Last week, I wrote about the importance of evaluations. Now we need to know what to do after your child has been evaluated.
How do you get the IEP team to “consider” these results as part of your child’s IEP? This is what the law requires. Whether you have paid for private assessments or are reviewing school district assessments, it’s important to know that schools must only consider any assessments ; it’s not mandatory that they follow them! (It’s more likely, however, that they’ll follow their own assessments.)
What does “consider” mean?
Case law gives us some guidance: “considering” an assessment means that the IEP team reads it, talks about it, and weighs the findings and recommendations in a reasonable way. The team cannot just say “we read it” and set it aside.
Assessments identify your child’s needs. The needs help the team define the IEP goals, goals lead to services, and the services help the team understand the right learning environment for your child.
Here’s what to do after your child is evaluated:
Step 1 – Request and review the final reports
First, request a copy of the evaluation reports. There should be several of them – a comprehensive educational evaluation is made up of many, many different individual assessments. If you have an IEP meeting scheduled, make sure you will get the full comprehensive evaluation report in writing at least 5 days ahead of time.
Use the time before your meeting to share the report(s) with your spouse, partner, friends, family members, private therapists, or anyone who can help you review the report and think about what the assessments tell you about your child’s needs. If you don’t know how to read and understand the reports, find someone to help you.
One simple strategy is to mark up assessment reports like this:
- G – goal – this is an area where a goal is needed
- A – accommodation – my child will need accommodations in this area
- S – service – this is where my child will need services and supports
You can also use different colored highlighter pens to mark goals, accommodations, and services.
Step 2 – Request an IEP meeting to discuss the assessment(s)
If you have not already, request an IEP meeting to discuss the findings of the evaluation(s). (When you request an IEP meeting, the school district has 30 days to comply. You do not need to wait until your annual review, you can request an IEP meeting at any time!)
Invite the evaluator(s) to attend the meeting. Even if they can’t attend the whole meeting maybe they could phone in for 30 minutes to answer any questions the team might have. For an outside report, the school district must also invite someone on the school staff who can help the IEP team understand the results of the report.
Step 3 – Review the assessment reports in detail
When you meet with the team, insist that the team take the time to go through the report, line by line (if there are multiple reports, you may need several meetings to accomplish this. Take the time to do this, it’s important!).
Then, update the “present levels of academic and functional performance” (PLAAFP) section of the IEP based on the findings of each assessment.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve experienced IEP teams refusing to put in even a summary of the evaluation in the PLAAFP statement! The entire IEP is built on the PLAAFP. If you do not spell out all of your child’s needs (from the evaluation results, test scores, classroom observations, and your statement of parent concerns) in this section, then you cannot develop appropriate goals, services, or accommodations. Be specific and make sure this is spelled out in the PLAAFP.
This section of the IEP should include:
- information about your child’s needs,
- their strengths and weaknesses in detail,
- how their needs impact their ability to access general education,
- the student’s current level of performance (what are they able to do – or not do – right now).
Look at the notes that you made in the margins of the assessment report(s) when you read through them. Ask the team to create a goal, accommodation, or service in each needed area.
Step 4 – Consider the recommendations!
Talk about each of the recommendations, one by one. Ask the team to consider how each recommendation will be addressed in your child’s school day.
- If the report ends with no meaningful recommendations, that is a huge red flag!
- If the IEP team disagrees with the recommendations, ask them to explain why. The school is required to provide prior written notice (PWN) for any refusal. The prior written notice must state the reason why they are refusing and any evidence that a goal, accommodation, or service is not needed.
- If you find the report is lacking or incorrect, this is the time to state that. You can tell the team you don’t feel the report is valid or comprehensive. You can ask for an IEE (independent educational evaluation at district expense).
- If the team says they need more information to decide if a service is needed, then the school district must provide those assessments as well.
Step 5 – Request another meeting to write the IEP
Ask to schedule another IEP meeting to write the IEP after you have met to discuss the assessment reports. Remember, parents are part of the decision-making process. The law clearly states that the parent should help develop the IEP. The IEP team (which includes the parents) decides if the child is eligible for an IEP and in what categories. The team develops the educational program to meet your child’s needs. All of these decisions must be based on assessment results!
Our IEP team won’t give my child services recommended by the assessment. Now what?
Your only option is to use your “procedural safeguards.” This includes filing a complaint with your state department of education, a request for mediation, or a due process complaint against the district.
It’s critical that you not only know your rights but that you utilize them. Using your procedural safeguards shows the school district that you know your rights.
This is why it is so important to start with a good neuropsychological assessment with an expert (such as the chief of neuropsychology at a top university teaching hospital). If you do go through due process or mediation, it will be much less likely for a hearing officer to say that the school district’s psychoeducational report is more accurate than a highly qualified neuropsychologist’s assessment.
Our kids are so complex. You want someone who has assessed many children with rare medical conditions like your child.
At the end of the day, what mom or dad knows about their child is meaningless. You must have an outside evaluation from a qualified assessor telling the team what your child’s needs are.
A final note on IEEs (independent educational evaluation at district expense) and neuropsychological assessment:
When you ask the school district to provide a neuropsychological assessment for your child (which we recommend for any child with epilepsy, controlled or uncontrolled) they will need to contract with an outside provider. This is NOT an IEE, this is the district conducting part of their comprehensive evaluation. If the neuropsychological assessment provided by the district is lacking, you are still entitled to an IEE at district expense. Don’t let a school-district-contracted assessment be called an independent educational assessment!