What is an evaluation for special education?

By The Understood Team

What is an evaluation for special education?, teacher working with student

At a glance

  • A special education evaluation will show if a child has a disability and needs specialized instruction and support. 

  • These evaluations go by many names, including special education assessment, school evaluation, and IEP evaluation.

  • An evaluation for special education will show a child’s strengths and challenges.

When kids are having trouble with academics or behavior, there’s a process that schools can use to find out what’s causing these struggles. This process is called an “evaluation for special education.” The goal is to see if a child has a disability and needs specialized instruction and support. 

A evaluation involves a series of steps:

  • Having the school and family agree that a child needs an evaluation
  • Gathering school data, like test scores and discipline records
  • Giving questionnaires to teachers and parents or caregivers (and sometimes to the child) to get a full picture of how the child is doing at school and at home
  • Having the child tested by a psychologist to see how the child thinks and solves problems
  • Having the child tested by at least one other professional, like a speech therapist for children who have trouble expressing themselves
  • Observing the child in a classroom or other school setting
  • Meeting to discuss the evaluation’s findings and decide if the child qualifies for special education

Federal law says schools need to complete the evaluation process within 60 days. But some states have shorter timelines. 

The evaluation process can create lots of different emotions for families. But after the evaluation, they should have a clear picture of their child’s strengths and challenges and an understanding of how to help their child thrive. 

Learn more about the benefits of getting an evaluation.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.