LEA Reevaluation Requirements - 20 U.S.C. § 1414
When determining and re-determining placement, your child's IEP team is generally looking at the results and recommendations from evaluations done by a school district, or local educational agency (LEA). By law, the evaluation conducted shall use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent. Such evaluations are to assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability and the content of the child's IEP, including information related to enabling the child to be involved and progress in the general education curriculum.
The LEA must use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors, but cannot use any single measure as the sole criterion for determination. LEAs must also ensure that assessment materials are not discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis, are provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate results, used for purposes for which the assessments are valid and reliable, are administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel, and are administered in accordance with instructions provided.
The law requires the personnel who assess a student to prepare a written report that shall include, without limitation, the following: (1) whether the student may need special education and related services; (2) the basis for making that determination; (3) the relevant behavior noted during observation of the student in an appropriate setting; (4) the relationship of that behavior to the student's academic and social functioning; (5) the educationally relevant health, development, and medical findings, if any; (6) if appropriate, a determination of the effects of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage; and (7) consistent with superintendent guidelines for low incidence disabilities. The report must be provided to the parent at the IEP team meeting regarding the assessment.
Upon request, or based on a suspected disability, either by parent or the LEA, the district is to provide an initial evaluation to the student of all areas of suspected disability within 60 days of receiving parental consent. The purpose of a special education evaluation is to determine the educational needs of the student. Students who are found to be eligible under a disability are then entitled to additional rights under the law. LEAs are responsible for students who transfer into other districts in the same academic year in coordinating prompt completions of full evaluations.
Furthermore, the LEA or district must ensure that reevaluations are provided for any student with a disability. Reevaluations shall be conducted when the district determines that the educational or related needs warrant a reevaluation, or if the child's parents or teacher requests a reevaluation. Note that such evaluations can only be held at most once a year, unless the parent and the LEA agree otherwise.
Another notable reevaluation requirement set under the Individuals with Disability Education Act is that LEAs must provide reevaluations at least once every three years. However, changes were made at the Re-Authorization of the IDEA which permit the waiver of this requirement if the Parent and the LEA agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.
Some school districts may see this loosened requirement as a way to bypass conducting a reevaluation at the three year mark. However, the law requires a determination and agreement by both parents and the LEA that a reevaluation would be unnecessary.
That being said, parents should be wary of forms or notices regarding their child's reevaluation and be sure they fully understand the repercussions of agreeing a three year re-evaluation is unnecessary. Districts may (and do) try to bypass their obligation to assess a child with special needs, sometimes, even without parental authorization. In fact, some IEPs contain in tiny font, a section asking whether a re-evaluation is required, with a default toggle bubble set at "no." If the IEP is signed by the Parent, the District will likely try to argue that the parties agreed a re-evaluation was not necessary.
Arden Hoang, Summer Intern
Elizabeth Curtis, Associate Attorney
June 22, 2017