Special Education Evaluations
Evaluations represent a cornerstone in the special education process. Yet too often, evaluations are difficult to understand and may not give sufficiently detailed information about your child. Without thorough evaluations, it will be impossible for a school district to determine a child’s special education needs and services, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Families do not have to go through this process alone. A special education attorney or advocate can help you and your child understand evaluations and pursue appropriate educational options, even when your school district seems unhelpful or disconnected.
An evaluation takes place after either a parent or a teacher refers a child to the Committee on Special Education (CSE), which is the school district’s task force for identifying students who need special education services.
After the referral, the CSE must perform an evaluation of a student within 60 days of receiving the signed consent form. The evaluation should be a comprehensive look at what your child knows and how he or she learns. The evaluation must include a classroom observation, a psychoeducational evaluation, a social history, and a physical exam, which your child’s doctor can provide. The evaluation may also include the results of any other appropriate testing, such as speech, language or functional behavior assessments.
After the evaluation, the CSE will meet with you to determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. The team will decide whether the child has a disability, as defined under the IDEA, that has an educational impact. If eligibility is confirmed, then the CSE will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to set a plan for instruction and special education services. An IEP must be reviewed on an annual basis, and a student must be reevaluated every three years.
Throughout this process, it is important for parents to understand their rights, particularly when they disagree with any of the findings of the CSE, including evaluations. For example, if parents disagree with an evaluation, they are entitled to ask for an independent educational evaluation, at public expense. The school district must either grant this request or file for due process.
In conducting and reviewing evaluations, remember that school district view the evaluations often very differently and through a different lens than parents. School districts are bureaucracies and often on focus on process and rules, rather than individual improvement. School districts have no legal obligation to maximize a child’s potential. Thus, parents may wish to contract for their own private evaluations rather than relying solely on school district evaluations. The complexities of the rules for special education can be overwhelming, and school district officials are often too overwhelmed to monitor each child’s progress carefully and to spot difficulties early. In these circumstances, a Littman Krooks special education attorney or advocate can help you understand your rights, navigate the red tape and get the school district to deliver the services to which your child needs.