Wrightslaw l No Child Left Behind l IDEA 2004 l Fetaweb l Yellow Pages for Kids l Harbor House Law Press

 Home >  Topics >  Advocacy> What You Should Know About Evaluations by Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.


The Special Ed Advocate
It's Unique ... and Free!

Enter your email address below:

 

2015 Training Programs

Jan 16 - School District, LA

Jan 24 - Corpus Christi, TX

Jan 24 - Pensacola, FL

Jan 31 - Champaign, IL

Feb 19 - Lincroft, NJ

Feb 24 - Knoxville, TN

Feb 26 - Memphis, TN

Full Schedule

Be a Hero ...

 Jason at Ft. Benning
... to a Hero
Learn more

Wrightslaw

Home
Topics from A-Z
Free Newsletter
Seminars & Training
Consultations
Yellow Pages for Kids
Press Room
FAQs
Sitemap

Books & Training

Wrightslaw Books & DVDs
Wrightslaw Storesecure store lock
  Advocate's Store
  Student Bookstore
  Exam Copies
Training Center
Bulk Discounts
New! Military Discounts
Mail & Fax Orders

Advocacy Library

Articles
Doing Your Homework
Ask the Advocate
FAQs
Newsletter Archives
Summer School Series
Success Stories
Tips

Law Library

Articles
Caselaw
IDEA 2004
No Child Left Behind
McKinney-Vento Homeless
FERPA
Section 504
Fed Court Complaints

Topics

Advocacy
ADD/ADHD
Allergy/Anaphylaxis
Assistive Technology
Autism Spectrum
Behavior & Discipline
Bullying
College/Continuing Ed
Damages
Discrimination
Due Process
Early Intervention (Part C)
Eligibility
ESY
Evaluations
FAPE
Flyers
Future Planning
Harassment
High-Stakes Tests
Homeless Children
IDEA 2004
Identification & Child Find
IEPs
ISEA
Juvenile Justice
Law School & Clinics
Letters & Paper Trails
LRE/Inclusion
Mediation
Military / DOD
No Child Left Behind
NCLB Directories
NCLB Law & Regs
Parental Protections
PE and Adapted PE
Privacy & Records
Procedural Safeguards
Progress Monitoring
Reading
Related Services
Research Based Instruction
Response to Intervention (RTI)
Restraints/Abuse
Retention
Retaliation
School Report Cards
Section 504
Self-Advocacy
Teachers & Principals
Transition
Twice Exceptional (2e)
VA Special Education

Resources & Directories

Advocate's Bookstore
Advocacy Resources
Directories
  Disability Groups
  International
  State DOEs
  State PTIs
Free Flyers
Free Pubs
Free Newsletters
Legal & Advocacy
Glossaries
   Legal Terms
   Assessment Terms
Best School Websites

 

What You Should Know about Evaluations
by Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.

Print this page

Know Your Rights

Your school system, under IDEA and its state counterparts, is required to fully evaluate any child who may need special education services "in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities." (34 CFR Sec. 300.304)

Before the school does so, and before providing or changing special education services, it must notify you in writing. For the first evaluation and placement, schools must also obtain parental consent.

Parental Consent

IDEA's requirements for parental consent vary depending on whether the LEA is seeking an initial evaluation or a reevaluation and on whether the parents affirmatively respond to a request for consent or simply do not respond or cannot be located.

20 USC Sec 1414 (c)(3) provides that an LEA must "obtain informed parental consent . . . prior to conducting any re-evaluation of a child with a disability, except that such informed parent consent need not be obtained if the local educational agency can demonstrate that it had taken reasonable measures to obtain such consent and the child's parent has failed to respond."

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd EditionIDEA, 20 U.S.C .Section 1414(c), p. 97.

Federal regulations, 34 CFR Section 34 C.F.R. sec. 300.300 and 300.322, p. 238 and 247.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

Add to Cart
Print Book & PDF Combo
Add to Cart
Print Book

Thus, while an LEA may proceed to re-evaluate without parental consent, that is true only if it has first taken reasonable, documentable measures to obtain consent. Per 34 C.F.R. sec. 300.322(d) this means the LEA must be able to show documents such as records of attempts to call the parents, correspondence to and from the parents, and/or records of visits to the parents' home or place(s) of employment. If parents do respond, but affirmatively refuse to consent to the LEA's re-evaluation, the LEA would have to seek an order to override the parents' refusal to consent. 34 C.F.R. sec. 300.300(a).

For an initial evaluation, it appears that even with documentable reasonable efforts to obtain consent, if the parents do not respond, the LEA cannot go ahead with the evaluation without further steps. In that case, if the reason consent could not be obtained is that the parents cannot be identified or located, presumably the LEA could seek the appointment of an educational surrogate (see 20 U.S.C. sec. 1415(b)(2)), or seek an order from the due process agency (presumably, this would be a "matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child" and thus within the agency's jurisdiction.) If parents respond but refuse to consent to the initial evaluation, the LEA can seek an order from the due process agency to permit the evaluation. 34 C.F.R. sec. 300.300(a).

Your Never-ending Role

As a parent, you must make sure that all areas of possible need are assessed as quickly as possible. While some parents would rather not allow their school system to evaluate their child, a refusal to cooperate at this stage of the process can backfire if you need to ask for more or for different services later. It may also affect your ability to have the school system pay for an independent evaluation.

Due Process

After the evaluations, your child's team (includes parents, teacher, service providers, school and independent evaluator, chairperson, child -- if 14 or older -- and anyone else a parent wants to invite, such as outside evaluators or advocates) must meet to decide what, if any, special education services should be provided, and to write an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Your school is supposed to give you copies of its written assessments before that meeting. Ask for explanations of anything you don't understand in those reports before the team convenes.

If you have concerns about the evaluation results or the team's program recommendations, you can request independent evaluations at the school system's expense. You'll need to select a "qualified" professional, and -- although it is a good idea to let the system know you are obtaining such an evaluation -- you are not required to notify the school in advance.

In some states like Massachusetts, the law allows parents to obtain an independent evaluation even in an area the school system has not assessed, as long as it relates to an area of suspected need. There is a good argument that this is so under IDEA as well. (See 34 CFR 300.502)

Selecting an Independent Evaluator

Selecting an independent evaluator is one of your most important decisions. Parents rarely succeed at due process hearings without the testimony of expert witnesses who are competent, experienced, and credible.

Here are a few rules of thumb to help you make that decision.

  • If the school system disputes your right to have an independent evaluation at their expense, don't wait until that dispute is resolved before you schedule your evaluation. In the long run, the question of who pays for the evaluation is much less important than getting the evaluation done.
  • Some school systems will give you a list of "approved independent evaluators." Your choice is not restricted to that list. Just be sure to choose an evaluator with the right license or other credentials.
  • Ask organizations involved with your child's type of disability, your pediatrician, other parents, advocates, parent organizations, and special education lawyers to find out which experts are well respected in the particular area of disability. It is important to find evaluators who can demonstrate objectivity and expertise in your child's disability. Evaluators with a reputation for being "hired guns" or for always recommending the same program will not be as effective in supporting their recommendations either at a team meeting or in a hearing.
  • Find out about an evaluator's willingness and availability to follow through on her recommendations. Will the expert observe your child's program? Attend a team meeting? Observe and evaluate alternative placements or services? Testify at a hearing (and cooperate with preparation for that hearing)? Often, the experts who work outside of hospital facilities are more available and willing to do these things.
  • If you are referred to a hospital facility, check out the particular group of evaluators within that facility. There can be great differences in approach, quality, and follow-through from one division to another.
  • An evaluator should be able not only to write a convincing report, but to "sell" the recommendations in that report. A good evaluator has "people" skills and can speak with school personnel without antagonizing them -- while sticking to her recommendations.
  • The best evaluators are in great demand. Be prepared to wait -- for an appointment for testing, for a written report, and for anything else you may need.

Working with Your Evaluator

Once you have an excellent evaluator (or team of evaluators), stick with them. The more an expert sees of your child, the more convincing her recommendations will be. (Remember that the school system's experts -- the classroom teachers and other service providers -- see your child every day, while the independent evaluator normally only sees her for the time it takes to test her.)

Don't ask an independent evaluator for legal advice. Unless she has studied the decisions issued by courts and hearing officers and the rules and regulations that govern special education process, she can't advise you reliably on your options and strategies.

Be skeptical -- even of an indepedent evaluator's findings and recommendations. You know your child best.

Remember that an evaluator sees her for brief, though intense, periods of time and can only get a snapshot. Also remember that the evaluator's advice is only as good as the information available to her. For example, if she suggests that a particular program would be a good fit for your child, find out how well the evaluator really knows the program: Has she seen it recently? Does she know what the program's population and/or staffing and/or approach is like?

Remember that special education law requires a school system to provide a "free appropriate public education" which must be provided, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE).

Some independent evaluators are quick to assume that no school system can provide the kind of program she is recommending. Despite the evaluator's opinion, in most cases you will have to seriously evaluate the services available within the school system before having a chance to win an outside placement at a hearing. Accordingly, you should work with the evaluator to assess how much can happen right in your child's school system.


More Articles by Bob Crabtree

The Paper Chase: Managing Your Child's Documents. "If you have kids with special educational needs, you can be overwhelmed with paperwork in no time at all . . ."

Discipline: Suspension, Expulsions and IEPs. Read this article by parent attorney Robert Crabtree to learn about functional behavioral assessments, behavior intervention plans, long-term suspensions and expulsions, the child's rights, and what parents can do to protect these rights. Learn how to request a behavior assessment, an expedited hearing, and how to invoke "stay put."

What You Should Know About Evaluations. As a parent, you must make sure that all areas of possible need are assessed as quickly as possible. While some parents would rather not allow their school system to evaluate their child, a refusal to cooperate at this stage of the process can backfire . . . " Read article

Mistakes People Make: Parents. Because the stakes are so high, it is difficult for parents of children with special educational needs to advocate calmly and objectively for the educational and related services their children need. To learn about mistakes parents make, read this article.

Mistakes People Make: School Districts. What makes parents angry? Parents are angry when school personnel take actions that undermine trust, create a negative climate that destroys peace of mind, and deliver inadequate services to the child. Want to learn more? Read article

Mistakes People Make: Independent Evaluators. To make their case for services or a specific program for their child, parents usually need a competent, credible independent evaluator. Serious mistakes by evaluators can make undermine their credibility or render their opinions powerless. To learn about mistakes independent evaluators should try to avoid, read this article.

Mistakes People Make: Advocates. Because the non-lawyer advocate plays an extremely important role in the special education process, advocates must be mindful of the power of their role and the trust parents place in them. The more serious mistakes advocates may make are generally ones of excess . . . Read article


Meet Robert Crabtree

Bob Crabtree is a partner at Kotin, Crabtree, and Strong, LLP, a general practice law firm in Boston, MA. Among other areas of practice, Bob concentrates in special education and disability law. This article was originally published by the Family Education site at www.familyeducation.com

Contact Info
Robert K. Crabtree
Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP
One Bowdoin Square
Boston, MA 02114-2925

Phone: 617/227-7031
Facsimile: 617/367-2988
Email: rcrabtree@kcslegal.com
Website: www.kcslegal.com

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon The Special Ed Advocate: It's Free!

 

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
About the Book

Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
About the Book

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
About the Book

Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
About the DVD Video

 

Copyright 1998-2014, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved.

Contact Us | Press Mission l Our Awards l Privacy Policy l Disclaimer l Site Map

What's New!

Now Shipping!

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
About the Book

Check it out!

Wrightslaw Store

The Advocate's Store

Get Help!

Blog the Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw on Facebook

Find us on Facebook

Wrightslaw Books

Student Discounts

Military Discounts


Wrightslaw: All About IEPs

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
About the Book
To Order


About the Book

To Order


Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

About the DVD Video
To Order


To Order


Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw Multimedia Training


Understanding Your Child's
Test Scores (1.5 hrs)

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores

Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $
24.95
Wrightslaw Special: $14.95

Special Education Law & Advocacy Training
(6.5 hrs)


Wrightslaw WebEx Special Education Law & Training Program (6.5 hrs)


Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $99.95
Wrightslaw Special: $49.95