Making the IEP Work For You, Part One: Evaluation
Parents Should Play an Active Role in the Team Effort
If you think your child might be eligible to receive special education services or if your child already qualifies for special education, evaluation (or reevaluation) is an essential step in the design of an IEP. Evaluation is the process by which a child’s capabilities and needs are assessed and is the basis for his/her IEP. Here are some important things for you and your family to consider related to evaluation:
- Evaluation is required by the federal special education law, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to determine if a student qualifies for special education services.
- Evaluation is a systematic process of collecting and interpreting information about a child’s abilities, strengths, and needs.
- The evaluation is always done by a team, and the makeup of the team varies based on the needs of the individual student.
- Too often people think of evaluation as “testing.” Actually, evaluation is a collection and combination of data that should include observations by people who know and work with the child, present levels of academic or functional performance, formalized evaluations (tests), etc. It should focus on the child’s strengths as well as his/her needs and provide information about how the child learns best.
- Evaluation can feel like a scary time for parents because they are afraid they will only hear negative things about their child.
- To help keep things positive families can get in the habit of recording the child’s strengths and achievements – however seemingly small – in the form of a list or a diary. This
record should describe the child’s abilities in all areas (general skills, social, motor, access skills, self-help, etc.). This can form the basis of the parents’ observation.
- Once evaluation has taken place by school personnel, parents are to be notified of the results in writing. Parents may request a meeting with school officials to discuss the results before the IEP meeting takes place.
- Parents should consider whether or not the evaluation results are consistent with their own picture of their child. If not, they can ask questions to see if the child’s performance was affected by the conditions of the evaluation.
- If, for some reason, the results do not appear to be accurate and are not satisfactory to the family, they have the right to have the child assessed by an independent evaluator of their choosing. The school district may or may not pay for this. Parents should make sure that the outside evaluator is qualified and someone who shares, or is receptive to, the
parents’ vision for their child.
- The initial evaluation that determines eligibility to receive special education services under IDEA must be done 60 calendar days from the time the school district receives the parental signature giving permission for the initial evaluation. Reevaluation must occur at least once every three years but could happen more often if the team, including the family, agrees it is necessary.
Above all, remember that evaluation is a team effort and is a combination and collection of data. No one person, one observation, or one evaluation or test, should be the sole
determining factor in the final outcome of the evaluation.
When designed individually and implemented effectively, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is an important tool that helps assure a student’s success in education. This three part series, Making the IEP Work for You, will explore key components of the IEP including: evaluation, how families can make the most of this valuable tool, and progress monitoring!
This article was written and published by PEAK Parent Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado and used with permission by the Utah Parent Center.
Website Links for Additional Resources Related to Evaluation and Reevaluation
- Evaluating Children for Disability, from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
- Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004, briefs, video clips, and training materials related to Evaluation
- Parents As Partners in the IEP Process Parent Handbook, by the Utah Parent Center
- Referral and Evaluation Information Sheet, from the Utah Parent Center
- Parents As Partners in the IEP Process: Module 1 Video, Referral Evaluation and Eligibility by the UPC
- Utah Special Education Rules, by the Utah State Office of Education, Special Education Services