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Special Education

The Tennessee Department of Education, Division of Special Education, provides a wide range of programs and services designed to support students with disabilities, with a focus on student achievement and postsecondary outcomes.

Its mission is to promote educational services and programs for all Tennessee students with special education needs that will enable them to lead productive and independent lives. The Division is committed to the planning, execution, tracking and accountability required to meet this goal.

Evaluation and Eligibility

To identify students needing special education programs or services, the Division has set up specific eligibility standards and evaluation procedures. These cover a variety of categories, including:

See complete guidelines to student referral, evaluation and assessment and a directory of special education supervisors each school district.

Tennessee Diploma Project

With the right services and support, most special education students are able to meet their high school graduation requirements. These students participate in the same coursework as their peers and must complete the required 22 credits to earn a diploma. However, there is some flexibility in how students with disabilities may demonstrate knowledge or skills.

  • Alternative performance-based assessments may be made available for students with disabilities who have not earned a year-end course grade of 70 in a class with an End of Course (EOC) exam. This alternative assessment allows students to earn additional credit on the EOC score, if they can otherwise demonstrate the required knowledge and skills.
  • Students with qualifying disabilities in math documented in their IEP may meet the required number of math credits through approved accommodations. These students still must complete Algebra I and Geometry, or its equivalent.
  • Students with qualifying disabilities in reading and/or math documented in their IEP may be able to meet the required number of science credits through approved accommodations. These students must complete Biology I and two additional lab science courses.
  • A Special Education Diploma may be awarded at the end of their fourth year of high school to students with disabilities who (1) have not met the requirements for a high school diploma, (2) have satisfactorily completed an IEP, and (3) have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct. Students who obtain a special education diploma may continue to work toward the high school diploma through the end of the school year in which they turn 22 years old.