As a parent advocate, I often hear this kind of frustration from the families I work with. As a mother, I understand it too. When our kids are struggling, we want to get them the help they need as soon as possible.
School districts have to follow specific guidelines for moving the evaluation process along. These guidelines are spelled out in federal special education law (the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA). According to the law, once you’ve given permission to conduct a formal evaluation, the district has 60 days to complete it.
However, the 60-day clock doesn’t start ticking until you’ve given your consent. Often, there are a few things that need to happen before the district asks for your consent.
To jump-start the process, either you or the school needs to
request an evaluation. If you’re making the request, be sure to
do it in writing.
It’s not unusual for the school to respond by using informal evaluations and
interventions to see if it agrees that a formal evaluation is needed. Some families like the idea of delaying an evaluation and seeing how their child does with targeted help, like
response to intervention (RTI). But the law makes it clear that RTI can’t be used to delay or deny an evaluation.
If you think the school is moving too slowly, the first thing to do is to communicate with the school.
Give gentle pressure by writing an email or a letter. Say when you made your initial request for an evaluation. Ask when the school will decide whether to conduct the evaluation.
It’s OK to be persistent. If you need to, send more letters asking for detailed information from the school about its decision-making process.
Be sure to keep a record of all your efforts. Keep a
communications log. Write down the dates, times, and other details for every email, phone call, or face-to-face conversation.
If you’re not making progress through these strategies, there are other things you can do. Learn about
your options. You can also start exploring steps to take
if the school denies your request for an evaluation.