Evaluation: Learning More About Your Child
At this stage of the special education process, both the parent and the school district have agreed to conduct a formal student evaluation. The student's parents have received their Procedural Safeguards Notice and have provided informed consent, or permission, for the evaluation to proceed.
By providing consent for an initial evaluation, you are not giving permission for your child to receive special education services. You are only consenting to the evaluation process. If your child is found eligible for special education services, you will be required to provide informed consent for the services before they can begin.
An initial evaluation is conducted to provide information that will be used to determine if your child is a child with a disability as defined by IDEA, and, because of that disability, needs special education and related services. The evaluation process includes a variety of tests to measure your child's cognitive ability, academic skills, language skills, and social and emotional status. Evaluations may include reports written about your child that include observations of your child in the classroom and other school settings, and standardized tests. If your child is found eligible for special education under IDEA, the evaluation information will also be used to develop his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Timeline for Initial Evaluation. Many states have established specific timeframes in which a student evaluation must be completed once you provide informed parental consent. You need to know your state’s timeline for evaluation - including whether the timeline is in calendar days or schools days. Mark your calendar on the date your child’s evaluation begins and when it should be complete.
If you live in a state that does not have an established timeline for completing an evaluation, IDEA 2004 requires that the evaluation be conducted within 60 calendar days of receiving parental consent. Exceptions to this timeframe apply if the parent does not make the child available for evaluation, or if the student transfers to another school district.
Evaluations vs. Assessments: The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires all states to administer statewide assessments of reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and once between grades 10 and 12. Many states have additional state or district-wide assessments that are administered to all students to measure their academic performance against the state’s academic standards. Several states have tests that students must pass to earn a standard high school diploma or to be promoted to the next grade. A student's performance on these state or district assessments can provide helpful information about the student's rate of progress and academic achievement as compared to his or her peers in the same grade. However, such assessments do not provide the comprehensive, individualized information required by IDEA in order to make a determination for special education eligibility. That comprehensive, individualized information comes from a formal evaluation.
Schools routinely perform screenings and other informal assessments to all students to assist with their instructional programs. IDEA 2004 makes it clear that screenings administered by a teacher or other specialist for the purpose of determining instructional strategies are not to be considered as an evaluation for special education. Parental consent is not required for school-wide assessments or screenings unless consent is required for all students.
Evaluation Notice. The school district will provide you with an Evaluation Notice, or evaluation plan, that describes any tests the school proposes to conduct during the evaluation. Since IDEA contains a number of legal requirements for conducting evaluations, you should be sure that the process outlined and types of tests described in the evaluation notice reflect these requirements, are broad enough to provide a complete picture of your child, take into consideration the concerns you have raised in your communications with the school, and will provide the information needed to design your child's educational program.
Refer to the Worksheet for Organizing Your Concerns about School-Related Problems (downloadable PDF) to assist in your review of the proposed evaluation plan.
This is the beginning of your full and equal participation in the special education process - participation that is very important to your child's school success. While the terms and jargon used in the world of educational and psychological testing can be confusing and intimidating, make time to learn about the various tests the school district proposes in the evaluation plan.
Ask to meet with the evaluator or the school’s special education administrator to discuss the tests that are proposed, what they measure, and when and how they will be administered. While providing parents with an opportunity to meet and discuss the proposed evaluation process isn't required by IDEA, it's a good way for you to gain a full understanding of what is being proposed and how the results will help everyone make informed decisions about services and supports that might be appropriate. Ask for any resources that might help further your understanding, and take the opportunity to visit the library or do an online search.
Use the Questions to Ask About Evaluation Plans to help you decide if the proposed plan is right for your child and to improve your understanding of the plan.
IDEA requires that the school must review evaluations and information provided by parents. The information you provide as part of the evaluation process is extremely important. Also, you may be asked to conduct parts of the evaluation yourself, such as filling out checklists and reporting observations of your child.
- Prior teacher and parent reports
- Information from parents’ research about their child's disability
- Results of private screening or testing (paid for by parents or private insurance)
- Information from private tutors and therapists
- Letters from a family doctor
- School reports
- Samples of school performance
Get the facts on learning disabilities - Sign up for email updates from NCLD
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing