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Video Transcript - 6 Principles of IDEA: Evaluations

Children who have physical disabilities, developmental delays or certain diagnoses (such as Down syndrome) are often identified early by a medical provider. These students may have a wide range of academic difficulties depending on the severity of the delay, and some may have no difficulties at all. Fortunately, because they are often diagnosed before entering public school, most children with physical disabilities or developmental delays enter school with special education structures in place.

For other children, concerns about learning, behavior or development may not appear until the child is in school.  Parents are often the first to notice something concerning and can ask the public school to evaluate their child.

The request should be made in writing and given to the principal of your child’s school. Describe your concerns with your child’s educational performance and request an evaluation under IDEA. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter and any attachments for your files. 

You should receive a written response – either an evaluation plan that requires your consent or a denial of your request giving the reasons why. In both cases, you’ll be provided a copy of your legal rights and responsibilities. The school must ask for your permission and receive your written consent before it may evaluate your child. Once you provide that consent, the evaluation must be conducted within 60 calendar days.

The school itself may raise concerns about how a child is learning, behaving, and developing. Based on a teacher’s recommendation, observations, or results from tests given to all children, a school may recommend that a child receive further screening or assessment to determine if they have a disability and need special education and related services. The school must ask parents for permission and receive written consent before the evaluation may be conducted. Once consent is received the evaluation must be conducted within 60 calendar days.

The first time a child is evaluated for special education is called an initial evaluation. You may also hear the term “assessment” to describe an evaluation. For an initial evaluation, it’s important to examine all areas of a child’s functioning. 

A team of public school professionals conduct the evaluation using various assessments, information provided by the parent, review of school records, and an observation in the classroom. Each member of the team has special knowledge and training in the area that’s being assessed. The team works together to look at all of the child’s skills. Areas include:

  • health,
  • vision and hearing,
  • social and emotional development,
  • learning potential,
  • academic performance, such as reading comprehension, spelling, and arithmetic
  • communication skills, and
  • motor skills

Assessments are diagnostic tools. They do not contain answers or solutions. Assessments are not able to predict your child’s future performance, nor their ability.

The school will create an evaluation report that details all the information gathered and each team member will give their results. Usually, the report will include:

  • A statement about why your child was referred for evaluation
  • Background information about your child’s social and academic history
  • A list of the tests performed and the records reviewed
  • A summary of test results or scores
  • An explanation of what the test results mean

Most reports have a summary or conclusion section. It usually consists of a few paragraphs at the end that sum up what was learned and what it all means. An evaluation report can be a lot of information to wade through. It may help to flip to the end and read the summary first.

A reevaluation occurs at least once every three years and typically begins with a review of existing evaluation data, which may come from the child’s classroom work, their performance on State or district assessments, information provided by the parents. The purpose of this review is to decide if the existing data is sufficient to establish eligibility and determine educational needs, or if a reevaluation is needed. If the parent and the school agree the information is sufficient, the public school isn’t required to complete assessments. If additional information is needed, the group identifies what data is needed.

A reevaluation may also be conducted any time the school or the parent believes the needs of the student should be reevaluated.  Just like with the initial evaluation, the school must have the parent’s written consent.

If your child is determined eligible for special education, the next step is to draft an individualized education program (IEP). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives the school district 30 days from the documentation of the disability to complete an IEP. Parents must give permission for placement as a part of the initial IEP.  

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