School-Age Special Education Evaluations

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that a full and individualized evaluation be conducted before your child can be provided special education and related services. In addition to initial eligibility evaluations, reevaluations occur on a regular basis throughout your child’s education to determine the need for continued and new services. It is important to understand your family’s rights during the evaluation process, what is considered during an evaluation, and what happens if you disagree with the results.

Initiating an evaluation

A parent as well as a state or local education agency can initiate the request for a child to be evaluated. In fact, each state has an obligation to find and identify children who are in need of special education services. This requirement is referred to as “Child Find.” Sometimes a teacher may have concerns about your child and recommend an evaluation. Other times, it is you, the parent, who suspects your child may need extra help and requests an evaluation. If you request the evaluation, you should do so in writing. If you do not make a written request, your district, if you live in Pennsylvania, will require you to complete an Evaluation Request Form. This form must be given to you within 10 calendar days of your oral request for an evaluation of your child.

If you request an evaluation, your school district has two options: (1) agree to perform an evaluation; or (2) decline your request. If your district refuses your request for an evaluation, it must issue a Prior Written Notice (PWN) to you. Once you receive the PWN, you can challenge the refusal of an evaluation by requesting a Due Process hearing.

Permission to evaluate

Regardless of who makes the initial request, the school must give the parents written notice before conducting an evaluation. Additionally, you, as parent, must agree in writing before the evaluation can take place. In most states, you will be required to sign a Permission to Evaluate (PTE) form, indicating that you agree to the evaluation and have had your child’s educational rights explained to you. When you are given the PTE form, you should also be given a document, called a Procedural Safeguards Notice, which explains your rights in the special education system. After you provide consent for an evaluation, it must be completed within 60 days or within the timeline set by your state. (In Pennsylvania, the timeline is 60 days, not including summer break.) Just because you agree to have your child evaluated does not mean that you are agreeing to your child receiving special education services. You will need to agree to services separately if your child is found to need them.

Parent contributions to the evaluation

Your child will be evaluated by a team, which includes qualified professionals and you, the parent. You have known your child longer than anyone else on the team and have valuable information about your child to contribute.

Parents should always take advantage of the opportunity to provide information to the rest of the team. At a minimum, parents should submit their observations of the child, including frustration triggers for the child, how the child responds to homework, the child’s temperament, and the parents’ observations of how the child’s disability affects him or her. Parents should also submit any outside reports they have obtained during the child’s life, including diagnostic evaluations or reports from mental or behavioral health professionals.

Evaluation tests and information considered

In determining whether your child qualifies for School-age Special Education services, the evaluation team will use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about your child. There is not one test or assessment that the decision will depend on.

Children must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability. Academic ability is only one component of the evaluation. Social, behavioral, and emotional skills and abilities which are needed for classroom learning and for interactions with peers and teachers are also assessed. If the school district is not equipped to do certain types of evaluations, they must hire outside professionals who are qualified to do the specific testing. Parents may obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for their child, which the school must consider. In some circumstances, the parents may be able to get the school to pay for the IEE, particularly in cases where the school refused to evaluate a certain aspect of the child’s disability or if there were flaws in the school’s evaluation.

It is important to note that not every test your child has is considered an evaluation. All students, and particularly students with disabilities, will need to be screened to determine appropriate instructional levels or strategies. Screenings such as these are not evaluations and do not require parent consent.

The Evaluation Report

Once the evaluation is complete, an Evaluation Report (ER) will be put together. Based on what is included in the ER, a plan – called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) – will be put together which will set forth what services your child will receive and where your child will receive them.

Reevaluations

After your child is initially determined eligible for special education services, the law requires that your child be reevaluated at least once every 3 years, unless both the parent and the educational agency agree that it is unnecessary. (If you live in Pennsylvania and your child has an IQ score below 70, your child’s reevaluation must occur at least every two years.) It is rarely a good idea to waive a reevaluation. A reevaluation can provide updated information about your child’s needs and accomplishments that will help the IEP team continue to provide an appropriate program for your child. In fact, if needed, you or your child’s teachers can request a reevaluation at any time; however, reevaluations can be limited to once a year unless agreed otherwise. Make sure to make any request for a reevaluation in writing. If you do not, and you live in Pennsylvania, your school should give you a Reevaluation Request form within 10 days of your oral request for a reevaluation.

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Last Updated: March 16, 2014

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