There are a lot of acronyms in special education - how can I keep them all straight?

We know all of the abbreviations and terms can be pretty confusing. That is why we put together this list of common acronyms.

What is “free appropriate public education (FAPE)”?

Free, appropriate, public education (or FAPE) is the standard outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By law, FAPE refers to special education and related services that:

  • Have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
  • Meet the standards of the California Department of Education
  • Include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education
  • Are provided in conformity with the student’s IEP.
What is the “least restrictive environment (LRE)”?

Special education programs must address eligible students’ educational needs in the least restrictive environment. The term “least restrictive environment” refers to the placement of special education students in an educational placement suitable for their needs. This standard is mandated by IDEA.

The continuum of educational placements ranges from the least to the most restrictive:

  • General Education Classroom Placement – This is the least restrictive placement for all students.
  • General Education Classroom Placement with Special Education Consultation – In this placement, the student remains in the general education setting. A resource teacher provides support as decided by the IEP team.
  • General Education Classroom Placement with Resource Room Replacement/Support – In this placement, the student spends the majority of the day in the general education setting. They are pulled out of the classroom at scheduled times for remediation and/or support in specific subjects, this service may also be provided on a push in basis, again dependent upon the unique needs of the learner.
  • Special Day with Mainstreaming – In this placement, the student spends the majority of the day in a special class that is typically grouped by age-level and exceptionality. However, the student is mainstreamed into a general education classroom for part of the school day. This mainstreaming typically occurs in special subjects, including: art, music, physical education, etc.
  • Special Day Class – In this placement, the student remains with a special class for the entire day. These classes provide a highly structured and closely monitored setting.
  • A program within Santa Clara County - If San Jose Unified does not have a program that meets the needs of a student, we look first to programs offered by Santa Clara County Office of Education.
  • Non-public schools - When no appropriate public education program is available, a student with disabilities may be placed in a non-public school under contract with the District.
  • Residential school- When no appropriate public education program is available, a student with disabilities may be placed in a residential school.
How do I request an evaluation for special education services?

You can write a letter or verbally request an evaluation for special education services from birth to 22 years of age at any time.  It is helpful if you have already begun discussing your concerns at the school site with your student’s teacher, the principal, and/or through a Student Success Team (SST) meeting. 

If you choose to write a letter, district staff are available to assist in writing the letter. The following information is helpful, but not required, to include in the request:

  • Child’s name, age, grade, and school.
  • A short description telling about the areas you have concern over such as speech, reading, math, or behavior that impacts your child’s access to their education or socialization. 
  • Your contact information (address, phone number)
  • .

Within 15 days after receiving your request San Jose Unified will mail an Assessment Plan to you.  The assessment plan may include some forms for you to complete as well.  The Assessment Plan describes the types of assessments the district will use to assess your child.  If you agree with the proposed assessment plan, you will need to sign the form, along with a consent to release information from your child’s doctor, and return them to your school.

We cannot assess your child for special education services without your consent.  It is important to complete all of the paperwork that was provided with the Assessment Plan and return the forms at the same time. 

If you need assistance writing the letter requesting an evaluation or with completing the forms provided to you with the assessment plan, contact your child’s school or district office. We will help you.

What other help is available if my child exhibits evidence of a disability, but does not meet Special Education eligibility criteria?

If the IEP Team determines that your child does not meet eligibility requirements for Special Education at this time the team will usually give you recommendations that may support your child within the general education classroom.  Sometimes a student who does not meet the Special Education eligibility requirement, (i.e., the student’s disability did not significantly affect the student’s ability to learn) may qualify for services or accommodations under Section 504. Students who qualify under Section 504 are not required to have a written IEP document, but may receive accommodations to assist them in the classroom. 

Section 504 is a civil rights statute designed to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities, which states: “No otherwise qualified individual with handicaps in the United States, shall, solely, by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…”.



©2022 San José Unified School District