If you decide to pursue an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child, you’ll need to ask the school district for an educational evaluation. This request can come from a parent, teacher, counselor or physician who suspects a child has learning or attention issues.
Collect evidence to support your request.
File a formal request for evaluation.
Ask your school principal for written instructions for filing your request. Your letter should include:
- Your child’s full name, school, and date of birth.
- The reasons you’re concerned.
- Evidence that support your concerns—copies of report cards; information from the teacher, a family doctor, private tutors and therapists; work samples; and results of any private testing or screening.
- A statement that your signed letter represents your consent for the evaluation. This will speed up the process by starting the timeline clock ticking.
- Your signature. This will be considered your consent to evaluate your child.
Get a response from the school district.
School officials need to determine two things: Does this child show signs of a suspected disability? And is there enough evidence to justify an evaluation?
The school district must send you written notice of its decision. There are three basic ways the district can respond:
- The school will continue targeted interventions through response to intervention (RTI). The district should provide you with information about how long the interventions will be provided. They should describe how they will measure whether the interventions are working.
- The school district denies your request. They must send you a formal letter, called prior written notice. It must contain:
If the school district denies your request for evaluation, you’re not at a dead end. Your rights are outlined in the procedural safeguards.
- A description of the action proposed or refused by the district
- An explanation of their decision and a description of all student information used in making that decision
- A description of other options the district considered and why those options were rejected
- A description of the factors that influenced their decision
- A statement that you are protected under the procedural safeguards
- Sources for you to contact to better understand your rights under IDEA
- The school district agrees to evaluate your child. You must give your written consent before the evaluation can begin—even if you’re the person who requested the evaluation. If your child qualifies, the district must evaluate your child within 60 days of receiving your consent.
Was your child found eligible for an evaluation?
The purpose of the evaluation is to determine two things:
- Whether your child has one (or more) of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA
- Whether your child needs special education services or accommodations in order to make progress in school and benefit from the general educational program
If your child meets both requirements, she will qualify for an IEP. According to IDEA, once a child is found eligible for special education services, her IEP must be developed within 30 days. As a member of your child’s IEP team, you’ll be directly involved.
But not all children with disabilities qualify for an IEP. The district may say that your child doesn’t need special education services or accommodations. At this point, some parents request a 504 plan. Others dispute the school’s decision or seek an independent educational evaluation.
Consider an independent evaluation.
You always have the right to have your child evaluated privately. You can do this instead of—or in addition to—asking the school district to do an evaluation. (Certain conditions, such as ADHD, are usually diagnosed by a physician or another outside clinician anyway.) The school district usually isn’t responsible to pay for private evaluations. But they will pay in some cases, so be sure to ask.
You can decide whether or not to share the results of a private evaluation. The district must consider any evaluation results you decide to share. But it isn’t obligated to agree with the findings.
Stay the course.
You can streamline the IEP evaluation process by knowing what’s involved at each point. For a visual look at this process, see our IEP Roadmap. Your IEP journey may include some detours, twists and turns. But you’ll never feel stranded if you’re well-informed.