monitor and hence he winds up turning assignments in one or more days late. Be sure of this he is given half credit and an F grade is assigned. Is this legal?

    • This would depend on state rules, and district policy. Schools should focus on students learning and not on whether they turn work in on time. But getting them to recognize this, may take involving the special ed director or using some of the dispute resolutions processes. The state parent training and information project may be able to give you some guidance.

    • If he is in middle school school or high school,”‘Who is staff?” Sounds like an easy question but staff may be 5-7 teachers spread in and 1-5 paras( if any) to help him over several classes–consistency??? (hum!!). Can staff monitor if ONE person tracks the student carefully in terms of work, notating the agenda, distractions, even working with him on managing his locker and meeting him at the end of the day to insure materials are in his backpack? Who monitors at home? Regardless of age and grade, there are other ways to creatively work with a student with severe ADHD. The team can think outside the box. Experiential learning with less homework incorporating curriculum concepts may help the student embrace concepts and make progress.

    • A state or school district could have a rule saying this. If a student is struggling learning skills, & course curriculum, school staff and the IEP team should be revise the instructional strategies being used.

  26. my child is in IEP classes for reading, writing, and math. He always brings home F’s yet the schools continue to pass him onto the next grade. He is in the fourth grade but on a kindergarten level for every class. Even though we work with him at home the school still passes him onto the next grade. WHY?

  27. My daughter is 18 and a senior she has nt passed 3 of the OGT test to graduate. She has IEP. With having an IEP does she have to pass those test in order to graduate?

  28. What can we do if a student with an IEP keeps getting passed to the next grade even though they can’t read? The said student is 16 years old and can not read at all but is graded with A’s.

    • You can request accelerated instruction during the school year, & summer to address his deficits, & reading. Also study the data. State, & local testing should show how he compares to his peers. You can also request an independent education evaluation (IEE) to obtain additional data. If you are not ok with the district’s response, using the state dispute resolution processes is an option. Your state parent training and information project can assist you.

    • I assume there is a reading goal in the IEP – if so, what did they say for the “Present Level of Academic Achievement…”? which is the basis for determining the new Measurable Goal. And then below the section for Measurable Goals/Benchmarks, what “METHODS” are they using to measure his/her progress? THIS is the section I would ask them about. It is about what they did to monitor progress and it contains the DATA used to report progress. If this data doesn’t match the reported progress (and the magical pass through to the next grade), someone’s got some explaining to do!

  29. I adopted my nephew and he has an IEP plan in place. I don’t understand something, he has autism and ADHD and he is A B honor roll but, he is at a level one?!?! Please can someone please explain this to me.

    • Sometimes teachers give grades based on how hard the child tries, their behavior, etc. not on the same factor they use for students without an IEP.

  30. If my son has a iep and the school has a rule if you get kept back two times your out . Does he has the right to stay in that same school

  31. I have a ninth grader that has had an IEP since kindergarten and has been denied to have someone verbally read the information to her for various different reasons. Just this last year for her recertification I was finally told that they could get someone to read to her but she ended up failing the 9th grade what can I do?

    • Use the state office for dispute resolution or you can request for mediation with the school. Also ask for an IEP meeting to look over the goals along with accommodations and modifications. These may need to change. You can also consider doing a Due process with the school.

    • That’s not fair my boys (twins)been on a iep since school there in the 9th grade as well but in k12 telling me they felled the 9th and they have speech problems they don’t give them the help they need either this is there first year in k12 who can i call or talk to.

    • Why did they hold her back? What services is she getting? Was she receiving those services? You need to find out what happened. It sound stop me and could be wrong that the IEP was not followed. Request for an IEP meeting to resolve this issue also.

  32. My son is 16 years old and has an IEP: he is on the spectrum. He completed the courses for 9th grade successfully with As and Bs. He was hospitalized and could not take the Spring semester classes. He has been transferred to another school that offers an ideal environment for students on the spectrum. The new school is telling me that the credits/classes he took in the fall are not accepted because he needed to complete the whole year for those credits to count. He will therefore be repeating the 9th grade. Something just doesn’t sound right. The school he attended and the new school are both in NYS. Can you advise me.

    • Was the course a year long course or a semester course? If year long, then I would think the school is correct and he did not complete the course. If it was only a semester long course, then I would think that he had completed it.

    • Did he complete course work while in the hospital? That should count towards him completing the grade

  33. Rip I just failed my 10th grade English class and I have an IEP. I fell behind and I couldn’t catch up, and the pace was just too fast, I have no time management skills, I shutdown under pressure and adhd makes it hard to do work after school; even though I take meds for it. Also I have to take two English classes since I go to a vocational school and Massachusetts makes it mandatory to have a certain number of hours in subjects; causing two English and algebra classes in my schools sophomore class. I wish summer school wasn’t mandatory, I understand whats going on in english, it’s just I can’t turn in work as fast as they give it out, it’s too much. This kinda makes me feel dead inside ;-;

    • First do not beat yourself up and feel dead. What does your IEP say with goals to time management? If there are none then its time for you and your parents to call and IEP meeting have those goals implemented into your IEP. There also needs to be accommodations put into place where they will accept your work late. Good luck to you!!! You are a bright and vibrant young lady and you will do well!!

  34. My son will be in ninth grade for the second time now and will be repeating 9th grade next year for the third time! He has had an IEP for years. Needless to say he is not academically inclined and I feel that the school is quick to blame my child for not performing when it’s ultimately their job to help figure out how to enable him and teach him in a way he could learn. Am I wrong on this?

    • Hello James I don’t if you are aware but by law the school can not retain your child without your permission. They can suggest but the decision is yours he has the right to move on with his peers. The school is totally responsible for your child downfall which will and can cause really bad behavior in your child, bullying and and all that comes with it because it not made obvious your child suffers and the school still get paid by his presence.

  35. My child is 15 with an IEP for a specific learning disability, he is in a co-taught English/Reading class to meet his needs but it failing every subject. I have his annual meeting coming up and looking for some suggestions or advice in how to increase services in other areas to meet his needs. I need him to enjoy school and believe the only class he feels confident in is his co-taught class.

  36. My son is 12 and has an IEP, suffers from Ear Infections (Tubes 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade & TMJ – wont give us a 504 asked by his pediatrician because they said it’s in his IEP), he’s only on a 3rd & 4th grade reading level and my son and I both want him to stay behind because he doesn’t feel he is learning. The school says he can’t stay behind because I will damage his learning. They won’t give him a professional tutor either. He also suffers from anxiety from bullying at school and kids that just won’t leave him alone. Plus he suffers from PTSD.

  37. I’m realizing that it’s more about money than helping a child. My son has an IEP in language. He’s failing that class. I see no changes, lack of change and attitude from sped teacher. I’m a parent that is truly disgusted by what I see. No solutions, no changes. Red tape and a system that is allowing our kids to fall in the cracks. Some great teachers are apparent, but some don’t care at all.

  38. My daughter is in the 4th grade we moved to another state in mid Oct she was transferred with a full I.E.P already it is now March and we just just had our meeting here they did another full evaluation on her informed me she is below grade level and want to retain her. And they are not equipped with the integrated services here she needs. 5 months to evaluate a child who is now behind.?? She was transferred with a full I.E.P help plz….

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