What is an evaluation?
An evaluation is the process used to determine if a student is eligible for special education services and in what areas services need to be provided. Both the federal regulations implementing IDEA 2004 and the state’s Washington Administrative Code 392-172A (WAC), define how evaluations are conducted by the school district and who is involved in the process. A parent of the child, a state or local education agency, or other State agency can request the evaluation of a student, if there is concern about how the student learns. The concern could be about academic areas – reading, math or written language. Other areas that can also be evaluated are health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence (I.Q.), communication and motor abilities. The school district must evaluate the student in all areas of suspected disability.
How can I refer my child for an evaluation?
Put the request for an evaluation in writing and send it by certified mail to the district or hand carry it and have your copy signed and dated by the district representative. This will give you a receipt showing who signed and the date it was received. It provides documentation for the starting date of the timelines the district must follow for the evaluation. Remember, asking for and giving written consent for an evaluation does not mean you are giving consent for your student to be placed in a special education program. It means you and the team need more information to make good decisions about the student’s program, and special education may be part of it.
After the referral is made, then what?
The district must:
- document the referral;
- notify the parent(s) that the student has been referred, and that the team, including the parents, will decide whether or not to evaluate the student;
- examine existing school, medical, and other records the parent(s) or other agencies might have;
- provide “prior written notice” to the parent(s) regarding their decision to evaluate within 25 school days after receipt of the referral
- complete the evaluation within an additional 35 school days.
How often can my child be re-evaluated?
A re-evaluation can occur at any of the following times:
- The district decides that because of academic improvement the student warrants a re-evaluation.
- The student’s parent(s) or teacher requests it.
- At least every three years unless the parent(s) and district agree it is not necessary.
Must the district notify me and get my written consent before re-evaluations can occur?
Yes. The district must obtain the parent’s written consent before re-evaluating the student.
What exactly is the procedure used to evaluate my child?
The law is very clear about evaluating children with suspected disabilities. The district must:
- use a variety of assessment tools to gather information about the functional, developmental and academic areas of a student’s school performance, including information provided by the parent;
- draw upon information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, parent input, teacher recommendations, the student’s physical condition, social and cultural background and adaptive behavior;
- use a variety of tests rather than one single measure or test to determine a student’s eligibility for special education services;
- use tests that are selected and administered in ways that are not culturally or racially discriminatory;
- administer the tests in the student’s native language or other form most likely to ensure accurate information about academic, functional and behavior needs of the child;
- use trained and knowledgeable personnel to administer the tests;
- insure the tests are valid and reliable for what they are measuring; and
- evaluate in all areas of suspected disability.
Will the district pay for a medical evaluation?
If necessary, as part of the assessment, the district may obtain a medical statement or assessment to see if there may be other factors affecting the child’s educational performance.
Will the district consider an outside evaluation that we have paid for?
Yes. When the team is reviewing existing records the information you provide must be considered in the decision to do either an initial evaluation or a re-evaluation.
Does the district have to do a re-evaluation before removing my child from special education?
YES!!!!!! Before a student can be removed from special education a complete re-evaluation must occur. The only exceptions are when a child is graduating from high school with a regular education diploma or if the student has reached age 21 by August 31 and is no longer eligible for special education services.
What is an evaluation report and can I have a copy?
After the evaluation is completed, a written narrative (the evaluation report) must be given to parents. It will explain whether or not the student has a disability that makes him/her eligible for special education. It will also contain:
- a statement about whether the student has a disability that meets the criteria for eligibility for special education and the supporting data for that conclusion;
- information about how the student’s disability affects involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, or for preschool children, in appropriate activities;
- recommended special education and related services needed by the student, including, if appropriate, positive behavioral supports and/or student management strategies;
- other information determined through evaluation and parental input;
- documentation by each professional (signature and date) certifying that the report represents his/her conclusion or, if disagreeing, a separate statement representing his/her conclusions; and
- documentation of the results of the individual assessments or observations by individuals contributing to the report.
Remember, the evaluation report is the foundation for the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
What are the procedures for evaluating Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)?
In addition to the requirements for determining whether a student qualifies for special education services, there are additional procedures for identifying Specific Learning Disabilities.
Each district may develop procedures for identifying students with SLD which may include the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement; or a process based on the student’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; or a combination of both.
The decision of whether a student qualifies as having SLD is made by a specific group, including:
- Student’s parent;
- Student’s general education classroom teacher (if the student does not have a general education classroom teacher, a teacher who is qualified to teach a student of that age);
- For a student of less than school age, an individual qualified to teach a student of that age; and
- At least one individual qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of students, such as school psychologist, speech language pathologist or remedial reading teacher.
The group described above may determine that a child has SLD if:
- The student does not achieve adequately for the student’s age or meet the state’s grade level standards when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the student’s age in one or more of the following areas:
- Oral expression
- Listening comprehension
- Written expression
- Basic reading skill
- Reading fluency skill
- Reading comprehension
- Mathematics calculation
- Mathematics problem solving
What if I disagree with the results or recommendations of the evaluation?
Parents might disagree with the evaluation results for a variety of reasons. The report might not accurately reflect a child’s disability, or it might not have been in-depth enough. A child might be seriously struggling in class with failing grades and yet the test scores do not reflect his/her need for social or organizational support. Parents then have a right to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at district expense. The request should be in writing and sent by certified mail. The only way a district can refuse the request is to call for a due process hearing to prove their evaluation is appropriate. The district has to respond within fifteen calendar days to the IEE request. If the district calls for an IEE, and their evaluation is determined to be appropriate, parents still have the right to an independent educational evaluation; however it would be at their own expense. The results of the IEE, whether done at
public or private expense, must be considered by the district in making decisions about placement and/or provision of special education and related services.
What if my child does not qualify for special education services?
If your child is not eligible for special education services (does not need specially designed instruction), he/she may qualify for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is a non-discrimination law that applies to any district/agency receiving federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. This law defines disability in more general terms than WAC or IDEA. If, for instance, a child with a diagnosed disability does not qualify for services under IDEA but is still struggling in school, Section 504 could be used to provide accommodations, related services, and modifications for the child.
Questions To Ask Yourself:
How does my child go about solving problems at home and at school?
What has my child learned so far?
What are the things my child can do?
How and when does my child need assistance?
What kind of assistance is most effective for my child?
How does my child learn best?
What are my child’s strengths?
What are my child’s personality traits?
How does my child get along with adults/ peers?
How does my child feel about him/herself?
What causes my child anxiety?
Where is my child most comfortable
What makes my child comfortable?
What are my child’s interests?
Questions for Schools:
What tests were given?
Why were those specific tests chosen for my child?
What were they supposed to measure?
Do these tests evaluate strengths as well as weaknesses?
Are there any biases in the tests?
Who gave the tests?
How will the information be used?
Questions for a Re-evaluation:
What progress has my child made?
What are the areas in which my child made progress?
What are the areas in which my child has not made progress or has regressed?
On what is this information based (such as classroom observation, in-class testing, standardized testing, etc.)?
May I have a copy of the results of the evaluation, the records of observations, and other documentation?
SAMPLE EVALUATION REQUEST
Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
City, State, Zip
I am requesting a full and individual evaluation for my son/daughter (Name, Date of Birth) for assessment as a special education student as stipulated in IDEA 300.15 and WAC 392-172A-01070 and under Section 504.
I understand that the evaluation is to be in all areas of suspected disability, and that the school district is to provide this evaluation at no charge to me. My reasons for requesting this procedure are: ____________________________________________________.
I understand that I am an equal member of the IEP team, and will be involved in any meetings regarding the identification, evaluation, provision of services, placement or decisions regarding a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). I would appreciate meeting with each person who will be doing the evaluation before he/she tests my child so that I might share information about (child’s name) with him/her. I will also expect a copy of the written report generated by each evaluator so that I might review it before the team meeting.
I understand you must have my written permission for these tests to be administered and I will be happy to provide that upon receipt of the proper forms.
I appreciate your help in this matter. If you have any questions, please call me at (telephone number).
Send this letter by certified mail or hand carry into the district office and get a date/time receipt. (Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)
The PAVE Parent Training and Information Program may include information on State or Federal laws regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. While this is provided to inform or make one aware of these rights, legal definitions, or laws/regulations, it is not providing legal representation or legal advice. The recipient understands that this is information is to educate them not to provide them with legal representation.