When the school, doctors, or others talk about getting your child tested, what does it mean? Typically they’re referring to an evaluation. An evaluation is often the first step toward getting your child help at school. Many people refer to it as an education evaluation, a school evaluation, or an educational assessment. And it can lead to your child receiving special education services and supports.
Whether the school or your child’s doctor suggests an evaluation, it’s important to know the basics before you decide whether to have your child tested. That knowledge can help you feel more at ease in what may be uncharted territory.
This guide can lead you to the basic information you need about evaluations.
Different Terms for Evaluations
If you’re new to evaluations, you may have a lot of questions. One thing that can make learning about evaluations confusing is that there are so many different terms for them. From educational evaluation to cognitive testing, this chart breaks down the many terms you may hear.
An evaluation can lead to your child getting support through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. You may be curious about whether evaluations for IEPs and 504 plans are different. Find out here.
The Difference Between an Evaluation and a Functional Assessment
An evaluation looks for difficulties that might make a child eligible for special education services. A functional assessment looks at problems with behavior. It might be done as part of an evaluation, but it’s not the same thing.
You can also explore quick answers to common questions about evaluations.
Evaluations for Kids at Different Ages
If your child is in preschool, you may think you have to wait until your child starts school to get an evaluation. But kids from birth through age 3 can be evaluated to find out if they’re eligible for early intervention services.
Different kinds of help are available depending on your child’s age. This year-by-year guide breaks it down.
Private vs. School Evaluations
When it comes to having your child evaluated, there are two basic options: a free evaluation by the school district or a private evaluation that you pay for. This is true whether your child attends public school or private school, or is homeschooled. And getting one doesn’t mean you can’t get the other.
Compare the pros and cons of private and school evaluations.
You may have also heard about independent educational evaluations (IEEs). These are private evaluations done by an outside professional—but they’re paid for by the school. Learn more about IEEs.
Child Find and Free School Evaluations
Child Find is a legal mandate that requires schools to evaluate—for free—kids who may need services. It’s part of a federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). And it applies to all students, whether they attend public school or private school, or are homeschooled.
Evaluation Myths and Benefits
There’s a lot of misleading information out there about evaluations and special education. Knowing what’s a myth and what’s the truth may help put those concerns to rest.
Read about the benefits of having your child evaluated.
Hear a mom and expert’s advice for parents who are nervous about the idea of an evaluation.
Evaluations for College Testing Accommodations, ADHD, and Adults
You may have heard the term evaluation because you want your child to get test accommodations for the SAT or ACT. The College Board, which gives the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams, requires documentation of a learning disability and/or ADHD. ACT has its own set of documentation guidelines. So if your child hasn’t had an evaluation, you’ll need to get one.
Learn about the documentation needed for college testing accommodations.
If you’re specifically interested in having your child evaluated for ADHD, find out what to look for in an ADHD evaluation.
If you’re unsure whether to have your child evaluated, continue with the next steps listed below. If you’re not interested in an evaluation and the school suggested one, find out whether you can refuse.
Here are the next steps in your evaluation journey: