Special Education: Evaluations

What is the evaluation process  used  to determine my child’s  special education requirements?

What is an Initial Evaluation?

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

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:

  1. Whether the child is a child with a disability; and
  2. 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…”[3]

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

  1.  Assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child under this section-
    1.  are selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis;
    2.  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;
    3.  are used for purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable;
    4.  are administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel; and
    5. are administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of such assessments;
  2. The child is assessed in all areas of suspected disability;
  3. Assessment tools and strategies that provide relevant information that directly assists persons in determining the educational needs of the child are provided; and
  4.  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.[4]

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.[5] 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.

Reevaluation

What is the purpose of a reevaluation?

The purpose of a reevaluation is to determine: The educational needs of your child and whether the child continues to be a child with a disability; The present levels of academic achievement and related developmental needs of your child; Whether your child continues to need special education and related services; and Whether your child’s IEP needs to be modified.

How often must 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.[6] A reevaluation may occur sooner if conditions warrant, or if you or your child’s teacher requests it. The federal law states that a reevaluation shall not occur more than once a year unless the parent and the school district agree otherwise.

How is a reevaluation conducted?

The PPT team reviews the existing data and decides whether additional testing is required to determine if your child continues to be eligible for special education services. Existing data may include information provided to the PPT by the parent, teacher reports and assessments, and school staff observations. If the PPT decides that no additional information is needed to determine your child’s continuing eligibility for special education services, it must inform you of that decision. If you believe additional information is needed to determine whether your child continues to be a child with a disability who requires special education services, you may request that the school district conduct additional assessments of your child. The school district must either conduct these assessments or request a due process hearing.

Does the school district need my written consent to reevaluate my child?

The school must obtain your written consent before conducting a reevaluation of your child. If you refuse consent, your school district may continue to pursue consent for the reevaluation through mediation and/or due process hearing. If the school district can show that it has tried to get your consent for the reevaluation and you failed to respond to the school district’s attempts to obtain your consent, the school district may proceed with the reevaluation as planned.[7]


[1] 20 U.S.C. §1414(a)(1)(A).
[2] 20 U.S.C. §1414(D)(i)(I).
[3] 20 U.S.C. §1414(B)(2)(A)(i)-(ii).
[4] 20 U.S.C. §1414(3)(A)(B)(C)(D).
[5] 20 U.S.C. §1414(a)(1)(C)(i).
[6] 20 U.S.C. §1414(a)(2)(B).
[7]  State of Connecticut, Department of Education, A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut (2007) http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf.

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