Initial Evaluations, Reevaluations, and Independent Educational Evaluations
The evaluation process establishes a foundation for developing an appropriate educational program for your student. School districts use evaluations to determine both initial and continued eligibility for special education services, to determine a student's need for special education and related services, and to gather additional information for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to use when developing or revising an IEP for a student. When the term "evaluation" is used, it includes initial evaluations, reevaluations, and independent educational evaluations (IEEs).
An initial evaluation is the process used to determine whether your student has a disability and is in need of special education and related services. A full and individualized initial evaluation must be done by the district before the provision of any special education or related services to a student with a disability can begin.
- What is the district looking for during an initial evaluation?
An initial evaluation involves gathering information from a variety of sources, including any information you have provided, about your student's functioning and development in all areas of suspected disability. The assessments used during an evaluation may look at cognitive, behavioral, physical, and developmental factors, as well as other areas of suspected disability. All information relative to the presence of a disability is used to determine your student's educational needs.
- How much time does the district have to complete an initial evaluation?
The district has 35 days to complete the initial evaluation process from the time written parental consent to evaluate is obtained. If a district needs to complete an initial evaluation due to a request made following disciplinary action, then that initial evaluation timeline must be expedited.
- What is included in the initial evaluation process?
The initial evaluation process involves (1) administering the necessary assessments to evaluate your student; (2) completion of an evaluation report using the results of the assessments and the information gathered through the referral process; and (3) an evaluation group meeting, which includes the parents/guardians, to discuss the results of the evaluation report and make a determination regarding eligibility for special education.
- Does the evaluation group have to consider the private evaluations I have paid for and/or any outside medical information provided by my student's doctors?
Yes. The evaluation report must include information obtained from private evaluations and/or outside sources for the group to consider when determining eligibility.
- What happens if my student is found eligible?
Once your student is found eligible for special education and related services, the district has 30 days to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your student. The district will also seek your consent for the initial provision of services either before or at the initial IEP team meeting. Your initial consent is for services only, not necessarily for what is in the IEP.
- What happens if my student is found ineligible and I disagree with that decision?
If your student is not eligible for special education, you can (1) request an IEE; and/or (2) inquire about a process for determining eligibility under Section 504 and/or (3) utilize one of the dispute options available to you under the IDEA. Even though your student may not be eligible for special education, the school district must still provide FAPE to a qualified student with a disability under Section 504.
A reevaluation is used to confirm your student's continued eligibility for special education and related services. Reevaluations are needed when your student's needs change to the extent that the current evaluation does not provide enough information for the IEP team to revise your student's IEP.
- How often can I get my student reevaluated?
Reevaluations can occur:
- Not more than once a year, unless the parent and district agree that a reevaluation should occur sooner; or
- At least once every 3 years, unless the parent and the district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.
- How long does a school district have to complete a reevaluation?
A reevaluation needs to occur within 35 school days after the district receives your consent for the reevaluation. The timeline for completing the reevaluation will be less than 35 school days if the required 3-year timeline ends sooner.
- What is included in a reevaluation?
A reevaluation includes:
- A review of all existing data on your student - which includes the most recent evaluations, classroom based tests and statewide assessments, classroom based observations, observations by teachers and other services providers, and information and observations provided by you.
- Any additional assessments from qualified professionals to determine your student's continued eligibility for special education and related services.
- A determination of whether your student needs additional services or modifications to meet her/his annual goals.
- A determination as to the extent your student can participate, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum.
If you disagree with the results of an evaluation conducted by the district, you may request an IEE at public expense. An IEE is conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of your student.
While a request for an IEE is not required to be in writing, a written request is encouraged because it can serve as documentation of when your request was made. When your request for an IEE is granted, the school district must provide you with a list of names of possible examiners and provide the evaluation to you at no cost.
If the school district denies your request for an IEE at public expense, the district must initiate a due process hearing within 15 calendar days to show that its evaluation was appropriate.
- How much time does the district have to respond to my request for an IEE?
The school district must respond to your request for an IEE at public expense within 15 calendar days. The district may either (1) grant your request for an IEE or (2) file for a due process hearing to show that its evaluation of your student was appropriate.
- Can I use someone not on the district's list?
Yes. You are not limited to the evaluators provided by the district. Any evaluator you use, however, must meet the school district's criteria for being qualified to administer the independent evaluation. The district can provide you with information on evaluator qualifications.
- What does a qualified examiner mean?
A qualified examiner is any examiner that would meet the school district's own criteria for administering evaluations. Districts may not impose conditions on IEEs that are inconsistent with the criteria it uses for conducting its own evaluations.
- Can I pay to have my own private independent evaluation done?
Yes. There is no restriction on having a private independent evaluation completed at your own expense at any time.
- What is a school district required to do with an IEE?
The school district must consider the results of any IEE that meets district criteria. The school district, however, is not required to adopt all of the recommendations contained within an IEE and must give you Prior Written Notice regarding decisions made about the recommendations made in an IEE.