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Director’s Corner January 2018

January 25th, 2018

Our topic this month. evaluations, comes at a good time, because over the past several weeks we have gotten a number of calls about a situation where evaluations are sometimes not appropriately used. So I thought I would write about this, and how we as parents can use our right to ask for evaluations for our students.

We hear from a lot of families who are looking at a recommendation to end their child’s eligibility for special ed. When a school proposes to remove a student from special education the IDEA requires that there be an evaluation before the PPT determines that he or she is no longer a child who qualifies. That does not necessarily mean that new testing must be done, the team can rely on records that already exist, but, and this is the important part, those records must include enough information to document the students current levels of educational and functional performance, and to determine that he or she no longer requires special education. That’s a lot of “ands”.

The evaluations used to show a child is ready to exit special ed must also meet all of the requirements for any other evaluation, including those to determine if the students is eligible for special ed, and those that help the team develop an appropriate IEP. Most importantly, IDEA requires that a team must not rely on a single evaluation to determine if a student is eligible for special education When looking at whether to exit a student from special education the Team is also required to ensure it has data on every potential issue, including functional and developmental weaknesses, not just those typically related t the disability classification, or those limited to academic progress.

So, what does that mean in real life? The most common situation we hear of is a student who has achieved good grades in the past year. “See, she’s passing” they say, “She doesn’t need to have an IEP any more.” Is that enough to remove her from special ed? Probably not.

When we hear this in a PPT meeting here are a couple of things we can do. First, look at her goals. Have they all been met? Were they enough to ensure she is getting the same educational opportunity as her peers? Should they have been more challenging? Then look at her specific strengths and weaknesses. Do any of them mean she requires specially designed instruction? And then the grades; did they use modified grading? Would she have gotten the same grades if she had to meet all the same requirements as her peers?

For most of the students we see the answer to at least one, and usually all of these questions is really “We aren’t sure. We don’t have all the information.”

That’s where your right as a member of the PPT to ask for more evaluation is so important. If there isn’t enough data to answer those questions you need to remind the team it is our job to get it, and to review and understand it. Ask for evaluations that will give the team all the information it needs to make appropriate decisions.

And remember that your rights as a parent don’t stop there. If the team refuses to call for more evaluation it must provide you with written notice of the reasons for the refusal. “The team doesn’t think it’s needed” is generally not a good enough reason.

Also, when an evaluation is refused it triggers your right to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the school’s expense. If you ask for the IEE the school has only two choices: either give you the qualifications needed for the evaluator, and arrange for the testing or file for due process and prove to a hearing officer that the information the Team has is enough.

Of course every family’s situation is unique, so we can’t cover every possibility in a column like this. That’s why we are available for you to call five days a week. If you think your child’s team is making decisions without enough information, or want to know more about your right to ask for evaluations or information give us a call.