Screening and Evaluation
Your child’s school has a screening process in place that identifies students who may need special education. This process may or may not lead to an initial evaluation for special education and should include:
- A review of the student’s records, including attendance and report cards
- A review of the student’s vision and hearing
- Assessments at reasonable intervals to determine a student’s performance based on grade- appropriate standards in core academic subjects
- A systematic observation of the student’s behavior in the classroom or area in which the student is displaying difficulty
You may request an initial evaluation at any time, without going through these screening activities.
- What the Evaluation Will Tell You
- Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE)
- Allowing for Differences in English Language Skills and Ethnic Background
The evaluation team gathers the information that will be used to determine if your child needs special education and, if so, the types of programs and services needed. Your child may be evaluated by a school psychologist. Other evaluations may include tests by a hearing specialist for a child with a hearing problem, or an evaluation from a doctor for a child with a health concern. The evaluation must also include input from a certified professional if certain services, called “related services,” may be needed. An example is speech therapy (for speech and language) or occupational therapy (for fine motor and other skills).
A child may be referred for the first (or initial) evaluation in different ways:
You may ask your school to evaluate your child for special education at any time. This can be done by sending a letter to the principal of your child’s school or by asking a school professional employee. It is recommended that you keep a record of your written or verbal request. A Permission to Evaluate– Evaluation Request form should be sent to you within 10 calendar days after the receipt of your request.
The school may contact you to request permission to have your child evaluated. You must consent in writing to your child’s evaluation. School officials cannot proceed without your written permission. If permission is not received and the school continues to find that an evaluation is necessary, they may ask for a due process hearing to get approval from an impartial hearing officer to evaluate your child.
To give permission for the evaluation process to begin, you must sign the Permission to Evaluate-Consent form given to you by your local educational agency (LEA). The entire evaluation process must be completed within 60 calendar days (not including summer vacation) from the date your permission is received by the LEA. If your child is eligible for special education, the ER and a summary must be given to you at least 10 school days before a meeting is held to discuss your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). A parent may not feel the 10 days are necessary and must put in writing to the school that the meeting may be held sooner than 10 days. Either way, you will be invited to the meeting.
The types of tests used in the evaluation process depend upon the educational needs of your child. In most cases, your child may be given several tests to help find strengths and needs. Someone other than your child’s general classroom teacher may also observe your child in class. Part of the evaluation includes gathering input from parents about their child. Information that you share about your child is very important and must also be included in the evaluation.
The evaluation will include information about your child’s skills, strengths, and needs. All evaluations and 3 reevaluations (which are evaluations done at 2- or 3-year intervals after the initial evaluation) must include a review of the testing and assessments that were conducted, information from the parents, classroom observations, and the observations of teachers and related service personnel.
The evaluation or reevaluation must also tell you what additions or changes are needed to help your child meet the goals in your child’s educational program described in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), and to take part in and progress in the general curriculum (the skills and knowledge taught in a specific LEA).
An evaluation team reviews all materials and writes a report called an Evaluation Report (ER) that states if your child has a disability and if your child needs special education. It makes recommendations about the types of services your child needs. The ER may state that your child is not eligible and does not need special education services. You will receive a copy of the ER and a written notice stating that you have the right to disagree and may request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) or request a due process hearing. A copy of the ER and a summary of the findings must be given to you. If your child is being evaluated for a specific learning disability, parents (as members of the evaluation group) will be given an opportunity to agree or disagree with the results of the ER. Next to your name, you will indicate whether or not you agree with the report. If you do not agree, you may give the team your opinion in writing, on the parts of the report where you disagree. This is sometimes called a “dissenting opinion,” which will become part of the final ER. A copy of the final ER must be given to the parents.
You may also get evaluation reports from professionals outside the school system and send them to your child’s school. Examples of these professionals may include a psychologist or therapist. The LEA can provide you with information about where an independent evaluation can be obtained. The results of these outside evaluations will be considered in determining if your child has a disability and needs special education. If you wish for the LEA to pay for an outside or independent educational evaluation, you first must disagree with the evaluation conducted by the LEA. The LEA then must initiate a special education due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. The district will NOT compensate parents/guardians for IEEs conducted by families.
Evaluations and reevaluations must take into account the child’s English language skills and ethnic background so that the testing and evaluation will be fair for children of different races and cultures. Tests must be given in the language or form that is most likely to give accurate information, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. Evaluations must also take into account the child’s disability to be sure the results are reliable. For example, a child with a severe visual impairment should not be given a written test with small print.