Special Education Evaluationsand Testing

What is a Special Education Evaluation?

A special education evaluation is an assessment done by your school district for any student who is potentially eligible for special education services.

An initial special education evaluation must (1) determine if your child is a child with a disability and (2) determine your child’s educational needs.

Under federal law, a child with disability includes any student who requires special education and related services as a result of the any of the following: 

an intellectual disability,

a hearing impairment,

a speech or language impairment,

a visual impairment,

a serious emotional disturbance,

an orthopedic impairment,

autism,

traumatic brain injury,

an other health impairment,

a specific learning disability,

deaf-blindness,

or multiple disabilities.

Should my child be evaluated for special education services?

Your school district must identify and conduct a special education evaluation for all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disability, who are in need of special education and related services. 

If your child is experiencing difficulty in school, all student support services should be considered by your school, including tutorial; remedial; compensatory; response to intervention; and other academic or behavior support services.

If your child continues to experience difficulty, your school district must begin the special education evaluation (or full individual and initial evaluation) process. As a parent, you may also initiate the evaluation process for your child.

A special education evaluation is an assessment done by your school district for any student who is potentially eligible for special education services.

10 special education evaluation takeaways for parents.

1. You may ask your school district for a special education evaluation of your child at any time.

2. Your request for a special education evaluation should be in writing.

3. In your request, ask that your school evaluate your child for special education services.

4. Address your written request to your school’s principal and your district’s special education director.

5. Your school district has 15 school days to respond to your request, in writing.

6. If the school agrees to evaluate, they must provide: (a) a written notice proposing to evaluate, (b) a copy of the procedural safeguards notice, and (c) an opportunity for you to give written consent.

7. Once the school receives your signed consent, they have 45 days to conduct the evaluation.

8. Once the evaluation is complete, the school has 30 calendar days to hold an ARD meeting, review the evaluation results, determine eligibility and develop an IEP.

9. If the school refuses your request, they must provide: (a) written notice refusing to evaluate and (b) a notice of procedural safeguards explaining your legal rights.

10. If you are unhappy with the school district’s decision, you have the right challenge it. Ask for a private, independent evaluation; Request Mediation; File for Due Process.

Requesting a special education evaluation

→ Special education evaluations may be requested at any time.

The school’s duty to evaluate is an affirmative one and does not require a parental request.

However, you have a right to initiate the special education evaluation process for your child whenever you believe it appropriate.

In fact, each school year, your school must provide you with written notice of the options and details surrounding special education services for your child.

This notice must inform you that you are entitled to request a special education evaluation for your child at any time.  

Your school district may not reject or delay consideration of your request for an initial special education evaluation because your child has not participated in or is currently participating in RtI (Response to Intervention Strategies).

The request for a special education evaluation, however, does not need to come from you.  School personnel, parents or legal guardians, or any another person involved in the education or care of your child may make a request for special education testing and an evaluation.

How should you ask for a special education evaluation or testing for your child?

→ Your request for special testing and a special education evaluation should be in writing.

Submitting your written request for a special education evaluation will legally obligate your school district to respond.

There are many sample evaluation requests online to use as a starting point, but be sure that your request meets all requirements and is specific to your child. 

The ARC of Texas and Disability Rights Texas have provided one sample request in the 2018 IDEA Manual.

special education evaluation request
Letter requesting a special education evaluation

You are asking that the school district conduct a full individual and initial evaluation of your child in all areas of suspected disability. 

→  In your request, ask that your school evaluate your child for special education services.

→  Address your written request to your school’s principal and your district’s special education director.

While you can submit your special education evaluation request to the school personnel familiar with your child, you should also address the request to your school district’s director of special education or a district administrative employee.

Special Education Evaluation Timelines

When does the school need to respond to an evaluation request?

In Texas, a school district has 15 school days to respond to a special education evaluation request.

When the school district receives your written request, they have 15 school days to provide you with a written response.

Under Texas law, a “school day” does not include any day after the last instructional day of the spring semester and before the first instructional day of the subsequent fall semester.

How should the school respond to a special education evaluation request?

The school must respond to your special education evaluation request in writing. 

There are only two potential responses from the school: agree to evaluate or refuse to evaluate. 

(1) Agree to Evaluate:

If the school agrees to evaluate your child, the district must provide you with prior written notice of the district’s proposal to conduct a special education evaluation; a copy of the procedural safeguards notice; and an opportunity to give written consent for the evaluation.

(2) Refuse to evaluate:

However, if the school decides not to evaluate your child, the district must provide you with prior written notice of the district’s refusal to conduct a special education evaluation, and a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.

If a parent submits a written request to a school district’s director of special education services or to a district administrative employee for a full individual and initial evaluation of a student, the school district must, not later than the 15th school day after the date the district receives the request:

(1) provide the parent with prior written notice of its proposal to conduct an evaluation consistent with 34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), §300.503; a copy of the procedural safeguards notice required by 34 CFR, §300.504; and an opportunity to give written consent for the evaluation; or

(2)provide the parent with prior written notice of its refusal to conduct an evaluation consistent with 34 CFR, §300.503, and a copy of the procedural safeguards notice required by 34 CFR, §300.504.

19 TAC §89.1011

What happens if the school agrees to evaluate? 

→  The school has 45 school days to conduct the evaluation after receiving your signed consent.

Within 45 school days of receiving your written consent for the evaluation, the school district must complete a written special education evaluation report (or a full individual and initial evaluation) of your child. 

That timeline can be extended if your child is absent from school. Three or more absences during the 45 school day evaluation period will extend the deadline. 

Additionally, the timeline is also adjusted if the school receives your consent within fewer than 45 school days before the last instructional day of the school year.

Except as otherwise provided in this section, a written report of a full individual and initial evaluation of a student must be completed as follows:

(1) not later than the 45th school day following the date on which the school district receives written consent for the evaluation from the student’s parent, except that if a student has been absent from school during that period on three or more school days, that period must be extended by a number of school days equal to the number of school days during that period on which the student has been absent; or

(2) for students under five years of age by September 1 of the school year and not enrolled in public school and for students enrolled in a private or home school setting, not later than the 45th school day following the date on which the school district receives written consent for the evaluation from the student’s parent.

19 TAC §89.1011

Importantly, consent to the special education evaluation does not give the school permission to provide special education services. You can provide that permission at a later time.

What happens when the special education evaluation is complete? 

→  Once the evaluation is complete, the school has 30 calendar days to hold an ARD meeting, review the evaluation results, determine eligibility and develop an IEP.

Within 30 calendar days from the completion date of your child’s initial special education evaluation, the IEP team (ARD committee) must hold a meeting to determine your child’s eligibility.

If your child qualifies for special education services, the ARD committee must also develop an individual education plan.

The admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee must make its decisions regarding a student’s initial eligibility determination and, if appropriate, individualized education program (IEP) and placement within 30 calendar days from the date of the completion of the written full individual and initial evaluation report. 

In many cases the ARD timeline can be extended. For example, if the 30 calendar days falls during the summer when school is not in session, the ARD committee has until the first instructional day of the fall semester to finalize initial eligibility decisions.

Disagreement with evaluation results

You can ask for a second opinion if you are unhappy with the school district’s evaluation.

A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency, subject to the conditions in paragraphs (b)(2) through (4) of this section.

If a parent requests an independent educational evaluation at public expense, the public agency must, without unnecessary delay, either— (i) File a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate; or (ii) Ensure that an independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense, unless the agency demonstrates in a hearing pursuant to §§300.507through 300.513 that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency criteria.

34 CFR § 300.502

What if the school refuses to evaluate my child? 

→ If the school decides not to evaluate, you may challenge the school’s decision. 

If your school district decides not to conduct a special education evaluation of your child because they do not suspect a disability, you may challenge the school’s decision by requesting a due process hearing.

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