Home > Ask the Advocate > My Child Receives Good Grades. Can She Continue to Receive Special Education? by Pat Howey
Good Grades: Does My Child Still Need Special Instruction?
Question: I spend hours helping my child with homework each night. She still struggles and is getting frustrated. I keep asking the school to evaluate her but the principal says her grades are too good. What should I do?
Answer: First, IDEA states that a child does not have to fail or be retained to be considered for special education and related services. 34 C.F.R. §300.101(c). Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, p. 204.
People at school do not always know what the law says. You may want to show the principal this section.
Special Instruction and Related Services
A child who is making good grades may still need special instruction and related services.
Teachers give out grades based on many different factors.
These kinds of grades do not mean a child is learning.
Think of it this way. Ask any good teacher this: "Did you ever pass a child who was failing because you knew she was trying very hard?” If the teacher answers, “Yes,” they are basing a child’s grade on “effort".
Effort does not mean the child is learning.
Almost all teachers will do this. They do not want to fail a child who is trying.
It sounds like your little inner voice is telling you that your child needs an evaluation to see whether she needs special education and related services. Listen to your little inner voice! It is usually right.
You Need Information about Your Child's Disability
You also may want to get an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE). Be sure to tell the evaluator how much help you give your child every day. A good evaluator will use reliable and valid norm-referenced tests. He will look for processing deficits and will be able to identify your child's needs.
A good IEE will give you information about all areas of your child’s disability.
A good IEE will tell the real story about whether your child needs special instruction.
Finally, a good IEE will provide the teachers with helpful information about how to teach your child.
My Child is Being Evaluated - What Tests Should I Request? Pat offers advice about evaluations, how to use tests to measure progress, how to use your state laws about testing, and how to find an evaluator with whom to work.
Is a Child With Passing Grades Eligible for Special Ed Under IDEA? My child has struggles in school so we provide private tutoring and work with him at home. The school says he is not eligible for special ed because he does not have failing grades. What does IDEA say?
Read more about Evaluations and Eligibility
Meet Pat Howey
Patricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.
Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.
In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.