What is an initial evaluation?

An initial evaluation is the first step in the evaluation process for special education. Following a referral, the state education agency or local education agency is obligated to conduct a full and individualized initial evaluation for each child in order to determine his or her eligibility under the IDEA. Prior to conducting an initial evaluation, the agency must obtain informed written parental consent.

Consent to this initial evaluation must be in writing and may only be given following full disclosure of all information needed for you to make a knowledgeable decision pertaining to your child’s educational needs. It bears repeating that parental consent to an initial evaluation may not be construed as consent for the placement of your child in special education or related services. However, failure of a parent to consent to an initial evaluation may allow the school district to initiate a due process hearing as a way to proceed with an initial evaluation.

Conducting the Evaluation

In conducting the evaluation, the local educational agency, “shall use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent, that may assist in determining – (i) whether the child is a child with a disability; and (ii) the content of the child’s individualized education program, including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum…”

An evaluation study will include a review of information collected by the school district through formal and informal observations, a review of schoolwork, standardized tests and other information provided by your child’s teachers and other school personnel.

Requirements Under IDEA

Additional requirements in the evaluation assessment under the IDEA provide that:

(A) assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child under this section-

(i) are selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis;
(ii) are provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is not feasible to so provide or administer;
(iii) are used for purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable;
(iv) are administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel; and
(v) are administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of such assessments;

(B) the child is assessed in all areas of suspected disability;

(C) assessment tools and strategies that provide relevant information that directly assists persons in determining the educational needs of the child are provided; and

(D) assessments of children with disabilities who transfer from one school district to another school district in the same academic year are coordinated with such children’s prior and subsequent schools, as necessary and as expeditiously as possible, to ensure prompt completion of full evaluations.

Parents During Evaluation

As a parent you will receive written notice of the particular tests and procedures that will be used in conducting your child’s evaluation. It is important as a parent to have an active voice in the initial evaluation process and you should share any and all relevant information you have regarding your child’s skills, abilities and needs.

The local educational agency conducting the initial evaluation is required to determine whether your child is one with a disability within sixty (60) days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation and to determine the special educational needs of your child if he or she is eligible. As a parent, if you fail or refuse to produce your child for an initial evaluation the sixty-day time constraint will not be applicable.

Following the initial evaluation, the child’s Planning and Placement Team will meet to evaluate the data and determine whether your child meets the necessary criteria to receive special education and related services. As a parent you will be provided with a written report of the evaluation that was conducted.

Independent Educational Evaluation

If you disagree with the school district’s evaluation you may request an Independent Educational Evaluation, referred to as an IEE. Upon a request for an IEE, the local educational agency must provide information to parents as to where you may obtain an IEE and the criteria necessary in conducting an evaluation. An independent educational evaluation is one that is conducted by a qualified examiner, who is not an employee of the local educational agency, such as your child’s private therapist. Moreover, a parent is not required to inform the school district in advance of plans to obtain an IEE.

Evaluation Disagreements

Although parents should work alongside their local educational agency to resolve any disagreements pertaining to evaluations, there are times where an independent evaluation will be necessary to resolve such disagreements. Parents have the right to an IEE at the local educational agency’s expense unless the local educational agency challenges the need for an IEE. If the local educational agency challenges the IEE they must, “without unnecessary delay” file for a due process hearing to demonstrate that its evaluation was appropriate or that the evaluation obtained by you did not meet the requisite evaluation criteria.

If the local educational agency files for a due process hearing and its evaluation is found to be sufficient, you still have the right to obtain an IEE, but not at public expense. A parent is only entitled to one IEE at public expense each time the local educational agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. If, however, a hearing officer requests an IEE during the course of a due process hearing, the evaluation shall be conducted at the expense of the agency.

If an IEE is conducted at public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location and qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria that the local educational agency uses when it conducts an evaluation. However, the results of an IEE, irrespective of who pays for it, must be considered by the school district when designing your child’s educational program.

What is a reevaluation? When and why will my child be reevaluated?

The IDEA mandates that a reevaluation must occur at least once every three (3) years, unless the parent and the local educational agency agree that a reevaluation is not necessary. Either parents or local educational agencies may request a reevaluation but the local educational agency must first obtain written parental consent before conducting a reevaluation. Failure to provide the consent needed for your child’s school district to conduct a reevaluation may lead to your local educational agency filing for a due process hearing or seeking other dispute resolution proceedings in order to conduct the reevaluation.

The purpose of conducting a reevaluation is to reassess the educational needs of your child and determine whether your child continues to have a disability, to evaluate the levels of academic achievement and developmental needs of your child, to determine whether special education and related services are still needed for your child, and whether your child’s Individual Education Plan requires modification.

In conducting a reevaluation, your child’s PPT will review existing reports and data to decide if additional testing is needed to determine whether your child is still eligible and continues to need special education and related services.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to contact Joseph Maya and the other experienced attorneys at our Westport, CT. office at (203) 221-3100 or via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com. We offer free consultations to all new clients.