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“What is the Law about Evaluations?” – a psychologist asks

by Pete Wright

I am a high school psychologist. What is the law for students who have already been tested 2 times. Colleges and our state Voc/Ed  Services tell me I need to do a WAIS AND achievement testing every three years – no matter what –  even if the student is placed appropriately.

1) When should I do just a records review? What does this entail?
2) When should I do  just a WAIS and/or the achievement (subject) area of historical weakness?

I am sorry, but I cannot answer your question – by doing so, I could run afoul of providing legal advice to someone, presumably out of state, who is not a client. The VA State Bar would frown on that.

However, I can tell you where to find the correct answer

The Federal Law about Evaluations

(U.S.C. means United States Code and C.F.R. means Code of Federal Regulations)

The law about evaluations is in 20 U.S.C. 1414(a) (b) and (c). Those 3 subsections are the key.  Start there, read those three subsections. Then read the special ed regs that relate to evaluations in 34 C.F.R. Part 300.

That will provide you with an understanding of the federal law. But you cannot stop there.

State Special Education Regulations

Locate your state’s own special ed regs and read the portion that relates to evaluations. You will probably find that they will track, almost word for word, the federal requirements, but there might be some differences.

After you have done your homework, when you are told to do the additional testing and evaluations, you can play Peter Columbo.

Merge Columbo’s personality with Ms. Manners.  Ask – “Where in the law is the requirement?  I’ve looked for it and couldn’t find it.” Then see what is flushed out.

U.S.C. and C.F.R. are available on our website at

An even easier way to quickly find the info is to use your spec ed law book, which has the full text of U.S.C. and C.F.R. It also has all of our comments and discussions about specific statutes and regs.

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16 Comments on "“What is the Law about Evaluations?” – a psychologist asks"


Mis, I wouldn’t say that it is so much that it is highly unlikely to find a kindergarten student eligible, it is just more difficult to get a valid diagnosis since the child is still developing. It also greatly depends on the reason the student may need or you think the student needs special education services. After all, the earlier the better. I do believe it is okay and advisable to give the parent as much information as possible. I do not agree with the statement made about it being highly unlikely though. It is simply harder to test and at that age I would recommend a re-evaluation every year instead of every three years.


Colleen, by the law the district only has to CONSIDER an outside evaluation of any kind. And by law, the district has the right to conduct it’s only evaluation. The district also has the right to ensure that the independent evaluator or outside agency is at least as qualified as the district’s evaluator, as the district has guidelines, both federal and state that are required for evaluators. On another note, the district’s reason is not correct.


Is it a true statement that it is highly unlikely to find a kindergarten student eligible for special education services? Is it okay to tell a parent that during a Child Study meeting?


Even the most well intentioned staff member may not be fully knowledgeable of IDEA, state regulations, best practices, up to date assistive technology, current research, etc. I learned, the hard way by trusting the district’s “experts.” I acquired the knowledage on my own by going to workshops, consulting the state, networking and Wrightslaw. My goal was to and is to be up to date on everything concerning my child’s disability. I enjoy the topics, workshops, journals, etc. Parents expect school administrators to know their trade. Some parents hire advocates to make sure that the administrators do their jobs. It should not be so difficult.

Sharon L.

Angela – Yes and you may have to provide that person even if you have to pay for their time or they may offer to call in for free. Our outside psychologist/reading specialist did an outside evaluation and joined the meeting via phone to discuss all of the outcomes, recommendations, etc.