Understanding Compensatory Education

June 29, 2021 by Ross Musick / special education

QUICK FACTS: Compensatory Education


Minutes: Describes the amount of time owed under Section 7. In IEP teams, team members will often discuss instruction time in “minutes,” i.e. “we need to make up 20 minutes in math instruction,” or a parent requesting “more minutes!”

What is Compensatory Education?
Compensatory education can be requested from a school when that school has not provided the specially designed instruction outlined in your IEP. Compensatory education can also be awarded in situations in which the services provided in the IEP did not enable your child to make appropriate progress. The purpose of compensatory education services is to put the student in the position the student would be in had the district provided the appropriate services in the first place.

Specially designed instruction, or “SDI”, can be found in Section 7 of your IEP. Section 7 states what kind of specially designed instruction will be provided, and how often it will be provided. For example, the IEP may say your child gets 20 minutes a week of math SDI. If the school does not provide those 20 minutes a week of math, then your child may be eligible for compensatory education. The child may also be eligible if the 20 minutes were actually provided but were not sufficient to provided your child adequate instruction.
During remote learning, we noticed that more students weren’t being provided the SDI in their IEPs. Please note that even if your child’s school was shut down due to COVID-19, and even if your child was on remote learning, your child is still entitled to the SDI in the IEP.

How Can I Qualify for Compensatory Education?
Your child can qualify for compensatory education if they did not receive the minutes on the IEP. It does not matter why the minutes were not provided. Even if the school is shut down, or the teacher is out sick, the minutes still must be provided.

What Amount of Compensatory Education Can I Request?
When a school provides compensatory education, they are not required to provide the exact number of SDI minutes missed. Instead, the district has to provide the amount of compensatory education services needed to put the student in the position the student would be in had the district provided the appropriate services in the first place. A good rule of thumb is to determine how many minutes were actually missed, and use that as a baseline for negotiation. You also may want to think about involving an outside expert to help you argue for additional services if the school does not agree with the amount or nature of services you are requesting.

How Do I Request Compensatory Education?
You can request compensatory education from your IEP team by sending them an email or a letter (click the link for a sample letter you can use) requesting compensatory education. Your child’s IEP team should meet to discuss the request and determine the amount and nature of compensatory education provided.
If the school refuses to provide your child compensatory education, you can file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education Office for Exceptional Children (OEC) alleging a FAPE violation. You can also file a due process complaint and request a formal hearing. OEC also offers free mediation and facilitation, which can help you and the school resolve an issue like this.

If you need more specific advice, or would like an advocate’s assistance with your case, please contact us at Disability Rights Ohio.

You can read more about compensatory education here:

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