Changing Tracks: My Son is Failing – Despite his IEP

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I read your article “Can a Child With an IEP Fail?”  My son has LD and is in high school. He has an IEP, but the school has not evaluated him since 4th grade. He failed algebra and English, even though he had an instructional aide. I’ve questioned the school about the appropriateness and effectiveness of an IEP that allows a child to fail. I asked for an aide for summer school, but the school refused.

Your son had an aide this year. Despite having an aide, he failed English and algebra.

  • How will an aide help your son pass English and algebra in summer school?
  • What education and training are aides required to have?
  • What is the difference between an aide an a highly qualified teacher?

Kids with learning disabilities have complex needs. They kids need teachers who are trained in effective, research based methods to teach skills like English and algebra. 

How Will an Aide Meet Your Child’s Needs?

Providing an aide again is not the answer to your child’s  problems. Your child needs to be taught by a skilled teacher, not an aide.

What evidence do you have that the aide is/was qualified to teach Algebra, higher math, and English?  Why would a highly qualified person work as an aide when most schools can’t find enough highly qualified math teachers?

Get a Comprehensive Psycho-Educational Evaluation

You say the school has not evaluated your child since 4th grade. If the IEP team does not have current data, they don’t know where he is functioning, what his needs are, and what services he needs.

Your  first step is to get a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation by an evaluator in the private sector who has expertise in learning disabilities.

Learn About Your Child’s Skills

It sounds like you and the school members of your child’ team don’t know what his skills are or what he needs in an educational program. You need to get a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation on your son ASAP. Get an evaluator in the private sector who is knowledgeable about specific learning disabilities. I advise you to contact the International Dyslexia Association at

That organization can provide you with contact information for evaluators in your area. After testing is complete, the evaluator needs to meet with the IEP team, and describe your son’s unique needs the educational program he needs, and what will happen if the school does not provide that program.

Revise the IEP

Your son needs a SMART IEP with goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and relevant, and time-specific.

Since the program and services provided in your child’s IEP is not meeting your son’s needs, you and the other members of his team need to revise the IEP. The team cannot develop an appropriate IEP until they have accurate information from a comprehensive evaluation.

Because my son has was doing so poorly, he changed to an occupational diploma and is now working toward an alternate curriculum.

IDEA requires schools to provide a free appropriate public education “designed to meet the child’s unique needs and prepare him for further education, employment and independent living.” Is the school providing him with a FAPE as described in the law? How will changing the curriculum and type of diploma meet his needs for the future?

It’s surprising that your son is hasn’t given up. He changed his diploma track because the school didn’t teach him the skills he needs to pursue a regular diploma.

Your son needs your help. Your first step is to get a comprehensive evaluation by an expert in the private sector who has expertise in reading and language problems. After that, you and the other members of the team need to develop an IEP that meets his unique needs.

  1. Well it looks like parents will have to become teachers too because the teachers can’t help students with learning disabilities. I already home schooled my daughter for a whole year and got better grades when she was in public schools. She returned to public schools with her brother who happens to have an IEP too. Once again we are struggling, so yep definitely going back to homeschool. Why do we have schools if we have to teach our own kids ?

    • It probably has to do with class size if your child is in a regular classroom setting. It’s much easier to teach one on one.

    • Exactly. Then when you share with them what worked they look at you as if you have no idea of what you are talking about.

  2. I can’t believe all the blaming of the schools! People who work in the schools are there because they want to help kids, but when parents have kids with a disability all they want is to have their kids “fixed”. What are the parents doing at home to help their kids? Most do nothing. Stop putting all the blame on academic institutions because you didn’t have a perfect child. Yours are not the only kids in a school. Schools have your child about 6.5 hours a day. They try and do what they can. The most successful parents I have seen are the ones that realize a school’s limitations and who also take the bull by the horns and do everything they can for their kids outside of the school system. They truly work with the academic institutions, not blame them for everything that goes wrong.

    • That is so untrue that most do nothing! We struggle every day, it’s constantly on our minds, always trying, retrying, and always searching. What you say in the end is true- Schools cannot accommodate most kids with special needs. It’s a joke to think that they can. They are designed for the child who needs minimal intervention. If your child is going to succeed, you HAVE to look elsewhere. If you have the resources, use them. Don’t expect your school (most especially a high school) to find your magic bullet.

      • Hi Michelle, Schools could do a better job. The problem is how schools distribute their money. Funding for K-12 education was $14,848 per student; K-12 public spending was $12,624 per student in 2018-19. (Yes, I know, there’s a big gap).

        I’m writing an article about a pro-child decision in a dyslexia case, OR v. Clark County School District. I’m fine-turning the article but you can get it here:

        A child needed Orton-Gillingham trained teachers. The district had no one who was trained to provide Orton-Gillingham. The judge took evidence about the cost to train teachers: “Training in the Orton-Gillingham method requires one week of training at a cost of between $1,500 and $2,000, after which the trainee must complete a practicum of 36-60 hours of supervised one-on-one time with a student at an additional cost, that may be completed up to a year after the training.”

        The Judge wrote, “this training and the associated methodologies would have benefited many other students, including those with dyslexia, and could have been easily disseminated throughout the District using “train the trainer” sessions.”

        The parents offered to pay for teacher training. The district refused the offer.

        The judge held that the district violated the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA and ordered the district to reimburse the parents’ costs and damages of $456,990.60.

      • Michelle I 1000% agree. We are pro active parents and when we try to work together with the schools it’s very difficult. The services even with the $17,000 to $30,000 they are getting for kids like mine provide very poor education. He is not able to learn.
        At home for people like Luz we actually try to help after the school has him for about 7 hours and he is behind in every single class having not done much. Then we spend a fortune with one on one tutors. We would do much better directing the 17K wasted in public schools toward one on one tutoring and help from skilled people used to working with a kid that has a disability. The public school is failing kids like mine despite our parental involvement.

        • Agree 100%. Schools are receiving tons of money from the feds to be used for tutoring and other evidence-based programs to help kids recover from the pandemic. Your state Dept of Ed should have published a plan about how they plan to spend the billions they receive.

    • Hmmm what do we do as parents? Spend thousands we do not have on tutors for the schools failure to educated my kid. They are not able to do much honestly and we have struggled to get help for years. Success with A’s and B’s is seen with smaller group learning and tutors and failure happens at the public school. Give me my tax dollars and allow me to actually help my child. Years for failure should now allow us as involved parents spending tons of money and trying to educate again after 7 hours wasted at school. It does not work for my child and I know I am not alone.

    • Are you actually for real? How dare you. I actually have done everything including paying out of pocket for help. My kids are both adhd, both dyslexic both are struggling in school. I don’t blame the wonderful educators, but I know when things get overwhelming that my kids fall through the cracks. If my kid has an F IN A SUBJECT THEN THE IEP IS NOT DOING THEIR JOB

  3. My son is in 8th grade and is failing all his classes. His IEP is for OHI (medication resistant ADHD) and EI. They added EI to his IEP before 7th to try to signal to his teachers he needs more help. Despite numerous psychiatrists and medication regimens throughout his life, there’s nothing that has worked. He can’t start assignments, can’t complete assignments, doesn’t do homework, can’t focus, needs alot of help, he missed 2.5 years of academics when our district sent him out to a behavior school when he was 8 stating they can’t teach him. He struggled significantly prior and after going there. He has trouble reading, significant trouble writing, but he has above average verbal skills. His psychologist said he has LD but they way the school tests and rates it, they say no LD.

  4. My son is 6 years old and his current elementary school says he is in danger of failing 1st grade because they don’t know how to teach him, keep him focused and motivated. He struggles to complete things with or without help he doesn’t want to work in groups he has to be isolated and gave one on one attention just to try to get anything done. He in a class with 18 kids and the teacher seems clueless they suggest a smaller setting and possibly trying reward options I’m not sure this is going to work. I don’t believe this school is a good first for my kid it’s a general education setting and a special ed teachers sees him a few hours a day I think he needs a full on special education class setting all day. My son is having emotional problems he is scared he is sad he cries going to school

  5. My Granddaughter had the diagnosis of asd . She has had an IEP since pre K and early intervention. Always a great student and mostly compliant with her work. Now in 7th grade, she is not doing work, not handing in whats done, and is being bullied all the time. Her father is not being notified for days of any issues. Her temper has also gotten short. Any suggestions?

    • 7th grade is a jump for some students as well as 9th grade. Peer relationships change and peers who may have been her friends in the early years have now “cliqued” off. Social media plays a major role for many at this age. Is she involved in any school activities or outside activities? Are (art, music, gym) more stressful due to the larger numbers and mixed groups? Bullying occurs a lot in these specials as less eyes are on the students at times. Does she spend part of the day in a contained classroom for special help and what does that look like for her, does she feel more safe or more isolated in smaller groups? Is she falling behind due to executive functioning issues and stress? These are the teen years some typical behaviors and some more complex for her with school stress.

  6. My daughter’s school did not comply with any parts of her IEP. Only one teacher even cared to attend the initial meeting. Not one encouraged her through the year and her biweekly meeting with the counsler specified in the iep never happened. She has now failed the year and needs to repeat it and they are requesting payment for services. I am not sure arranging another meeting is worthy. Any insight ?

  7. 12 yrs ago we adopted our son, we fought for 3 years to get him put on an IEP, we saw things the school did not. My son has ADHD and about 5 years ago was diagnosed with FAS (fetal alcohol spectrum). jumping to today. Today we are having a IEP meeting to update his IEP for a few items. currently he is failing 5 of 6 classes and is in the 10th grade. The teachers are blaming us for him not doing his homework (he stands over us at about 6′). When they test for the ETR’s he’s at grade level. All through his IEP it states he tests at grade level but does not show it class. He refuses to do his homework at home (become argument), he will not hand in any of the homework he completes it. the school in my opinion is not looking at info i am giving them on FAS to help them understand.

    • He’s your son, you’re afraid of him, but you expect a teacher to deal with the problem? No honey, it’s not the school. It’s your child’s lack of respect. My son is also adhd as well as LD. he does his homework and plays sports. He also has utmost respect for us and his teachers.

      • Wow, you sound really ignorant. How about approaching the situation with a bit more compassion? Their son is huge, #1. Who wouldn’t be intimidated? Second, he has FAS – Do you even know what this can mean for his life? It’s WORSE by 100 miles than ADHD, and this is coming from a parent with a child struggling with ADHD. You need to check yourself. You seem awfully self-righteous coming from a position of ignorance…. Maybe you should start with a simple google search of FAS and what effects it can have on a person and I’m willing to bet these people are thanking the lord that their son isn’t mentally retarded.

    • Due to homework being a source of major arguing at home, and nothing gained by doing it, we added in to the IEP that all homework would be completed at school. I was shocked they added it but we were honest in that we would NOT be doing any at home as it destroys our relationship and only ends in anger and tears hours and hours later.

  8. my son graduated high school with an IEP in place. He was offered a full scholarship for baseball, and lost it due to his grades. went to a community college for a year failed out. went to check out post grad schools, and They said my son never graduated based on his IEP. nO school would look at him based on his grades. even though he was amazing athlete. he is in a prepschool, they also said he never should’ve graduated. They took him because they loved him and they wanted him to succeed. I have invested a lot of money, Do I have any legal rights?

    • No. in order to be a student athlete in HS and college, you need the grades to go with the responsibility. There are lots of amazing athletes out there who are also getting degrees. College is not a ticket to the big leagues unless you are phenomenal.

    • No legal rights as far as college and tuition and college sports. If he did not receive the usual high school diploma, that should have been handled at the time.

  9. Hello, my son has a IEP and he has also been diagnosed with a disability in math. He is unable to retain it. I just got his grades and in two of his classes he is measuring at 4th grade in math and literature. And no one seems to be concerned. It’s the middle of January and he is no better off. They did testing and evaluated him at the beginning of this year. What do I do.

    • Hello-You can request an IEP meeting anytime you need to. At the meeting the goals need to be updated based on the data they have for your son (his report card grades, tests, quizzes, class work). Ask what research based Math programs they are using to close the achievement gap for you son. Ask what they are doing to ensure he is making progress. If a public school can not meet his needs then private school needs to be discussed and if needed, paid for by the public school system. Those questions need serious answers ASAP.

  10. Hi. My son has Aspergers syndrome and add and dysgraphia. He is in the 9th grade and I am really struggling to help him in his photo class. The teacher will just not back off him having to write out critiques on command in class everyday. He is failing that class. Do I have the right to remove him from a class I feel is not productive for him? There are no other classes available for him. What are my options?

    • Kim, Did you ever get an answer to your questions? I know this was posted year ago, but your dilemma is not specific to you only. Others have similar cases. Moving a child out of an Elective class is sometimes seen as a non-special education issue.

  11. My son has an IEP. School couldn’t teach him, sent him to another school and now they can’t school him in High School next year. His life has been hell through school. He gets picked on and bullied for being in special Ed and when he does get a couple of friends he has to leave again to another school, It sucks and breaks his heart. Now they are talking another place at some troubled kid place. We want our son in a normal school, not with bad kids. He isn’t a bad kid and we don’t want him to be!! We want him to go to prom and school functions!! How is this fair to any child??

    • Special Ed unfortunately will never have an “End” to the bullying. He may just have to cope with it throughout school. Its just the way social life works in school. Its really not his fault but he will experience bullying in every part of his life; We all experience this. He can still partake in prom and social gatherings at the school. Its just that you cannot expect someone who may have trouble finding friends to go to prom and enjoy things like that. Again, this isnt fair to your child. I send my condolences.


    I live in VA and have a 10 yr old son that has been diagnosed with Asperger’s , ADHD , OCD , depression & anxiety . He currently has an IEP In place at school , he is a very intelligent child , however he is failing due to has lack of being able to focus. His accommodations are excellent , however I was wondering … Can he give verbal answers on tests , since he is having a great deal of trouble comprehending what he is reading? What does VA law say as far as being able to make that accommodation for him? Any help you could offer would be appreciated. He already gets pulled out of the class for testing , but he is failing ALL of his benchmark tests due to focus and comprehension. Thank you.

    • Hi Elisabeth,
      That absolutely can be an accommodation. If this helps your son succeed he should have this in his IEP.

  13. My son is a sophomore and I come to find out that his school was not following his IEP. He has failed history because he has could not pass a test which was an all or nothing test worth 100 points. He had a 71% up until 2 weeks before the grading period was over. At the beginning of the year, they changed his scheduled without my knowledge that only gave him 5 credits for the quarter. Since he had failed history, this has left him ineligible for sports until next semester. They did not leave him any room for any problems knowing he had an IEP and may have a problem. My son has ADD & was diagnosed with severe test anxiety. He can perform his other work with pretty well, does not have an attendance problem but cannot comprehend well at all. Should my son be punished from sports because the school failed to follow his IEP? What do I do?

      • It starts with a discussion. Request an immediate, emergency IEP TEAM. Explain the problem, ask what your options are for retaking the exam WITH ACCOMMODATIONS. If you don’t like the answers, you bring in an advocate or maybe even a lawyer.

      • There are academic expectations for student athletes. Why you think suing is the answer is beyond me. Your taxes for a frivolous lawsuit will also go up. This is one of several posts I have read concerning sports. Maybe they need to get their priorities straight?

  14. I am overwhelmed. My 4th grade daughter is failing. She has PTSD, and Tricktelimania from a rape in 2008. She underwent a year and a half of rape counseling, before we moved to a new area. She is on an IPMP and an SAI, and has straight f’s. The biggest challenge is that she doesn’t care. Truth be told she should have failed last year, but we didn’t want it linked to the trauma. Now she is so far behind I don’t know where to start. What are the best steps to take. The school is taking a view point that I myself do not care, which is very much not so. My baby feels defeated and doesn’t want to even try. Homework is a struggle, when she brings it home at all. Where do we start? What we are doing is certainly not enough. A desperate mother, Lisa

  15. My son is now in 11th grade with an IEP since the 4th grade. He was wrongly diagnosed with ADHD\OCD\MOOD DISORDER\PTSD…sadly I had him re-diagnosed on my own this past year with Bi-Polar. Over the years I did express this diagnosis since it’s in my family, of course nobody listens to the parents!! Unfornuately the Special Education Director retired over the summer, now replaced with somebody who is not so helpful. We had an IEP meeting yesterday 9-28-10 come to find out my son is failing and wants ME to take home the IEP from last year and revise it by myself. I am fine with that but I also know the IEP team is suppose to be involved with these decisions as well , they are working with my child. I am curious to know what the credits are to graduate and does it apply to special eduction children.

  16. My problem is similar. Although, when my child failed I found out her IEP was not being implemented. I started the due process procedure. I asked to reconvene the IEP, and finally after three months they agreed on the last day of school. I usually supply the evaluations privately because the school does not make a diagnosis, and they won’t pay for a private eval because it is summer. They want to wait until school starts. I told them I will be disagreeing with it because it will provide no “diagnosis” needed for “health impairment” and they still refuse. They are doing everything at a snails pace, meanwhile my daughter does not have things in place to start school ready to learn like other kids. There was ample opportunity to get ducks in a row at the end of last year, but they were unwilling due to the due process.

  17. I have a 9 year old, special needs, son with Severe Hyperlexia. I just refused to sign his IEP because the “team” has put him on an alternative diploma, even at this young age. It is their contention, that the curriculum is watered down, thus negating most children, in ESE, from passing the FCAT. Unfortunately, most accomadations were denied i.e. separate room, questions read to him etc. Does anyone know what my next step in this. Diane

  18. A child on an IEP can continue through school up to age 22. MY son went one year extra after the year he was supposed to graduate and they let him do a “social” graduation where he walks with his class and gets the booklet the diploma goes in but no diploma. If you allow your son to get a diploma it is a “change of placement” and the school will consider his services discontinued. Please follow your schools process for getting an outside Multifactored evaluation. In our district the outside evaluation is paid for by the school and the school must consider the results of the evaluation. An attorney may be helpful to you at this time as well or at least a physician that can help you interpret the multifactored evaluation. I always put everything, every request in writing and sent one of the letters certified mail.

  19. I guess the question still remains, can a student with an iep fail? My son is a senior and he will not graduate with his class, he also has an iep and is 2 credits behind. I was told by another parent that if he has an iep he cant fail? I am lost here, I am not even sure the teachers were following his iep plan, all I get from the teachers is “he is a smart boy” that still didnt answer my question. Does anyone have the answer? I have even gone as far as requesting a new counselor two weeks ago, I feel he is being swept under the rug, does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? thanks

  20. Marilyn,

    Placement and related/direct service changes are an IEP team decision. Did you get Prior Written Notice from the school?

    This should outline the scientific research they used in determining that these services are no longer needed as well as a statement that offers the expected Educational improvements that will likely come as a result of their unilateral decision to make this change.

    The projected expectation could be documented and turned into a measurable goal. In the event that the expected progress is not made by date, name will have a para within XXdays.

  21. Pamela, additionally, if you request another meeting in writing, they have to complete it within the NYS timeline. And during July and August, in NY, regular business days count as school days in that timeline.

  22. Pamela, If they want to keep this meeting as an annual review, they can, but there is nothing in NY regulations that prevents them from changing things for this year. You should be reviewing your child’s goals with the special ed teacher and determining if they are being met. Were they originally written in measurable terms? Can you tell if they are being met? If not, then you need to ask why not. Do they have up to date evaluations? Have you asked for and independent educational evaluation in writing (IEE is when you disagree with the results of the school’s eval. Too old? Disagree. Not thorough? Disagree. ) Have you checked her progress against the progress of other children her age? (Check the Wrightslaw main site for Understanding Tests and Evaluations) Then you will have DATA to take into a meeting with you.

  23. We got a notice of action on the 5th. that our school was not going to provide a personal para anymore-we argued at our IEP meeting that it was a safety issue plus to keep her on task with school work-we have letters from Doctors stating she needs a para–Is there anything we can do to keep her untill we figure out what to do!!

  24. We live in NY and I have a 3rd grade girl in a co-teach class with a general ed teacher and a spec ed teacher. We have a subcomittee CSE meeting coming up for the annual review. I asked the school psychologist who is to be the CSE chair this year if we could change services for this year at this meeting.

    My daughter is being pulled out of class a lot and I feel that she no longer needs OT, which she receives once a week.

    Can’t changes be made at this meeting that affect current and present services? The CSE chair told me we need ‘another’ meeting to change services for the current year.

    Is she correct? Does this depend on each district or is there a statewide protocol? This is a great site with much needed information. Thank you for your help.

  25. My son has never been evaluated for ADHD, or ADD. My concern is that he is an IEP student and has struggled throughout the last several years with emotional difficulty: Being bullied, and reacting with emotional and verbal inappropriateness. However, I believe he has been unjustly subjected to fail. Last year he met with his guidance counselor to prepare his schedule for the coming year. He brought the copies home for me to look over and sign so that he could return them to school. He was over-joyed and excited, looking forward to the coming year. Right before school started, we were told by the IEP director that his schedule had been changed. I protested, to no avail. She said that they’d see how things went, and if need be, they’d change it back. My son has totally regressed, even failing gym, and has lost all interest.

    • This is unfortunate. I’ve been a Special Education Teacher & Advocate for over 18 years. Your son deserves better than this. There should have been consistency for him because what I’m reading from you he needs that. I’m not sure if you mentioned what grade he’s in but it gets more difficult as students with disabilities get older if the correct school supports are not there.

      There needs to be a meeting where you and the school team can take a close look at the current IEP, and data for your child. Next steps will be dependent on that.

  26. My son is now a Junior in HS. We have had IEP’s since his 3rd grade yr. I have fought with our school system yr. after yr. to try & get my son into a program that will allow him to thrive instead of fail. I am at the end of my rope with the school. My son falls asleep in a regular classroom sitting. He is severe ADD & if there is not something keeping his attention, then he nods off. I have to tell his teachers that he has ADD because his Resource teachers do not even check in on him now. I never hear about him failing until it is to late to do anything about it. Where I live, in WVa, we have no help whatsoever. I have a friend that works with the IDEA laws & the Wright Laws, but she is in Pa. & can not get down here to help us. What am I suppose to do to help him get ready for the real world?

    • I know this thread is old but I feel the need to answer your question, it may help someone else. I’ve been a Special Education Teacher for over 18 years. I provide Consulting, Advocacy, & Business Resource Referral Services. Feel free to ask me any questions needed. Request to have updated evaluations for your child. Do not let any more years go by with him failing. Write a letter requesting full battery of updated evaluations. Give it to the child’s Special Education Teacher. Then there needs to be a follow up meeting to discuss next steps based on the results of those updated Educational evaluations. Best of luck!

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