IEP Evaluations: What parents need to know. Evals | Re-evals | IEEs | Timelines
Different variations of questions come up about IEP evaluations all the time. Parents are unclear about timelines, what tests to ask for and so many other things. As a result, after 8 years of this blog, I now have about a dozen posts about IEP evaluations, re-evaluations, Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) and so on. So, here we go. I’m going to condense all those posts into one long post. I will try to organize it so that it makes sense for parents. As always, you can join our Facebook group to ask for clarification for your specific situation.
IEP Evaluations, Timelines and IEEs
When will the school evaluate my child?
The school will evaluate your child initially, which 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.
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.
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.
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.
Areas of Suspected Disability
This is 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 Performance– FBA
- Developmental Skills
- Executive Functioning Skills
- Information from Parents-Do during request letter and again at PTE form.
- Intellectual Ability
- Motor Skills-fine and gross
- Perceptual Motor
- Social Skills
- Transition Assessments-Vocational Readiness, Interest/Preference Assessments, Functional Vocational Skills Assessment
But what if I want to request specific 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, identifying the struggles you see.
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 already got an IEE that I paid for, why won’t the school implement the recommendations?
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 is 60 school days. 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!
I went to a workshop several years ago, and was told by 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 like file state compliance complaints. 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/RR. 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.
How often will the school re-evaluate my child?
After the initial ER, your child should be re-evaluated every 3 years. PA says every 2 years for intellectual disability. Other states may have different guidelines but generally, expect every 3 years.
Can I request more/different IEP evaluations?
You can request 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/RR meeting, now what?
I find that districts (around here anyway) only hold separate ER meetings when it is the ER. After that, the RR gets rolled into the IEP meeting. As with anything, if that’s ok with you, go for it. If it is too much information at one time to digest, ask for two separate meetings.
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/RR.
It happens. Now is when you request an IEE. IEE stands for Independent Education Evaluation.
The school does not have to grant you an IEE. Some of the reasons for an IEE are:
- the district does not employ qualified evaluators for a specific evaluation
- you disagree with district’s evaluation
- the district refuses to do an evaluation
- district’s eval was incomplete or used outdated methods or data
- data collected is inappropriate (for example, they used a test protocol that is not appropriate for autism or IDD, or non-verbal or blind, or reading disabled, etc.)
You only get one IEE per issue or per occurrence so to speak. So say you suspect a reading disability of some kind. The district evaluates your child and says he’s fine. You get an IEE (at district expense), and that evaluator agrees with the district. No reading disability. You generally cannot get another IEE for the same issue.
But it is my “right” to get an IEE, correct?
No! Here’s the thing. Districts can say no when you ask for an IEE, and the burden of proof is on the family to prove it’s necessary. You can either try again, request an IEP meeting to discuss it, file for mediation, or pay for it yourself. At any time, a parent can get an IEE for a child at your own expense or you can try doing battle with your insurance company.
After all is said and done, the district has to consider the information in the IEE report. Note, that says consider, not “follow to the letter all the recommendations.” IEEs can be very expensive. I’ve seen some decent agencies do them for $250, depending on the length and type of eval, and I’ve seen some as high as $7000 or more.
So why would a district refuse to provide an IEE at a parent’s request? Money of course. It comes down to money and providing services. In many cases, IEE reports are filled with extensive strategies for the child, and well, some districts don’t like that. With money and budgets and the economy the way it is, IEEs have become a very active battleground.
Do I have to use an evaluator from the list they gave me?
No! No matter what you are told, you do not. Ask around, ask in parent support groups. Call the evaluator’s offices, ask about what you are looking for. Ask how often their reports are used in DP cases. How often are they hired by parents, and are they contracted by any schools? In our litigious society, this area has grown like every other area–and paid expert witnesses, which is what many independent evaluators are. There are ones who work for parents, and ones who work for schools. They may find what they are biased to find.
My school filed for Due Process when I asked for an IEE!
Yes, they did. You should expect this. Be prepared for this before you submit your request for an IEE.
If a district files for Due Process, they have essentially backed the family into a corner. You have to decide if want to, or can afford to “lawyer up” and go to DP. Gone are your options for mediation or a facilitated IEP meeting–the district has already eliminated those options by filing for DP.
This is why you need to have your ducks in a row prior to ever requesting the IEE. Yes, it sucks that it’s another example of parents being on the defensive, but we all need to be aware. And remember, not all people at all districts are jerks.
You might also need these IEP tips: