Define and Overview of Appropriate (Nondiscriminatory) Evaluation
What's an appropriate evaluation?
Before a child can receive special education services, an appropriate evaluation is required. "IDEA requires that all assessments be nondiscriminatory and all procedures be non-biased. There must be a variety of assessment tools and strategies performed in order to have an appropriate evaluation."
What are the rights of and involvement available to families?
Schools are required to have parental consent before they can evaluate a student. The evaluation will not cost anything. Parents are allowed at the evaluation and they can ask the evaluator questions.
The evaluation is the beginning of the special education process. It is essential. It is required that the student is evaluated to see if the child has a disability and is eligible for special education. The evaluation process is guided by requirements under IDEA.
Purpose of Evaluation
The evaluation is required (by IDEA) before any special education and related services can be provided to the child. The purposes of conducting this evaluation are:
- To see if the child is a “child with a disability” (as defined by IDEA).
- To gather information that will help determine the educational needs of the child.
- To guide decision making about appropriate educational "programming" for the child.
IDEA’s Definition of a “Child with a Disability”
"IDEA lists different disability categories under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. These categories are:
- Developmental Delay
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Visual Impairment (including blindness)
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Speech or Language Impairment"
It is important to note that, just because a child has a disability, it does not mean they are eligible for special education. IDEA regulation states, "Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with §§300.304 through 300.311 as having [one of the disabilities listed above] and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services."
It is kind of a tricky area. In a sense it says that because of the disability the child is in need of special education and related services. The tricky part is that "many children have disabilities that do not bring with them the need for extra educational assistance or individualized educational programming. If a child has a disability but is not eligible under IDEA, he or she may be eligible for the protections afforded by other laws—such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. It’s not uncommon for a child to have a 504 plan at school to address disability-related educational needs. Such a child will receive needed assistance but not under IDEA."
A child will still be obtaining services through a 504 plan, not under IDEA. A 504 plan falls under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which is part of the federal civil rights law that "prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities. That includes students with learning and attention issues who meet certain criteria".
A Little Information About the 504 Plan
Children who aren’t eligible for an IEP may qualify for a 504 plan. "Section 504 defines a person with a disability as someone who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activities (such as reading or concentrating).
- Has a record of the impairment.
- Is regarded as having an impairment, or a significant difficulty that isn’t temporary. For example, a broken leg isn’t an impairment, but a chronic condition, like a food allergy, might be."
Identifying Children for Evaluation
Before eligibility (under IDEA) can be determined, a full evaluation of the child must be conducted. There are (at least) two ways in which a child may be identified to receive an evaluation:
- Parents can request that their child be evaluated. Often times, the parent is the first to notice that their child’s learning, behavior, or development may be a cause for concern. If the parent is worried (and thinks their child might be in need of special education services), they can call, email, or write to their child's teacher, the school principal, or the Director of Special Education (in the school district). If the school agrees that an evaluation is necessary, they will evaluate the student at no cost to the parents.
- The school system may ask (the parents) to evaluate the child. The school would ask if: the teacher recommended it, observed some need, or there are test results that could have been a concern (test given to all students). In order for this to happen, parent must give their "informed written permission" for the valuation to be conducted.
Giving Parents Notice
IDEA requires that the school notify parents in writing that it would like to evaluate their child (or that it is refusing to evaluate the child). This is called "giving prior written notice". It is not enough for the school to tell parents that it would like to evaluate their child or that it refuses to evaluate their child. The school must also:
- explain why it wants to evaluate the child (or why it refuses).
- "describe each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used as a basis for proposing the evaluation (or refusing to conduct the evaluation)".
- tell parents where they can go to get information about IDEA.
- tell parents what other options the school considered and why those were rejected.
- give a description of any other factors that are relevant to the school’s proposal (or refusal) to evaluate the child.
What's the purpose?
What is the purpose of all of this? To make sure that parents are fully informed, understand what is being proposed (or refused), fully understand what the evaluation process will involve, as well as understand that they have a right to refuse the evaluation (or utilize IDEA's procedural safeguards if the school refuses to evaluate their child).
It is also important to know that, all written communication from the school must be worded in a way that the general public can understand as well as be provided in the parents' native language. If parents’ native language or other mode of communication is not a written language, there are tools that can be used. If, for some reason, written language is not an option, the "school must take steps to ensure:
- that the notice is translated orally (or by other means) to parents in their native language or other mode of communication,
- that parents understand the content of the notice, and
- that there is written evidence that the above two requirements have been met."
"Before the school may proceed with the evaluation, parents must give their informed written consent. This consent is for the evaluation only. It does not mean that the school has the parents’ permission to provide special education services to the child. That requires a separate consent."
If parents refuse consent for an initial evaluation (or simply don’t respond to the school’s request), the school should "carefully document all its attempts to obtain parent consent". Schools can also continue to pursue conducting the evaluation "by using the law’s due process procedures or its mediation procedures, unless doing so would be inconsistent with state law relating to parental consent".
If parents take their child out of the public school system, school districts do not have the right to evaluate a child. It would be intrusive for the school to continue these efforts.
Time-frame for Initial Evaluation
What does the law require?
There is a time-frame for the initial evaluation. It must be conducted within 60 days of "receiving parental consent for the evaluation–or if the state establishes its own time-frame for conducting an initial evaluation".
The Scope of Evaluation
The evaluation "must be full and individual, focused on that child and only that child", as opposed to tests being taken by the entire class. These tests (entire class tests) will contribute useful information towards the evaluation however, the initial evaluation must be the individual child. The larger tests (standardized tests, entire class tests) are not enough to "diagnose a disability or determine what, if any, special education or related services the child might need, let alone plan an appropriate educational program for the child".
Also, the evaluation must consist of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to "gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, including information provided by the parent". For this initial evaluation it is important to examine all areas of the child's functioning to determine if the child is a child with a disability as well as to determine the child's educational needs.
"This full and individual evaluation includes evaluating the child’s: health, vision and hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities."
IDEA states that the school must ensure that the evaluation is comprehensive and will identify the child's special education needs and any related services.
Review Existing Data
It is important to review the existing evaluation data. This could come from classroom work, performance on state or district assessments, information provided by the parents, etc.
The purpose of this review is to "decide if the existing data is sufficient to establish the child’s eligibility and determine educational needs, or if additional information is needed". If there is sufficient information, the next step is to notify the parents. The parents are to be notified:
- of that determination and the reason for it.
- that they have the right to request assessment to determine the child’s eligibility and educational needs.
Unless the parents request an assessment, the public agency is not required to conduct one.
if additional information is needed
First, figure out what is needed. Does the child have a specific category of disability (as identified by IDEA , I have included a list above)? How is the child performing (currently) in school? What are the academic and developmental needs of the child? Is the child in need of special education or related services? Are there modifications or additions needed to enable the child to meet their educational goals?
There are different degrees of impairment and, depending on the individual child, the impairment(s) can effect other areas academically for the child. There can be many individuals that are aiding in the success of the child (audiologist, psychologist, speech-language pathologist, social worker, occupational or physical therapist, vision specialist, regular classroom teacher, educational diagnosticians, or others).
Thus the evaluation is of critical importance for the benefit of the student. The regulations are critical for the school (including teachers) to know so:
- that everyone concerned in the matter is all on the same page.
- no child is being discriminated against (either real or assumed).
- nobody feels like they are being discriminated against.
"One of the cornerstones of IDEA’s evaluation requirements from its earliest days", is the use of variety in the assessment tools and strategies. Under IDEA, "it is inappropriate and unacceptable to base any eligibility decision upon the results of only one procedure".
If testing is the only tool being used, it will not give a full picture of how "a child performs or what he or she knows or does not know".
The only way to get an accurate idea of the child's strengths and weaknesses is to use a variety of approaches (observations, interviews, tests, curriculum-based assessment, etc.) from a variety of sources (parents, teachers, specialists, child).
IDEA also requires "schools to use technically sound instruments and processes in evaluation". What is meant by "technically sound instruments"? Assessments that have been shown through research to be reliable and valid. "The materials must be:
- administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel;
- administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments; and
- used for the purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable."
All of this information is taken into account to design an appropriate program for the child.
Consider Language, Communication Mode, and Culture
"Another important component in evaluation is to ensure that assessment tools are not discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis." This is a provision of the law (of IDEA).
The evaluation must be conducted in the "child’s typical, accustomed mode of communication and in a form that will give accurate information about what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally".
When we talk about consider language, communication mode, and culture, it means:
If the child has limited English, materials and procedures used to assess the child must be selected and administered to ensure that they "measure the extent to which your child has a disability and needs special education". It is not measuring the child's English language skills.
what's the purpose?
It is to protect children of different racial, cultural, or language backgrounds from misdiagnosis. Cultural backgrounds may affect a child's behavior or responses to tests. Teachers may not understand these behaviors or responses. Also, if a child speaks limited English, they may not understand the directions. This could make them appear to have a communication problem, to be a slow learner,or to have a behavior issue.
Again, it is important to document everything. If, for some reason, the test has to be changed or modified in some way to accommodate the individual, this needs to be documented and be sure to include the "why".
What About Evaluation for Specific Learning Disabilities?
"IDEA’s regulations specify additional procedures required to be used for determining the existence of a specific learning disability."
- "States must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement.
- States must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention.
- States may permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability.
- The team that makes the eligibility determination must include a regular education teacher and at least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, or speech-language pathologist."
Did you know that parents weren't always included in the group that determined their child's eligibility? They were often exclude??
No! I had no idea. Why on earth would the parents be excluded from this? This is an important matter affecting their baby. I could not believe this when I read it and I am glad that this was amended.
Now parents must be a part of this group (this process). They must be involved throughout the entire process. As they should be. Parents should have a say in what is happening with their child. I know it can be difficult because parents always want what is "best" for their child and, what is "best" is not always appropriate. However, it is important that parents are involved, that schools want what is "best" in the appropriate way for all students, and that any disagreements can be handled in the appropriate ways.
Of course the actual evaluation/testing is specific and only involves the child. However, schools are required to explain the testing/assessment results, the specialist who administered the test is there, they will explain what they did, why they used the tests they did, the results of the tests, and what the child's scores mean (especially when compared to other children of the same age and grade).
If the child is limited in English, and has difficulties in reading or math, this does not determine eligibility (for special education services). The child must meet the law’s definition of a “child with a disability” (the child must have one of the disabilities mentioned earlier, ELL is not a disability), and because of that disability, the child is in need of special education or related services.
The evaluation results will form the basis for developing the child's IEP.
What Happens if parents Don’t Agree with the Evaluation Results?
If parents disagree with the results, they have the right to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public school responsible for the education of the child. If parents ask for an IEE, the school must provide them with information about where an IEE may be obtained.
Who pays for the independent evaluation?
Some IEEs are at public expense while others are paid for by the parents. If the parent of a child with a disability disagrees with the school's evaluation, they may request an IEE at "public expense". The means that the school pays for the full cost of the evaluation. The school may agree to the request or they could ask for a hearing to prove that its (the school's) evaluation was appropriate.
There are many examples of parents taking the school to court because they did not agree with the school's evaluation of their child. Florence County v. Carter, Hartmann v. Loudon County, Warren G. v. Cumberland Valley, and Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley, are a few examples.
- Parents are not required to explain why they disagree with the school's evaluation.
- The school must work in a timely manner (I am not sure what a "timely manner" is in this instance...60 days?) to either provide the (new) IEE at public expense or initiate a due process hearing to defend their (the school's) evaluation.
- If the parents and the school go to court, and the hearing officer decides the school's evaluation was appropriate (appropriate under the law IDEA, FAPE, LRE), parents may still obtain an IEE however, they will have to pay for it.
- If the hearing officer requests an IEE, this will be obtained at public expense.
Important to Note
- Whenever an IEE is publicly funded, it must meet the same criteria that the school uses when it initiates an evaluation, same process as listed above: identify the disability, give parents notice, parental consent, time-frame, use variety, etc. As well as give the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner.
Parents have the right to independently evaluate their child at any time (at their expense). The sooner the evaluation is conducted after the first one, the weaker the results may be. This is also, critical information that (the fact that the evaluation was conducted so soon after the first one) will be important to include in any court hearings.
After the Initial Evaluation
- Evaluations must be conducted at least every three years after the child has been placed in special education.
- Reevaluations can also occur more frequently if they are needed or if they are requested by the parent or the child's teacher. Informed parental consent is also necessary for reevaluations.
- Reevaluations begin with the review of existing evaluation data.
- Parental consent is not required for the review of existing data on the child.
- This review is to identify what additional data, if any, is needed to determine if the child continues to be a “child with a disability” and continues to need special education and related services.
- If it is determined that additional information is needed, then the school must administer tests and other evaluation materials as needed to produce the data. Prior to collecting this additional information, the agency must obtain informed written parental consent.
- If it is determined that no additional data is needed, the school must notify the parents: (1)of this determination and why and (2)of their rights to request an assessment (if they feel additional data is needed).
Before determining that the child is no longer a “child with a disability” and, therefore, no longer eligible for special education services under IDEA, the school must evaluate the child in accordance with all of the provisions described above.
This evaluation is not required before terminating your child’s eligibility due to graduation with a regular high school diploma or due to exceeding the age eligibility for FAPE under State law.
The IEP Evaluation Process
Here are the steps to the evaluation and IEP process (further and in depth information will be provided in later assignments):
- Development of the IEP
- Implementation of the IEP
- Evaluation and reviews
Requirements and regulations for an IEP evaluation and Steps for Student Evaulation
Origins and Purpose
"Although the legal precedence for inclusion can be traced to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, it was really the parents of children with disabilities that encouraged legislators to adopt the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) in 1975. This legislation required school districts to include and educate students with special needs and to create specialized academic plans for them. In 1990, EAHCA was renamed The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)."
Why an iep?
The individualized education program (IEP) is to be centered around the student. Whatever the IEP includes, the purpose is always the same: "to tailor an educational plan for the child so that he or she can reach his or her full potential".
As an educator, if I think that special educators services may be needed for a student, I could ask myself two questions:
- Does the disability impact the child’s educational progress?
- Does the child need specially designed instruction (which is the IDEA definition of special education)?
STEPS FOR THE IEP
First Step: First eligibility of services needs to be determined. Who qualifies? There are 14 categories (listed above) that IDEA considers in "need" of special education and related services. Teachers can also refer students for evaluation, but this should happen after attempts have been made to remedy problems without special education services (RTI).
If attempts have been made, and the child continues to struggle, RTI (response to intervention) may be the next step. The evaluation team can then decide whether to refer the child for an evaluation, or suggest that the child continue without special education services. Remember no testing can occur without parental consent.
Second Step: If the student is diagnosed with a disability, the next step will be to design a program that involves the unique needs of the student. This IEP is very specific and it is a legal document. It is reviewed annually. There is a IEP team that works together for the success of the student.
Every IEP meeting must have in attendance "the special education teacher, district representative (often an administrator, but not required to be), someone to interpret test data, and a general education teacher" (the parent is invited and encouraged to attend). One may also find the student, school psychologist, adaptive physical education teacher, service providers such as speech and language specialist and occupational therapist in attendance.
Each person has a unique role they play in aiding the student to be successful academically as well as other areas (after graduation, socially, behaviorally, physically).
It is important to remember that "the IEP is a binding document for the provision of services between the district and the parents". This means that, if a district does not provide services that are promised in the IEP, it is non-compliant with the IEP and the law. It does not mean that if a child has not made as much progress as the team would like to see, that the teacher or district should be sued.
The IEP consists of: present levels (how the student is doing at this time), offer of FAPE-Free and Appropriate Public Education (“placement” and/or “services.” This is the binding part of the contract, in which the district offers classroom and/or services such as speech therapy or adaptive physical education), goals (represent measures of progress, different categories: academic, behavioral, social, and must be achievable and measurable), accommodations and modifications (changes to the classroom environment that may be necessary to assist the student. "Teachers and parents are often unclear about the difference between an accommodation and a modification. The general rule is this: if it helps the student to complete the same work at the same level as his peers, it is an accommodation; if it changes the work, or the work is completed at a different level, it is a modification"), transition plan, signature page and meeting notes.
Third Step: Follow up, the IEP meeting should not be the only time that teachers, parents and other service providers discuss a child’s progress.
The IEP is a working document and can be modified and changed as needed throughout the school year.
It is important to keep the line of communication open between team members and to continuously work together to best meet the needs of each student.
Regardless of the students ability or diagnosed disability, school can become very difficult if there is no academic progression. If a student has a hard time mastering foundation/beginning skills and then is expected to gather new information and build upon that, the result is failure. I want to refrain from "widening the gap" (the gap between what a child with a disability knows and what his or her peers know only widens as he or she advances to higher grades, early detection is key).
Failure in many areas of the students life (academic, social, behavior) can occur if possible disabilities go unnoticed or untreated. If my goal as a future educator is to enable all students to be successful in all areas of their lives, it is vital that early detection occurs. The success of future generations is at stake.
However, I can not help a student if I don't know. That is why these special education classes are so important. I am learning what to look for in my students in my future classroom. I am realizing that the scale of "disabilities" is broad and varied. I am realizing that, differentiating my instruction will benefit ALL my students. I am learning why it is important for me to know and understand the special education laws.
When I understand the laws (or know where to find the answers), I will be able to help my students reach their full potential. I will also be able to help parents understand what their rights are.
There are many forms available that follow the guidelines (as outlined in IDEA) that can aide a teacher in observing potential students for an IEP. As I have learned throughout this class, documentation is extremely important. Not only will it benefit the student, it also protects the students rights and ensures that the school is following the legal requirements.