The IEP team requires current data that accurately describes your child’s grade-level performance in all academic areas as well as their functional skills. This is needed to develop a meaningful Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) statement in your child’s IEP. The PLAAFP statement details your child’s needs and drives the decisions in the rest of the IEP process: goals, services, accommodations, and placement.
At least every 3 years (or more often if warranted), your child must be re-evaluated in all areas of suspected disability. This triennial review determines if the child continues to be a student with a disability as defined within the law and their educational needs. However, three years is a long time, especially for young children or those with very complex needs. Depending on your child, you may choose to request evaluations more often.
- No more than once a year, with exceptions – the student can be re-evaluated more than once a year if the parents and district agree, and depending on which measures are used (some measures are invalid if repeated within 12 months, but other measures to assess the same set of skills can be used);
- At least every three years, with exceptions, such as:
- When the student’s parent or teacher requests it – consider re-evaluation when:
- there is a change in your child’s medical status (additional brain surgeries, major medical interventions such as a shunt, or setbacks such as a status epilepticus event);
- new behaviors or other concerns arise (loss of skills or lack of progress);
- at times of transition (entering kindergarten, middle school, or high school, and before exiting high school);
- if the district wants to stop providing an educational or related service;
- the previous evaluation was incomplete;
- If the district determines that the student’s educational/related service needs warrant re-evaluation (such as improved or declining academic achievement and functional performance);
- If the district feels that the student no longer qualifies as a student with a disability, they must evaluate the child before removing any eligibility category;
- Some states require more frequent evaluations for the most severely impaired child or children with intellectual disability – check with your state’s department of education.
- For more information about re-evaluation, go to https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.303.
NOTE: If your child already has an IEP and you request an evaluation for a new area of need, the disability eligibility requirements do not need to be met for the child to receive services in that area. For example, the student qualifies for an IEP based on eligibility under Orthopedic and Visual impairments. The team notices that the student also has pragmatic (social) language deficits and struggles to communicate with peers. This student does not have to be below a “cut-off score” for speech eligibility; the team can agree to provide social language services based on the student’s needs.
“REED” – Review of Existing Evaluation Data
IEP teams can decide to review existing data rather than re-evaluate. Remember: parents are part of the IEP team. This discussion must occur before the triennial re-evaluation and review deadline.
During a REED review, the IEP team and other qualified professionals will:
What assessments are needed?
Remember that a comprehensive evaluation may consist of many different assessments! When the school district notifies you of your child’s upcoming triennial evaluation and shares their list of planned assessments you can request additional assessments to ensure your child receives a comprehensive evaluation in all areas of suspected disability.
You can request:
- new assessments that your child has never had;
- repeat assessments your child has had many times;
- one assessment in a new area of concern; or
- that all previous assessments be conducted again.
Some important assessments:
- The neuropsychological assessment remains the most essential assessment due to the impacts of epilepsy and epilepsy surgery on your child’s cognitive, academic, functional, and social-emotional development. You need an expert in brain-based disabilities to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and any required interventions as your child matures and their needs change. This assessment is generally repeated every 3 years but can be done more often if needed. The school district is responsible for providing this assessment if your child’s disability has a neurological basis. Since the school district will not have a neuropsychologist on staff, they must contract with an independent evaluator.
- Once your child is age 16 (14 in some states), the district must also conduct a transition assessment and, in some cases, a functional vocational evaluation.
- Your child must have a cognitive evaluation and other evaluations that may affect state and federal benefits (such as blindness/low vision or deaf/hard of hearing evaluations) before age 18. Most colleges and adult service agencies require a recent evaluation less than 3 years old. Some agencies ask for an evaluation that is less than 1 or 2 years old; find out well in advance what will be necessary for your child.
Write Your Letter of Parental Concerns
Don’t forget your letter of parental concerns (at every IEP meeting!). These concerns can help form the basis of your request for re-evaluation. Describe your child’s long-term goals, strengths and needs (academic, social, emotional, physical, or functional), specific instructional or related service needs, required accommodations and modifications, and any other areas of concern. This list should change over the years as your child’s needs and goals change. Everything listed as an educationally-related concern must be addressed in some way in the IEP (and remember that “education” includes academic achievement and functional skills). Whenever a decision is made without the parent, that is a barrier to parent participation and a fundamental IEP violation.
Think about your child’s needs. For example, if your child is not making progress in learning to read the IEP team will need to know the specific areas of weakness and other barriers impeding the child’s literacy acquisition.
- Has the school assessed your child in the ‘Big Five’ component areas of literacy: fluency, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension? If not, request a detailed literacy evaluation.
- Are there visual or auditory processing issues that are getting in the way? If possible, request a thorough vision evaluation (including visual efficiency and tracking) or a detailed auditory evaluation from an audiologist well-versed in CAPD looking at both peripheral and central hearing.
- What about maladaptive behavior that impacts your child’s access to the curriculum? Do they display task avoidance, social issues, or anxiety? If there are concerns in these areas, request a Functional Behavior Assessment.
- Are there fine motor or speech issues that could be supported with adaptive or assistive tools or technology? If so, request an Assistive Technology evaluation.
- Have all assessments been done in collaboration with the child’s providers (such as the vision teacher, audiologist, or occupational therapist)? How can the IEP team ensure that needed accommodations are being used and that your child is viewed holistically?
You can go back to Step 1: Referral and Step 2: Assessment to review the school district’s requirements and a list of possible assessments.
How long does the school district have to complete the re-evaluation?
There is no federal rule on the timeline for re-evaluations (only initial evaluations), however your state education laws may outline a specific timeline. In many states, the timeframe for re-evaluations is 60 calendar days from when the parent signed the written assessment plan. Then the district has 14 days to respond to your written request for assessment and provide an assessments plan, making the actual timeline closer to 75 days. Some states have a timeline of 60 school days, which means quite a bit of time can pass before the evaluation must be completed. States that do not have specific re-evaluation timelines must provide assessments without ‘undue delay,’ especially if the type or intensity of the service provided is expected to change upon re-evaluation.
Always request assessments in writing weeks (if not months) ahead of the IEP meeting date. Send your letter detailing which evaluations you are requesting and why (see our sample letter to request a comprehensive educational evaluation). Send your letter to the director of special education in your district via certified mail and ask for a response within 5 business days. Ensure you sign the assessment plan generated by the school district as soon as you receive it, as the school cannot assess without written consent (except in rare circumstances). You can ask which professionals will be doing each assessment and what they will be evaluating. If you don’t understand what measures will be used, ask for more information. What assessment instruments have they selected for your child, their purpose, what they measure, and if the results will be objective (based on age or grade norms) or subjective?
Before the Evaluation
Parents and the student are part of the evaluation process. Be sure to share any private evaluations you may have obtained for your child to help the school district evaluators with their assessment process. The evaluators should contact you for updated information about your child and to find out what specific questions need to be answered. They may want to know about changes in the student’s home or family life, peer interactions, emotional state, health or medical status (change in medications, sleep patterns, diet, surgeries, injuries or falls, physical ability, coordination, or muscle control) since the last evaluation? You should also share your view of your child’s academic and functional progress over the past year.
After the Evaluation
Once the assessments are complete, the IEP Team will meet to discuss any needed revisions to the IEP or additional services based on the re-evaluation. Before the meeting, you should ask for a copy of the assessment reports and write down any questions you may have for the IEP team.
If you disagree with even one assessment (because it was not comprehensive, did not address specific questions related to your child, contained errors, or lacked detailed recommendations), then you can request an “independent educational evaluation” (IEE) at district expense.
If you request a re-evaluation or an IEE and the district refuses, they must provide Prior Written Notice (PWN) detailing the basis for their refusal.
Keep track of the names of all tests given to your child and create an ongoing record of these results (consider a spreadsheet). Keep a copy of every assessment your child receives. You are entitled to the full results of every assessment, including breakdown scores, not just a summary.
Every year as you prepare for your child’s annual IEP review, you should consider whether evaluations may be needed and request them well in advance. As your child matures, new conditions or diagnoses may emerge. Understanding all of your child’s needs is essential to developing a meaningful IEP.