What is the difference between an evaluation and a reevaluation?
Evaluation is defined as procedures that are used to determine whether a student has a disability and, if so, the nature and extent of his/her need for special education and related services. [34 C.F.R. § 300.15] The term reevaluation generally means a comprehensive evaluation that is analogous to initial evaluation under 34 C.F.R. § 300.532. [See Letter to Tinsley, 26 IDELR 1076 (OSEP 1990)] The purpose of a reevaluation is to determine whether the child continues to have a disability and his or her educational needs. [34 C.F.R. § 300.305(a)]
When does a determination of eligibility for special education require verification by a qualified professional, and who is a qualified professional?
As required by A.A.C. R7-2-401(E)(8), the Arizona Department of Education developed a list of professionals qualified to verify the existence of specific disabilities for evaluation purposes as prescribed in subsection (E)(7).
Arizona Qualified Professionals List
Must a review of existing data take place in a meeting with parental participation?
As part of an initial evaluation or re-evaluation, the IEP team (of which the parent is a member) and other qualified professionals must review existing data on a child. “On the basis of this review, and input from the child’s parents, a determination is made about whether additional data are needed to determine whether the child is a child with a disability, whether the child continues to have such a disability, and the educational needs of the child.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.305(a)(1)and(a)(2)(i)(A)-(B)] It is important to stress that although the regulations that implement the IDEA permit the group referenced above to conduct its review without a meeting, it is still the IEP team that is required to review the existing data. [Id. at subsection (b)]
Is a reevaluation required every three years?
Because a student’s educational needs can change over time, the regulations that implement the IDEA require that a student be reevaluated every three years unless the parent and the school agree that such a reevaluation is unnecessary. [34 C.F.R. § 300.303(b)(2)] A reevaluation can occur more frequently, but not more than once a year, unless the parent and the school agree otherwise. [34 C.F.R. § 300.303(b)(1)] This does not mean that a school is required to conduct additional assessments if the IEP team, in conducting its review of existing data, determines that no additional data are needed to determine whether the child continues to have a qualifying disability and continues to need special education and related services; the educational needs of the child; or whether the child has an additional category of disability. Said another way, additional assessments every three years are not necessarily required, but a reevaluation every three years is required. [See 34 C.F.R. § 300.305]
Are schools always required to conduct evaluations or reevaluations upon parental request?
According to the regulations that implement the IDEA, either a parent or school may initiate the evaluation process. [34 C.F.R. § 300.301(b)] However, if a school has no basis for suspecting that a student might have a qualifying disability under the IDEA, it need not conduct an initial evaluation. [Pasatiempo v. Aizawa, 103 F.3d 796 (9th Cir. 1996)] In those cases, however, educators must inform parents of their decisions in a prior written notice and afford them an opportunity to challenge the decision by exercising their procedural safeguards right to mediation or due process. [34 C.F.R. § 300.503(a)(2)] Said another way, “[i]f a parent requests a reevaluation and the public agency disagrees that a reevaluation is needed, the public agency must provide prior written notice to the parent, consistent with § 300.503, that explains, among other things, why the agency refuses to conduct the reevaluation and the parent’s right to contest the agency’s decision through mediation or a due process hearing.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D-Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements. Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46640 (August 2006)]
Does a review of existing data begin the evaluation process?
The regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state that “[a]s part of an initial evaluation . . . the IEP Team and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, must review existing evaluation data on the child . . . [and] identify what additional data, if any, are needed to determine whether the child is a child with a disability.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.305(a)(1) and (2)] Every evaluation begins with the IEP team's review of existing data on the child, “including information provided by the parents, current classroom-based or local assessments . . . and observations by teachers and related service providers.” [Id. at (a)(1)] On the basis of that review and input by the child's parents, the team must determine if additional data are needed to determine if the child is eligible. Upon completion of the administration of assessments (should the MET determine that additional assessments are necessary), a group of qualified professionals and the child’s parents determine if the child is a child with a disability under the IDEA and his or her educational needs. [34 C.F.R. § 300.306(a)(1)] Thus, the evaluation process begins with a review of existing data and ends with a determination that the child is or is not eligible. In Arizona, evaluations or reevaluations "shall be conducted within 60 calendar days from the public education agency's receipt of the parent's informed written consent and shall conclude with the date of the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) determination of eligibility." [A.A.C. R7-2-401(E)(3)])
Can parents dictate the specific assessment tools and instruments a school uses to conduct an initial evaluation or reevaluation?
There is nothing in the regulations that implement the IDEA to suggest that parents can choose the assessment tools or instruments a school uses to conduct an evaluation or reevaluation. The IDEA regulations require schools, when conducting an evaluation, to use a variety of assessment tools, to use technically sound instruments, and not to use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining the presence of a disability. In addition, assessment tools cannot be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis, must be administered in accordance with their instructions, must be administered by trained and knowledgeable people, must be tailored to assess specific areas of educational need, and must be provided in the child’s native language or other mode of communication in the form most likely to yield accurate information. Finally, students must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability. If the assessment tools chosen by a school accomplish the above, then the school has met the procedural requirements of the IDEA in regard to evaluation instruments. [34 C.F.R. § 300.304(b) and (c)]
Should a school initially evaluate a child for special education eligibility if the child receives English Language Learner (ELL) services, if the child’s expressive/receptive language skills are delayed, or if the child has excessive absences from school over a period of several years?
According to the regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools have an affirmative duty to ensure that children with disabilities are identified, located, and evaluated. [34 C.F.R. § 300.111(a)] The IDEA regulations require that in discharging these “Child Find” obligations, a school must include children who are suspected of having a disability, even if they are advancing from grade to grade. [34 C.F.R. § 300.111(c)(1)] The regulations require schools to ensure that children are “assessed in all areas of suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.304(c)(4)] However, the regulations are clear that “[a] child must not be determined to be a child with a disability . . . if the determinant factor . . . is lack of appropriate instruction in reading . . . , lack of appropriate instruction in math, or limited English proficiency, and if the child does not otherwise meet the eligibility criteria under § 300.8(a).” [34 C.F.R. § 300.306(b)]
Does a school need to conduct a formal evaluation to add a related service to a student’s IEP?
Schools must ensure that children are assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability. [34 C.F.R. § 300.304(c)(4)] Accordingly, if a secondary disability is suspected, then the school should proceed with an evaluation (in accordance with all procedural requirements). If the child’s IEP team determines that additional special education and/or related services are necessary in order for the child to receive a free appropriate public education, but no additional disability categories are suspected, the team can revise the IEP without further evaluation.
Does a school need to conduct a formal evaluation to remove a related service from a student’s IEP?
The regulations that implement the IDEA state that “a public agency must evaluate a child with a disability . . . before determining that the child is no longer a child with a disability.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.305(e)(1)] However, if the IEP team is merely making a determination that a related service is no longer needed, no evaluation would be required before removing that related service from a student’s IEP. Put another way, because the related service is part of the student’s FAPE, the student’s need for such a service is an IEP team decision. However, if a student, for example, qualifies for special education under the category of speech-language impairment (SLI) and receives speech services in that regard, and the IEP team believes that the child no longer requires speech services, then the school must begin the evaluation process to determine whether the student continues to be a child with a disability. (If the student’s MET determines that no additional assessments are needed and that the team has sufficient information and data to make a determination, then no additional assessments would be required, but the school would still need to complete the evaluation process.)
Is a school required to list specific tests that will be used when seeking parent consent for evaluation or can it list only the areas that will be assessed (academics, adaptive, behavior, etc.)?
“The public agency must provide notice to the parents of a child with a disability . . . that describes any evaluation procedures the agency proposes to conduct.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.304(a)] “The public agency proposing to conduct an initial evaluation to determine if a child qualifies as a child with a disability . . . must . . . obtain informed consent . . . from the parent of the child before conducting the evaluation.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.300(a)] “Consent means that the parent has been fully informed of all information relevant to the activity for which consent is sought, in his or her native language, or other mode of communication, [and] the parent understands and agrees in writing to the carrying out of the activity for which his or her consent is sought, and the consent describes that activity and lists the records (if any) that will be released and to whom. . .” [34 C.F.R. § 300.9] Although it is not required that schools list all specific assessments to be conducted, schools should provide sufficient details and information so that parents are fully informed about the evaluation being proposed.
Do students who transfer to Arizona from another state have to be reevaluated to determine whether they continue to be eligible for special education services?
“If a child with a disability (who had an IEP that was in effect in a previous public agency in another State) transfers to a public agency in a new State, and enrolls in a new school within the same school year, the new public agency (in consultation with the parents) must provide the child with FAPE (including services comparable to those described in the child’s IEP from the previous public agency), until the new public agency (1) conducts an evaluation . . . (if determined to be necessary by the new public agency); and (2) Develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP, if appropriate, that meets the applicable requirements in §§ 300.320 through 300.324.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.323(f)]