Indicator 16 | Resolution of Written Complaints

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A woman sits at a table, writing.Updated, April 2013

One of IDEA’s jewels is the array of dispute resolution options it makes available to families, school systems, and stakeholders involved in educating children with disabilities. The law provides multiple mechanisms—mediation, due process complaints, due process hearings, resolution sessions, and State complaints.

Indicator 16, shown in bold below, deals with “signed written complaints.” Indicators 17, 18, and 19 address other methods of resolving disputes under IDEA (due process, resolution meetings, and mediation, respectively). The four indicators are often discussed together, since they are fall under the overarching goal of “timely dispute resolution.”


Percent of signed written complaints with reports issued that were resolved within 60-day timeline or a timeline extended for exceptional circumstances with respect to a particular complaint, or because the parent (or individual or organization) and the public agency agree to extend the time to engage in mediation or other alternative means of dispute resolution, if available in the State. [20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(B)]

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Resources to Support Data Gathering for Indicator 16

Guidance documents on Indicator 16.

Resources from CADRE.
State programs under Part B and Part C of IDEA are required to submit an Annual Performance Report (APR) on their State Performance Plan (SPP) progress. CADRE has assembled resources to assist states with the four dispute resolution indicators (Indicators 16, 17, 18, and 19) addressed in the SPP/APRs.

How are we doing?
What’s the current status on states’ timely resolution of disputes?  Find out in the synthesis below, from 2011. The status of Indicator 16 is discussed in combination with the next three indicators as well (17, 18, and 19), all of which deal with dispute resolution.

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Resources to Support Dispute Resolution

Understand each of the dispute resolution options under IDEA.
NICHCY devotes an entire section of its website to Dispute Resolution Options. There’s a quick overview, if you want to crash course or a fast refresher, and they are detailed explanations as well. Enter the section, at:

Find the same information in Spanish.

Go to the experts at CADRE.
The Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) works to increase the nation’s capacity to effectively resolve special education disputes, reducing the use of expensive adversarial processes. CADRE works with state and local education and early intervention systems, parent centers, families and educators to improve programs and results for children with disabilities. Lots of resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Call on your state’s PTI.
Each state has a parent training and information center—-the PTI. These centers can be very helpful to families needing information and guidance about disputes with school systems concerning the education of their child with a disability. Find your PTI by visiting NICHCY’s State Resource Sheet page. Select your state, put the drop-down menu to “Organizations for Parents,” and the resource sheet will automatically display. The PTI will be listed in the results.

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to