IEP Testing and Evaluations: What Parents Should Know | Timelines | Initial Evals

iep initial evaluations

IEP Evaluations

Different variations of questions come up about IEP evaluations all the time. Parents are unclear about timelines, what tests to ask for and sometimes get confused with the IEP re-evaluation process. As a result, after 8 years of this blog, at one point I had a dozen posts about IEP evaluations, IEP re-evaluations, Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) and so on. So I condensed them all into one post. But that was a disaster, so I am piecing them out again.

This post is one of three in a series. The other two are about:

  • IEE Independent Education Evaluations
  • IEP Re-Evaluations
iep initial evaluations

As always, you can join our Facebook group to ask for clarification for your specific situation.

IEP Evaluation Tests

For the purposes of this post, IEP assessment, IEP evaluation, and IEP tests are used interchangeably.

How long does a school have to respond to an evaluation request?

IDEA states that schools must respond to parents in a “reasonable” amount of time. Some case law has determined this to be as high as 30 days. State-specific regulations have defined it to be as low as 5 days. So, it varies by state. And if your state doesn’t define it, then it’s a “reasonable” amount of time.

Can a school district refuse to evaluate my child?

The short answer is yes. However, they must provide that decision to you on a PWN. Important Note: Read this and re-read it, and heed it:

It is becoming more common for a school to refuse to evaluate a child, and instead offer the parent RTI or a 504. Since the parent is being offered something, it doesn’t necessarily “feel” like refusing to evaluate, and most times they will not provide this information on a PWN. But they should!

Refusal is refusal, no matter what they offer instead of what you requested. Go with your gut and pursue the IEP, rather than waste valuable time.

When will the school evaluate my child?

The school will evaluate your child (or refuse to) when you request it. To get the process started, or to get an IEP for your child, you have to formally request IEP evaluations.

If you suspect that your child is struggling with a learning disability of some kind, ask for evaluations. You must submit a letter in writing to request these. Do not delay this. The process is slow anyway, so you want to act as soon as you suspect something.

The first evaluation that a school does is called an ER. ER stands for Evaluation Report. That is the first evaluation. Every evaluation after that is called the Re-Evaluation Report or RR. Who initiates the first set of evals varies. Sometimes the parent asks, sometimes the school sees a child struggling. (you can find more Special Education Acronyms here.)

We agreed to Special Education Evaluations, now what?

Once the school agrees to evaluate your child, they will send you a Permission to Evaluate letter. You want to participate in this, as I see it as one of the 5 parts of the IEP process every parent must do. This is also the time in the process when parents should read their IEP Procedural Safeguards.

I know my child is struggling, but I don’t know what evaluations to ask for.

That’s ok. The district is required to evaluate the child in all areas of suspected disability. If they don’t suspect it, but you do, you need to bring it to their attention. You can do a letter when you receive the Permission to Evaluate form (PTE). When you return it to them, just state your concerns and other areas you want your child tested.

IEP Testing- What to ask for.

These are by no means the only areas you can ask about. This list is to give you some examples.

  • Academic Information: Achievement vs. Ability, Classroom Performance, Teacher Report
  • Adaptive Skills: aka functional living skills
  • Assistive Technology-SETT, WATI
  • Behavioral PerformanceFBA
  • Communication
  • Developmental Skills
  • Executive Functioning Skills
  • Health
  • Hearing
  • Information from Parents-Do during request letter and again at PTE form.
  • Intellectual Ability
  • Motor Skills-fine and gross
  • Observations
  • Perceptual Motor
  • Social Skills
  • Transition Assessments-Vocational Readiness, Interest/Preference Assessments, Functional Vocational Skills Assessment
  • Vision-FVA

iep-evaluations-checklist

But what if I want to request specific IEP evaluations?

I don’t recommend this. As stated above, they are required to evaluate in every area of suspected disability. I would just make sure that you have listed every concern. I personally feel that if you request specific evaluations, it weakens your case should you want to request an IEE (more on IEEs below). The school could then deny your request for an IEE, saying, “Well, we did the evaluations you asked for.”

Additionally, we’re not professional educators. We don’t know test protocols. You don’t know if they have someone qualified to do that exam. Is that assessment even calibrated for all populations? Too many variables for my comfort. Stick to what parents are good at, which is identifying the struggles you see.

You want to make sure that they are tested in the areas of their skill deficits. For example, if you suspect a visual deficit, any evaluation that tests for processing, reading, writing….if it’s not a visual assessment, you will not know if it was an accurate assessment. Does that make sense? Also, when you get your results, read the reports carefully and determine if you got all the answers you were looking for.

I am adding this document, though not for the purposes of requesting specific IEP tests. It has a pretty comprehensive list of areas to evaluate for an IEP, and describes each one.

List-of-IEP-Assessments

Can’t I just get him/her evaluated privately?

Sure, you can. But per IDEA, the school only has to “consider” any information presented to them from an outside evaluator. They don’t have to agree to the assessment or any of the strategies and accommodations listed by that evaluator.

Most evaluations like this are educational, not medical. Insurance often does not cover this, so before you spend your money, ask the school to do it.

I don’t need IEP evals because I already got an outside eval that I paid for.

And by the way, why won’t the school just take that outside eval and develop or make changes to the IEP?

Short answer: Because they don’t have to!

But seriously, they only “have to consider” the information presented to them by an independent evaluator. This is why I hate when parents go out and spend thousands of their own money getting an evaluation without researching the process first. If a school agrees to fund the evaluation, they are more likely to implement the recommendations in my opinion. Now, should you find yourself with a child who is regressing or not making progress, even after being given an independent evaluator’s report, and you find yourself in mediation or DP over that, then having that evaluator’s report will definitely help you in your case.

How long does the school have to evaluate my child?

The general guideline is 60 days. But, some states have shortened it to 30 or 45, so check your state’s regs on this.

Also, it may be 60 school days, depending on your state.

So if you make a request in May, it could be September or October until your evaluation is complete. That’s why I say don’t delay!

See the rest of the explanation from Pete Wright.

I went to a workshop several years ago and was told by the PA Bureau of Special Ed that they expect that the Evaluation Report will be in the parent’s hands on Day 60. Not doing evaluations on Day 59 or 60, done.

It’s been much longer than 60 days. What can I do?

There are a few things you can do, such as file IEP compliance complaints. There are several different options. I would start the process friendly. Send an email, asking when you can expect the evaluation to be complete. Go up the chain of command if necessary. Learn about RTII and see if that might be appropriate for your child and request it to begin in the interim.

Here’s the thing I find. Parents are upset, frustrated, a whole lot of emotions. And they often don’t know what to focus on, so I find that too often, they focus on timelines. Timelines are specific and measurable, right? It’s an easy “win” for the parent if they can say “A-HA! You are late!”

As an advocate, I encourage my clients to focus on the big picture. What’s more important-that an RR is complete within 60 days instead of 65, or that the report is complete, thorough and accurate? Even if you file state complaints, it is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. And it draws attention away from the big picture-that you have solid evals that will fuel a good IEP. Mind you, if it gets to 70+ days or more without any correspondence or explanation, you’re going to hear from me.

But the best advice I can give to you is to focus on content and meaningful parent participation, not deadlines.

I was invited to a meeting to go over the ER. Should I expect an advance copy?

Not necessarily. Just remember that you do not have to sign anything or agree to anything that day. It would be lovely if they would send you an advance copy, but IDEA does not require it (some states do). Tell them you want to take the time to go home and digest the information.

Can I request more/different IEP evaluations?

You can request IEP evals any time, but the school can say no. Some reasons for requesting evaluations outside of the standard timeline are:

  • period of extreme growth or regression, plateauing
  • change in behaviors
  • medical status changed
  • whenever parent/teacher feels there is an area of need that is not being addressed or incorrectly addressed
  • any time parent/teacher reviews the Present Levels section and realizes that is no longer accurate for this student

We had the ER meeting, now what?

The school has 30 days to draw up an IEP if the student is found to eligible for Special Education.

I don’t agree with the information in the ER.

It happens. Now is when you request an IEE. IEE stands for Independent Education Evaluation. You can find all the information you need about IEEs in that post.

Hopefully this has answered all your questions about IEP evaluations. You can also dig deeper by reading the posts below.

And this might help....