Eligibility for Special Ed: Grades, IQ Scores, Evaluations

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I read a document on your website that said a student does not have to be functioning below grade level to qualify for special education services. I can’t find that document now. Where can I find this information?

You are thinking about “Letter to Felton,” an opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Education.

Grades are subjective and are based on a teacher observations.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not mention grades as a factor in determining whether a a child is eligible for special education services.

Letter to Lillie/Felton (link below) is a policy letter about special ed eligibility that was published by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

There are four parts to this document: a digest or summary of the inquiry; a digest or summary of the answer from OSEP; the full text of the inquiry; and the full text of OSEP’s answer or response.

This letter clarifies several important points:

  • Children with high IQs may be eligible for special education and related services
  • Eligibility teams should consider support provided by parents
  • Evaluations to determine eligibility must include testing of the seven areas mentioned in the special ed regulations.

If you are dealing with these issues, we suggest that you print and read the entire document.

Parents of  Twice exceptional(2e) children deal with these issues often.  Twice exceptional children have above average abilities and special educational needs due to ADD/HD, learning disabilities, Asperger Syndrome, etc. Because giftedness can mask their special needs — and their special needs can hide their giftedness — school personnel often label these kids as “lazy” and “unmotivated.” Educational planning for 2e children needs to address the gifted and special needs sides of these children.

Here is a link to the Letter to Felton.”

Passing Grades, IQ Scores & Evaluations of Students with Learning Disabilities: / Letter to Lillie/Felton


To learn more about educating twice exceptional children, please visit the page for Twice Exceptional Children at Wrightslaw. The 2e page includes articles, resources, good books, free publications, and information and support.

  1. I would appreciate it if the responses stuck to the facts of an individuals problem or question and are helpful to the users on this site. Personal opinions should be aired in the appropriate place and I don’t believe it’s this website. The bottom line is that everyone on this site has something in common. Let’s not muddy the waters with speculation about varous subgroups. It’s not helpful to the overall cause. In an ideal world ALL special needs children would get the appropriate services. Every parent has to be an advocate. Isn’t that what this site is about?

  2. Carol, I hear your struggles. What I am believing after reading these blogs is that it is very difficult for many parents of 2E children, but particularly difficult if you are not financially well off or part of another culture. I think that minority students are looked at differently and schools are very likely to label them lazy and want to push them out.

  3. Grandma, you are so correct! My son could get good grades with appropriate accommodations, but he is only on a 504. The school said that he has good basic skills ( we have taken him to therapy since age 3) so would not qualify for SpEd, now that RTI is in place. He responds immediately to interventions, but falls when they are removed. It is sad that a school wants to push a gifted student out rather than helping to meet his needs.

  4. How many times have we heard these words? “Oh, but she is so smart!” Yes, a lot of children have very high IQ’s but they also have a mental illness that cannot be seen like a broken leg. My granddaughter is BiPolar 1 and is in the 5th Grade. In Florida, this is like what we were taught in High School. I have struggled to help her, but now I just cannot push her to the extreme. Our relationship is too important. Since her mother is Bipolar II, she is not helping to me in setting limits, but thank goodness she lets her live with me. Being a full time employee & grandparent has it’s limitations, but I am still fighting the School System and feel like they will just have to win at time, but we do need to keep fighting. We are the only advocates the children have who are HONESTLY NOT ABLE TO PRODUCE THE WONDERFUL GRADES FOR THE SCHOOL!

  5. Hello,
    I have a 14 year old daughter who has special educational needs. She has been outplaced and is doing wonderfully. Now the school does not want to renew the contract, because it is not a “state approved school.” I read the case, Florence Cty vs Shannon Carter, which is the exact same scenario.

    I am running out of money and my attorney is expensive. I will be meeting on my own with the head of the district to try to convince her to let my daughter stay at the private school. I know Peter Wright had the Carter case. Is there any way I can speak to him about this upcoming meeting?

    I am a single Mom. I facilitate and began a Special Needs network in my hometown. Now I need help for my daughter and my resources are running out. How can I convince the school to let my daughter stay there without requesting due process?

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