NJ Special Education Primer, PART III: Special Education Evaluations.
An evaluation of your child for disability is an important initial step to determine his or her eligibility for special education and related services from your local school district. The process begins with a referral of your child to the child study team. Either the parents or the school district personnel may initiate this process. For parents to initiate the evaluation process, a written referral for an evaluation is made to the school district. The request is usually made to the Director of Special Education Services and can be made at any time.
If your child is struggling in school, and you believe that his or her difficulties may be due to an underlying disability, you should request a comprehensive child study team evaluation. The evaluation is done at no cost to you.
The school’s Child Study Team (CST) must convene a meeting to assess your child within 20 days of receiving your written request for the evaluation, and decide if your child meets eligibility for special education services. The CST must provide a written response with their decision to you within 15 days of the meeting.
The school district may decline to find your child eligible and refuse to do a full evaluation, or determine that a full evaluation is needed. The District may make recommendations for other services and interventions, including those available under Section 504, or by referral to community services or state agencies. If you disagree with this initial denial to evaluate, you may file for mediation and/or Due Process to resolve the disagreement.
If the CST determines that full evaluation is warranted, a meeting will be scheduled to obtain your written consent and to determine the scope of the evaluation. Your written consent is required for the evaluations. You have 15 days to consider your consent and the proposed evaluations.
The IDEA requires that students referred for special education services must be evaluated by a qualified multi-disciplinary team that includes at least one teacher or specialist with specific knowledge of the student’s disability. Testing instruments used must be validated and assess specific areas of suspected disability. Evaluation procedures must be selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory, and must be provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally. If the school district does not have the personnel or resources to conduct an evaluation, the school district must obtain a private evaluation at its own expense.
The school district has 90 days from its receipt of your written consent to conduct appropriate evaluations, and develop and implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child. The district must provide you with copies of the evaluations at least 10 days prior to an Eligibility Meeting to determine your child’s classification. In many cases this Eligibility Meeting will also include the development of the initial IEP. As members of the IEP team, parents are entitled to full participation in this meeting.
If you agree with the evaluation results and the IEP that has been developed, you must consent to this initial IEP in writing before it is implemented. Once implemented, the school district is required to review the IEP, and modify its goals, objectives and interventions each year, and to conduct re-evaluations at least every three years.
If you disagree with the district’s evaluation, you may request an independent evaluation at the school district’s expense. At this point the school may contest your request for an independent evaluation by filing for Due Process. If you disagree with any part of the proposed IEP, you may file for mediation or Due Process within 15 days of receiving the final IEP document. If you do not file for Mediation or Due Process in this time frame, the IEP becomes official and the