Fairfield Special Education: The Scope of an IEP Evaluation
If you have a question or concern about special education law, school administration, federal standards, or the overall rights of a student, please feel free to call the expert education law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at (203) 221-3100 .
A student's initial evaluation must be full and individual, focused on that student and only that student. This is a longstanding provision of IDEA. An evaluation of a student under IDEA means much more than the student sitting in a room with the rest of his or her class taking an exam for that class, that school, that district, or that state. How the student performs on such exams will contribute useful information to an IDEA-related evaluation, but large-scale tests or group-administered instruments are not enough to diagnose a disability or determine what, if any, special education or related services the student might need, let alone plan an appropriate educational program for the student.
The evaluation must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the student, including information provided by the parent. When conducting an initial evaluation, it's important to examine all areas of a student's functioning to determine not only if the student is a student with a disability, but also determine the student's educational needs. This full and individual evaluation may include evaluating the student's:
- vision and hearing,
- social and emotional status,
- general intelligence,
- academic performance,
- communication, and
- motor abilities
As IDEA states, the school system must ensure that the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the student's special education and related service needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the student has been classified.
Variety of Assessment Tools
The evaluation must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies. Under IDEA, it is inappropriate to base any eligibility decision upon the results of only one procedure. Tests alone will not give a comprehensive picture of how a student performs or what he/she knows and is able to do. Only by collecting data through a variety of approaches (e.g., observations, interviews, norm-references tests, criterion-referenced tests, curriculum-based assessment, and so on) and from a variety of sources (parents, teachers, specialists, and student) can an adequate picture be obtained of the student's strengths and challenges.
IDEA also requires schools to use technically sound instruments and processes in evaluation. Technically sound instruments generally refer to assessments that have been shown through research to be valid and reliable. Technically sound processes require that assessments and other evaluation materials be:
- administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel;
- administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments; and
- Used for the purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable.
In conjunction with using a variety of sound tools and processes, assessments must include those that are tailored to assess specific areas of educational need (for example, reading or math) and not merely those that are designed to provide a single general intelligence quotient, or IQ.
Taken together, all of this information can be used to determine whether the student has a disability under IDEA, the specific nature of the student's special needs, whether the student needs special education and related services and, if so, to design an appropriate program.
If you have a child with a disability and have questions about special education law, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com, to schedule a free consultation.
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