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School Evaluations: Should schools provide parents with a copy before an IEP meeting?

06/20/08
by Wrightslaw

Last month, we posted Independent Evaluations: Should parents provide a copy to the school? at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=30#

That post elicited a number of comments before dropping off the sidebar. Recently, a school psychologist added comment about reasons why she did not provide parents with a copy of reports before IEP meetings. Her comment included inaccuracies so we decided to start a new thread on this topic.

As a school psychologist who serves over 2,000 students and writes over 120 reports a year, I have to say that in most cases in which I do not provide a copy of my report when such a report is requested, it is because it is not complete until the day (or shortly before) the meeting.

I would add that there is no legal mandate for such a report to be provided BEFORE the team meets.

On the other hand, by not providing the team with external reports with some time for perusal, you (the parent/client) risk those data being less than fully taken into account.

The relationship may not be a fully reciprocal one, but such is the nature of the beast.

Pete: The school psychologist stated that there is no legal mandate to provide the parent with a copy of the report before the meeting. This is not correct. If a parent requests a copy of the evaluation report before the IEP Meeting, there is a legal mandate to provide a copy.

The psycho-educational evaluation is an education record. See 34 CFR 300.613(a) which states that if a parent requests those records, “The agency must comply with a request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP. . .” There is no wiggle room about this requirement – including poor time management practices by the school district. (The reg is located on page 272 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed.)

The question of parental entitlement to educational records before a meeting is also addressed in the Commentary to the Federal Special Education Regulations at page 46645 (bottom of second column through third column). The US Department of Education, responding to comments about the proposed special education regulations, and as a part of the issuance of the final Regs, stated:

Comment: One commenter recommended that parents receive evaluation reports prior to an IEP Team meeting because the reports may have information that parents need to participate in making decisions about the IEP. The commenter stated that, if parents receive reports at meetings, rather than before the meetings, they cannot be active participants. Another commenter stated that parents should be provided with copies of documents related to the determination of eligibility at least five days prior to the eligibility determination meeting.

Discussion: The Act does not establish a timeline for providing a copy of the evaluation report or the documentation of determination of eligibility to the parents and we do not believe that a specific timeline should be included in the regulations because this is a matter that is best left to State and local discretion. It is, however, important to ensure that parents have the information they need to participate meaningfully in IEP Team meetings, which may include reviewing their child’s records. Section 300.613(a) requires a public agency to comply with a parent request to inspect and review existing education records, including an evaluation report, without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and in no case more than 45 days after the request has been made. This includes the right to a response from the public agency to reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of records, consistent with § 300.613(b)(1).”

Note: The link to the Commentary is http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/commentary.htm

Pete

Pam: As a psychotherapist, I was concerned about Z’s position, summarized as:

“The relationship may not be a fully reciprocal one, but such is the nature of the beast.”

Why would a psychologist refuse to provide parents with the information they need to participate in educational decision-making for their child? Z’s rationale was two-fold:

(1) I have a large caseload so I don’t write evaluations until the last minute, and
(2) the law does not require me (the school) to provide parents with a copy of the evaluation report before a meeting.

Pete set the record straight on #2. (Note: We don’t know if Z is a man or woman so will refer to Z as “she”.)

I had more questions. Does Z know who the special education law is intended to benefit? Whose interests does Z serve? How does she view her professional role and responsibilities?

To find answers to my questions, I turned to the Professional Conduct Manual & Principles for Professional Ethics published by the National Association of School Psychologists and available at - http://www.nasponline.org/standards/ProfessionalCond.pdf

After reading the Manual, I wondered if Z knows that school psychologists are expected to act as advocates for children and parents. The statements quoted below are taken directly from NASP Professional Conduct Manual.

“The principles in this manual are based on the assumptions that 1) school psychologists will act as advocates for their students/clients, and 2) at the very least, school psychologists will do no harm. These assumptions necessitate that school psychologists “speak up” for the needs and rights of their students/clients even at times when it may be difficult to do so.” (page 13)

Relationships with Parents, Legal Guardians, Appointed Surrogates

“School psychologists explain all services to parents in a clear, understandable manner … School psychologists recognize the importance of parental support and seek to obtain that support by assuring that there is direct parent contact prior to seeing the child on an ongoing basis.” (page 21)

“School psychologists encourage and promote parental participation in designing services provided to their children … School psychologists discuss with parents the recommendations and plans for assisting their children …” (page 21)

“School psychologists avoid any action that could violate or diminish the civil and legal rights of children and other clients.” (page 22)

“School psychologists are committed to … promoting improvement in the quality of life for children, their families, and the school community … parents and children are to be fully informed about all relevant aspects of school psychological services in advance.” (page 17)

The first section under “PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES—GENERAL PRINCIPLES” is about Advocacy.

“School psychologists typically serve multiple clients including children, parents, and systems. When the school psychologist is confronted with conflicts between client groups, the primary client is considered to be the child …” (p 25)

“School psychologists consider children and other clients to be their primary responsibility, acting as advocates for their rights and welfare. If conflicts of interest between clients are present, the school psychologist supports conclusions that are in the best interest of the child.” (page 25)

Supporting Parents

“School psychologists help parents feel comfortable participating in school functions … providing support for them when participating on special education and I.E.P. teams … School psychologists educate the school community regarding the influence of family involvement on school achievement and advocate for parent involvement … ” (p. 50)

“School psychologists work with parent organizations to promote public policy that empowers parents to be competent consumers of the local system of services.” (page 51)

Evaluations

“Parents may inspect and review any personally identifiable data relating to their children that were collected, maintained, or used in his/her evaluation.” (page 56)

It seems that Z may be a product of school culture. “School culture” is a term for the beliefs shared by many educators, psychologists and school administrators. Learn about the incredible power of school culture in The Blame Game: Are Learning Problems the Kids’ Fault? The article is based on a fascinating study of school psychologists by Dr. Galen Alessi, a psychology professor at Western Michigan University. The study and article illustrate why so many parents have problems dealing with school personnel.

Pam

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34 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gina 10/10/14 at 11:02 am

    Here’s a question I haven’t been able to find the answer to:
    If a parent has a documented disability and the IEP team is aware of it, can that parent request evaluations in advance as a reasonable accommodation under ADA?

    Thank you! I love your work and appreciate what you do for the special needs community. Couldn’t survive without your advice.

  • 2 ceebee 09/30/14 at 12:17 am

    In response to 32Z…just love love love your legal-ese. So much verbage-flinging, I do wonder if you’ve ask yourself, “do these parent’s even possess the intellect to understand what I’m saying?” (FYI, we do). What expectations do you have of the teams you work with? Do you expect your ‘teams’ to actively work together or would you be ok with individuals doing their own thing while they kept you in the dark? I may sound brash but really now, wouldn’t it become rather devisive if you were the LAST one to know what was going on? What if they never let you in on what’s going on? Don’t mean to lambaste you, lovey, but I do take umbrage to this fact: many parents are purposely excised from the ‘team’ early on in their child’s IEP evaluation process. Perhaps oversight or poor time management? I think not.

  • 3 Wendy C 09/24/14 at 11:54 am

    We requested an evaluation at the end of the school year. The meeting to review the assessment was sched 9/10, but I would be out of town. I requested a postponement in writing explaining why I could not attend. The SE person called me back saying they HAD to have the mtg w/in 30 days. I stated my email was a legal document, I was requesting the date change, that would satisfy as a hold harmless releasing the school/district from the 30 day requirement. She offered to convene the 9/10 meeting but table it since we would not be there. I stated NO UNLESS T IS TAPED. She stated that might be against their rules, but I clarified, IF WE ARE NOT THERE NO MEETING! At our eval review, yesterday, they presented us with the minutes of the mtg they DID have 9/10, against our wishes. Is that even legal? I was not aware they went ahead w/it.

  • 4 Bonnie 09/17/14 at 10:57 am

    In our last IEP meeting we requested copies of the regular ed bus route (length), so we could compare it to the special ed bus route length to ensure that the special ed bus route wasn’t longer than the regular ed bus route. They have scheduled another IEP meeting, so I am assuming that they now have both bus routes documented. Since the IEP meeting isn’t for 2 weeks, do I have legal standing to request the routes now? They aren’t technically part of his educational record.

  • 5 Diana p 04/18/14 at 7:31 pm

    For all parents whose district has refused them access to their child’s records, including evals, the FERPA regulations, in addition to state and fed regs, guarantee your rights to see anything that is personally-identifiable to your child. When I had this problem, I wrote the sped dir and said if I didn’t receive what I was requesting within. 5 business days I would file a formal complaint with the state. State complaints are not hard to file and they complied from then on.

  • 6 Celeste 04/18/14 at 4:38 pm

    If they give you a report the day before or the day of the IEP you have the right to reschedule or postpone the IEP meeting until you have had a chance to review the report.

  • 7 Stephanie 01/20/14 at 11:49 am

    I don’t mean to defend the psychologist, but if the report hasn’t yet been created, then how is it part of the educational record that the parents have access to?

    OF COURSE parents should have access to all information that will be used in decision making, but is the psychologist legally required to share a report that does not yet exist? Ethically required, sure.

  • 8 Michelle 10/22/13 at 6:33 am

    I just wish teachers had the legal right to request draft copies of evaluations before IEPs so we could thoroughly take them into account before the meeting rather than working “on the fly”. We’re not allowed to… because of concerns that we will either question the results and/or discuss and seek collaboration with parents prior to the meeting. Neither teachers nor parents are supposed to know what’s in the diagnostic evaluations until, at the first viewing of it, they can hear it interpreted by a qualified diagnostician, so that there won’t be, ahem, misunderstandings about the content of the report. Also, I’m sure that if parents started regularly requesting copies of IEP drafts, we’d be told to jot ideas in notebooks and not enter anything until the meetings. Sigh.

  • 9 Stephanie 06/05/13 at 9:25 am

    It is important to note that psychological reports contain sensitive information that parents should receive WITH a qualified interpretation. Best practice would be to MEET with parents prior to the meeting and discuss evaluation results. This allow parents to be fully prepared at the IEP meeting, but does not leave the report open to non-professional and possibly inaccurate interpretation.

  • 10 LAWANDA 03/17/13 at 5:11 pm

    Can a child with an IEP be home schooled when the child refuses to go to school?

  • 11 Sharon L. 01/23/13 at 8:02 pm

    BW Did you request the IEP meeting in writing? This usually helps. When asking for evaluations and/or IEP’s before the meeting make sure you request a DRAFT version. They should know that is all you are looking for so you are prepared. They should accommodate you. If not then go to the meeting & have them go through it there. It will take awhile & explain that if you had a DRAFT IEP or eval you would be prepared to get the IEP written/revised ( I cannot tell where you are at in the process). You do not have to sign anything. You can request to take the eval or IEP home without the final sign off sheet to re-read it to be sure it is what you want or to have a professional look at it & offer suggestions. If they do none of the above they should put it in writing. I don’t understand why they would not want to give you the documents.

  • 12 BW 01/19/13 at 5:19 am

    This is so overwhelming! We started the process in Sept and have yet to even have our IEP meeting (middle of Jan now). The school and district have decided that legal timelines are not very important. I recently requested assessments given to me before the IEP meeting (in writing) and was denied. The school district special education department said that (California) they are only required to give me school records before the IEP meeting and “technically” the current assessments are not school record until we hold an official meeting.

    I’ve even asked the school pscychologist to provide me with the actual names of the assessments given so I can research the tests (as per your book- do my research and understand the numbers/data). She ignored my request.

    The public school system is failing my child, and no one seems to care.

  • 13 Sharon L. 08/02/12 at 12:24 pm

    Leketa – Just go to the board office and request the IEP. They may need you to put it in writing and perhaps pay for the copies (5 or 10 cents per copy) but it should be very simple. Find out what the summer hours are.

  • 14 Leketa 08/01/12 at 8:26 am

    I really need a copy of my son’s IEP report. I don’t know how to get it before school starts back. I need to put him in a private school. Please help asap.

  • 15 Deb 02/14/12 at 2:29 am

    Anne – This may seem a ‘lame’ response and already thought of but if they do not have a hard copy to offer then emailing the soft copy should be very simple, correct?

  • 16 Anne 02/13/12 at 3:23 am

    First time in 15 years…paperless school psych report…she reads from her computer and says…”everything looks good” for a child with autism…I requested a hard copy three days before the IEP, since i knew school psych never has a hard copy…she arrived with no paper copy for parent… how can I convince her to print out her report…I offered printer and paper!!!

  • 17 Sharon L. 03/20/11 at 8:25 pm

    Tom – Good for you. You stuck to your guns. Also remember that when a school says “no” you need to request that they put that in writing in a “prior written notice” . They would ‘ve probably sent you the DRAFT documents at that point because they would not want to put something like that in writing.

  • 18 tom 03/13/11 at 3:16 am

    When I requested the assessment reports sent to me before my son’s IEP meeting, the case manager and the school district program supervisor said no. They said there was no such a law in the state of California requiring them to do such a thing. I quoted exactly what I learned from Special Education Law, 2nd edition, page 272, and also Ca Code Sec.56504 …
    They said they had school consultants advising them that there was no obligation under fed and state law to provide parents with assessment results before the IEP meeting.
    I then made copies of the statutes and put the request in writings, stating that I needed the results before the IEP meeting to participate meaningfully with the team at the meeting. If not, I will cancel the meeting. Period.
    Guess what, a week before the IEP meeting, I received all the reports I wanted.

  • 19 Jenn 10/19/10 at 10:06 am

    Question- maybe someone can help? I have requested the full tests and scores that the school SLP used to evaluate my child. I did receive a summary report, but requested the full report b/c my child was diagnosed with Aspergers. He scored in the 30th percentile (average) which thanks to the info on Wrightslaw about bell curve I now understand how they have determined that he is average. From the summary provided it is also evident that his scores are “scattered,” as it was reported that he could not answer any who, what, why, etc questions, or answer logical questions, or inferential questions, etc, etc. I’ve asked for the full tests several times, and in writing, but they tell me this is “not standard.” Do they have to give me the full test results or am I only entitled to a copy of a summary?

  • 20 lee 01/19/10 at 1:33 am

    My daughter was reevaluated for therapies Nov. 15. On Jan. 15 I requested a copy of the evaluations to review before a Jan. 27 meeting. I was initially denied access. The next day they called and said I could review the educational file, but the new evaluation reports were not in her educational record and would not be in her record before Jan. 27. I was told I would not receive a copy of these evaluations at the Jan. 27 meeting, and that the school had 20 days before having to provide me with a copy. What is the time frame a school must follow when introducing new information into a student’s educational record?

  • 21 Tom Hua 08/18/09 at 6:20 pm

    Very few advocates know about this. Pete and Pam gave the readers the moral obligation of a school psychologist…what they should do when facing the two choices.
    Thank you, Pete and Pam.
    I hope I can translate this into Vietnamese and send it to the local newspaper “Nguoi Viet” in Orange County, California.
    Beautiful stuff!
    Tom.

  • 22 Martha 08/11/09 at 5:16 pm

    A related question. What happens if the district refuses to pay for an IEE after the parents disagree and it also refuses to take the parents to hearing to justify its evaluation. There is a gap of 30 months between the time the district’s eval was completed and the formal request for an IEE. District claims there is a 2 year statute of limitations within which parents must request an IEE. The parents filed a complaint (not a request for a dp hearing), but after minimal (at best) investigation, the state bureau of special education found no violation on the district’s part. Am I losing it? What do we do now?

  • 23 Deborah 04/02/09 at 10:18 am

    Our district has refused to provide draft IEP’s in advance of the meeting, stating that state regs make that illegal (MA). When I quoted the above regulation, they are willing to provide a copy of the IEP the morning of a 10:30 IEP meeting. Is there anything which states what is a sufficient amount of time for parental review? Thanks.

  • 24 E How 03/18/09 at 11:55 am

    I need a reference for getting three things

    copy of the IEP
    psychologists report
    speech and language eval

    IEP already occurred 2-26-09 and mods and accoms 3-12.
    Psychologist made no contact with me and verbally stated she disagreed with diagnoses. She met with my child 2 days before the IEP. She also attempted to change his classification.

  • 25 Sandra 03/10/09 at 7:07 pm

    Can you please tell me if there is a time frame for the IEP team to review the evals once completed? We have given the school district from Oct. 08 until Jan 09 to even begin the process and now they have delayed the scheduling of the meeting to review.

  • 26 Wrightslaw 02/20/09 at 10:40 am

    Cindy:

    You’ll find information about copying test protocols on this page. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/ferpa.index.htm

    You did not say what state you were in. I’m not sure of your state regulations and cannot say what they are “required” to do or not do. (You will also want to use your best advocacy strategies and polite negotiating skills when discussing what you are “entitled to” with the school.)

    You may find helpful information/wording in this article about a CA court decision (which is now on appeal).
    Test Protocols and Parents Rights – to Copies.
    NASP Communique 34-1, 2005. http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/cq341protocols.aspx

    Also,
    Letter from Director, Family Policy Compliance Office, (September 13, 2005) from the FERPA Online Library. http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/library/carrollisd091305.html

    “Both FERPA and Part B provide that an educational agency or institution (under FERPA) and a participating agency (under Part B) must respond to reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of education records. 34 CFR 99.10(c); 34 CFR 300.562(b)(1). Accordingly, if an educational agency or institution or participating agency maintains a copy of a student’s test answer sheet, then it must provide the parent with an explanation and interpretation of the record, which could involve showing the parent the test question booklet, reading the questions to the parent, or providing an interpretation for the responses in some other manner adequate to inform the parent.”

    Good Luck.

  • 27 Cindy 02/19/09 at 3:07 pm

    I have a question that I hope you can answer soon, either in the next newsletter or a quick email. While they are required to give us a copy of the summary of the evaluation, are they also required to allow us to see the actual test that was performed? The school gave several tests and gave me summaries such as the Peabody was given and scored at 114 (85-115 average range). I asked to see what type of questions were in the Peabody and they refuse to let me see the actual test. Similar explanations for ADOS Module 3 and ASDS, stated that did he not meet the criteria but I wanted to see “how” this test is given. Am I entitled to see the actual tests if I request them or am I only entitled to see the summary of the results?

    Thank you,
    Cindy

  • 28 Georgia 02/11/09 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you for publishing this! It is always so enlightening to look at how all the credentials from various areas effect each other. As a parent educator, I encourage parents to simply refuse to make any decisions at the report meeting if the school did not provide the information in advance. They need to let the school know that they do not feel that they are able to fully participate in decision making on the document due to the excessive information that they have just received and have yet to digest. I also believe it is disrespectful for school staff to assume that they can utilize the full legal time line (60 days federally and many states), for their work, leaving no extra days for the parent comprehension of information before the team must determine eligibility. Pretty cut and dried. Parent Participation must be respected!

  • 29 Margie 02/10/09 at 8:28 pm

    When I have asked that an IEP or other meeting be rescheduled, due to lack of information or schedule conflicts, especially with my daughter’s psychologist (we only get 5 days notice of IEP meetings in NY – and that’s from the postmark date), I am told that the meeting will have to be scheduled for after all other IEP meetings already scheduled in the district. This has put the IEP meeting into the summer when many of the participants are not available, especially the teachers. Meetings are limited to 30 minutes.
    Also, in the 10 years in which my daughter has had an IEP, we have NEVER signed or been asked to sign it. We typically meet in the late spring and receive a copy of the “final” document in late August just before school begins. The IEP team, minus us (the parents) already have determined the majority of the contents.

  • 30 jenna 12/04/08 at 6:59 am

    CHANGING IEP MEETINGS- MAKING IEP DECISIONS

    I canceled an IEP meeting last tuesday because the school refused to send a copy of records to an advocate, they held the meeting anyway with my ex, we had a meeting for 9:00am on 12-4-08 and received an e-mail that the meeting had to be changed untill 3:15, did they did not tell me why but i think its because my ex couldn’t make it till then. Why can he change the meeting but not me he has never shown any interest in these meetings until he told me he was going to fight for custody, he signed a statement saying my son has emotional disturbance, the school wants to send my son to another school but they have no reason to, they say they can’t provide services he needs. Who chooses the school and can a school make a diagnosis like this? I live in ohio and there are no advocates available to me without paying for them, I am partially disabled.

  • 31 Victoria 11/03/08 at 3:27 pm

    1 Z states that the psychologist has 45 days from the signed consent days to complete the eval…that is not so. 1 Z has 30 days to complete the assessment and on the 45th day the COMPLETED IEP must be in the hands of the parents, readied for their signature. 603 CMR 28.06 (2) (e)

  • 32 Harmonee 07/01/08 at 6:02 pm

    Special education is always a bit of a juggling act and I know that many of the team members I work with are in such demand that they spend their evenings and weekends completing reports. With time at such a premium, if reports are not complete at the time of the IEP, would it be possible to have a phone conversation with the stakeholders prior to the meeting at the very least to explain test results, so that everyone has the general information prior to the meeting? So that parents have a chance to come to grips with the information they are being presented with? So that casemanagers have an opportunity to think about what goals would then be appropriate? One of the most difficult aspects of my job is helping parents through a difficult diagnosis or dealing with results of tests that they didn’t expect…having a “heads up” makes the process less daunting.

  • 33 Debbie 06/20/08 at 4:47 pm

    Wow! A lot of topics are included in this thread. Just shows that Special Education is always a complex situation. As Parents, we frequently find ourselves behind, because we are not used to doing or not doing something because there is or is not an “extant” law requiring us to do it. When it comes to our kids, we just do what is needed, when it is needed. Sometimes, that means we work with people who have previously treated us very disrespectfully. Sometimes it means we put behind us the fact that we have been given incorrect information that delayed access to the services our child needs. So when someone tells us that they will not do something to help us because the law does not require her to do so, please forgive us when we get just a bit irritated.

    I do have a technique I have used only once. I have never had to use it again. I had asked for the report before the meeting and got the “it’s not complete/typed/proofread” reason why I could not have it. So I came to the meeting and got the report. I waited until the meeting had started and introductions were done and then I asked that we wait a bit while I read the report. As I read, as people started to talk, I would stop and ask them to please hold all conversation, as the information they had was so important to me and I didn’t want to miss any of it. Then I would continue to read. As I reached the end of the report, I said that we would need to table the meeting, as I had questions to resolve and consideration to give to this important report. I added that it was unfortunate that I was not able to get the information earlier, as I would then have been able to discuss the issues with them, but…

    I only had to do that once. I always got the information I needed well in advance of the meeting after that.

  • 34 Z 06/20/08 at 12:16 pm

    So I must say that I’ve found the maelstrom around this issue interesting to say the least:

    1.) I have been elucidated around the the federal regs regarding a “reasonable” time line for providing copies of required data. I would add that in my state there is no extant statute requiring the dissemination of such info before the team meets, and I would add that in consultation with our lead psychologist I have discovered that there is no written or unwritten policy to do so. That is not to say that it is not best practice or could not be construed as mandatory under federal regs. Just more gasoline for the flames.

    2.) I take a degree of umbrage to the assumption that since one cannot produce documents (let’s use a psychoeducational report for our example) before a meeting that the cause is a “lack of time management,” especially since in my state we are on a 45 day time line to complete an evaluation after consent is signed. The implication ergo is one that functionally lowers those days even further in which to complete an evaluation- produce a produce (the report).

    3.) Lastly I find this pointing to NASP precepts especially vis-a-vis stakeholder advocacy to have missed the point just a bit in that my original point was not that I as a professional am distancing myself from my fiduciary and legal mandate to work for kids, but to explain the mechanics of why some paperwork may not exist for vast periods before the meeting. I am a broad role psychologist who is called upon to engage in counseling, consultation, and a host of other activities (also related to stakeholder advocacy) in addition to assessment. I (and my teams) work to reasonably accommodate a myriad of stakeholders.

    4.) Bottom line: When data is available before the meeting, I work hard to provide that data. All extant data of mine is always open for review by parents. Having said this, reducing the timeline for evaluations even further impinges on my ability to be thorough, complete, and (often) more typo-free. :)

    Let the lambasting begin!