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Chapter 5: Evaluation: Learning More About Your Child

Special Education Evaluation - Special Education Law

Who is this for?

This chapter is for the parents of students who have been referred for a formal evaluation as prescribed by IDEA, and for parents of students already eligible for special education services who are referred for a reevaluation.

Why is this important?

IDEA contains very specific requirements for a student evaluation. Parents need to understand all aspects of the evaluation process in order to be full participants in all decisions involving their child. The evaluation results will be used to make important decisions about their child's educational future.

What can parents do?

Parents can and should actively participate in planning for their child's evaluation. They need to understand the school's proposed evaluation plan.

IDEA Words and Terms to Know

  • Child with a disability

    A child who has a disability as defined in one of the 13 disability categories in IDEA and who needs special education and related services because of the disability; or a child aged 3 through 9 who is experiencing developmental delays.



Initial Evaluation

referral_chartIn previous chapters you've learned about several steps that lead up to a formal student evaluation, including Pre-referral Services, Response-to-Intervention, Referral or Request for Evaluation and Procedural Safeguards. This chapter will provide you with an overview of the initial evaluation and reevaluation processes.

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), which will be discussed in Chapter 7: Individualized Education Programs.

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.

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