Welcome to a new series here on the blog-The ABCs of IEPs. Each day we will be picking a new topic in special education to go with the letter of the alphabet, and explaining it further to help you better advocate at IEP time. Even better is that I have some really great guest contributors lined up to do some guest posting on these topics. Today is E is for evaluations!
Proper evaluations are a key component to an appropriate IEP. They are one of the 6 principles of special education. There are literally thousands and thousands of evaluation and protocols out there. But, that doesn’t have to be overwhelming for the parent. I rarely recommend that a parent request a specific evaluation or test. If you keep a few main thoughts in mind as you are dealing with the evaluation phase of the IEP process, it’ll be a breeze.
So, here are some FAQs about IEP and Special Education Evaluations. (that will take you to IDEA Dept of Ed page on evals)
How often should my child be evaluated for their IEP?
After the initial evaluation, the standard re-evaluation period is every 2 years for students identified with intellectual disabilities, and 3 years for everyone else.
Do I have to wait for that 2 or 3 years?
No, not really. If you suspect that something has changed, write a letter to your child’s team leader explaining what you see and what you want him/her to be evaluated for. If, at any time, you want your child evaluated for something, just send them a letter with your concerns. You can find letter templates here.
How long does the school have to evaluate my child?
When either it is time for their re-evaluation or you have requested an evaluation, the school should get you a PTE form (Permission to Evaluate form) within 10 days. You then have 10 days to sign it and get it back to them. Once they receive that, they have 60 days to evaluate your child and get an evaluation report to you. (this may vary in different states!)
What specific tests should I ask for? What tests/evaluations are they required to do?
I rarely have parents request specific tests. They are required to evaluate in every area of suspected disability. So, either as a letter requesting evaluations or when you sign and return the PTE form, I would list all of your specific concerns, what you are seeing at home, possible disabilities/issues that are undiagnosed and so on. They may not suspect it or see it at school, so if you are seeing it, bring it to their attention.
Can I request a specific IEP evaluation?
You can, but there are so many evaluations, make sure that what you are asking for is appropriate. I always recommend to parents, that when it is re-evaluation time, that you specifically request that actual evaluations are completed. Some schools will merely take “existing data” and do a new report, without re-evaluating the child. Children grow, they progress, they change….academic demands change, social demands change…so much can change in a 2-3 year period. I do not think that just reviewing existing data is sufficient.
How do I know if it was the right IEP evaluation for my child?
All evaluations have protocols and all have a bias. Some will favor students who can read and write well, some will favor the auditory learner. Some will favor the hands-on learner. Some are completely inappropriate–depending on age, diagnoses, whether the child is intellectually disabled or non-verbal and so on. Ask your child’s team to explain it to you-why they chose the test protocols that they chose. You can always read up on them more online.
When you receiving your Evaluation Report (ER) or Re-evaluation Report (RR) read and review it thoroughly. Take your entire 10 days to review it. If you are handed it right before an IEP meeting, well, you may have to call another meeting. It is a lot to digest. But, bottom line is, it should thoroughly and accurately describe your child–all of their strengths and all of their areas of need. If it doesn’t–something isn’t right. Either the right evaluation was not done or not enough evaluations were done.
I often say that the most important part of the IEP is the Present Levels section. It is a listing (or should be) of all of the child’s areas of need and it’s what drives the rest of the IEP. Many times the RR is pasted into that section. Just make sure that section is thorough, complete, accurate, that nothing essential is missing. A district can do 8 different evaluations on a child for autism, but if they don’t do a test specifically for a reading disability…they’re not going to find it. Make sense?
What if I disagree with the evaluation?
Then you are wandering into IEE territory. You can read more about Independent Education Evaluations here.
As always, I could talk and ramble and go off on tangents about evaluations all day long. I tried to be succinct and keep you focused so that you can be a better advocate for your child. If you have any comments or suggestions, leave a comment, thanks!