TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

I.  Parent’s Role in the Evaluation Process

II. Individual Evaluation Procedures

III. Independent Educational Evaluations (Revised January 2002)

IV. Eligibility Determinations

V.  Questions and Answers

Appendices

INTRODUCTION

A student suspected of having a disability must be referred in writing to the Chairperson of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) or to the building administrator for an individual evaluation and determination of eligibility for special education programs and services. The written referral submitted by persons other than the parent, student or a judicial officer, must:

Once a written referral has been received, the CSE or CPSE must request written consent from the parent of the student to conduct the individual evaluation. The parent of a school-age child and the person submitting the referral may agree in writing to withdraw a referral in the event they can agree on specific alternative methods to resolve the identified learning difficulty of the student. The information submitted in the written referral is important in determining the evaluations to be conducted for an individual student and making an eligibility determination.

The individual evaluation is the first step a CSE or CPSE must take to determine if a student meets the eligibility requirements for special education services and before convening a meeting to develop a student’s initial individualized education program (IEP). An appropriate program for a student with a disability begins with an IEP that adequately reflects the results of a student’s individual evaluation and describes the needs of the student to be addressed through the provision of special education services. It is from the evaluation information that a student’s present levels of educational performance will be identified and it is from the present levels of educational performance that a student’s goals and objectives will evolve.

One of the most significant changes in the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)relates to how the evaluation process should be viewed and conducted. This includes:

The determination of assessments that should be included as part of an initial evaluation or a reevaluation must be made on a case-by-case basis with input from the student’s parent and from appropriate professionals of various disciplines (such as the student’s teacher, the school psychologist, the speech and language therapist and/or other related service providers). As the CSE or CPSE plans to gather evaluation and assessment information in preparation for an initial or reevaluation meeting, it must consider those evaluations that will provide the necessary information to comprehensively identify a student’s present levels of educational performance (including current functioning, strengths, abilities and needs) in each of the following four need areas:

1.    Academic/Educational Achievement and Learning Characteristics

The levels of knowledge and development in subject and skill areas, including activities of daily living, level of intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior, expected rate of progress in acquiring skills and information, and learning style.

2.    Social Development

The degree and quality of the student’s relationships with peers and adults, feelings about self, and social adjustment to school and community environments.

3.    Physical Development

The degree or quality of the student’s motor and sensory development, health, vitality, and physical skills or limitations that pertain to the learning process, including pertinent information from the student’s physical examination.

4.    Management Needs

The nature of and degree to which environmental modifications and human or material resources are required to enable the student to benefit from instruction. Management needs are determined in accordance with the factors identified in each of the three areas described above.

The key questions that evaluation information should address to ascertain a student’s present levels of performance include:

School districts can use the quality indicators provided in this guidance document to evaluate the effectiveness of their own individual evaluation process.


I. PARENT’S ROLE IN THE EVALUATION PROCESS

Quality Indicators:

  • Evaluation information and the manner in which it is presented encourage the parent and the student to participate in the IEP development process.

  • Evaluation information provided by the parent is given meaningful consideration in the IEP development process.

  • The evaluation results for each student include the strengths of the student and the concerns of the parent about his or her child’s education needs.

The student’s parent plays an important role in the individual evaluation process. The school must take steps to ensure that the parent(s) of the student:

As a member of the CSE or CPSE, the parent has a right to participate in identifying additional assessment data needed and in the decision regarding the need for those data. In its review of existing evaluation information and the determination of the need to conduct additional tests or assessments, the  CSE (see Footnote1) or CPSE must include the parent of the student in its decision making process. If the determination of whether additional data are needed is not made in a CSE or CPSE meeting, the school must otherwise obtain the participation of the student’s parent, as well as the input of the other CSE/CPSE members. If the CSE determines that no additional evaluation data is needed for an initial evaluation or reevaluation, it must notify the student’s parent(s) of that determination and the reasons for it. It must also inform the parent(s) of his or her right to request an assessment to determine if the child is eligible or continues to be eligible for special education services. In this case, if the parent requests an assessment, the school district is required to conduct it.

An individual evaluation of a student must be at no cost to the parent and can only be conducted with the informed consent of the student’s parent. A parent may submit evaluation information which, if submitted, must be considered by the CSE/CPSE as part of its evaluation or review. If the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the school district, the parent has a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation and to request that it be at public expense. However, the school district may ask the parent why he or she objects to the public evaluation and may request an impartial hearing to defend the public evaluation. (The section Independent Educational Evaluations further discusses the criteria for independent educational evaluations.)

Prior written notice and parental consent (See Sample Prior Notices - Appendix C)

A parent must be fully informed about the proposed evaluation and must provide written consent for an initial evaluation and for a reevaluation. Upon receipt of a referral for initial evaluation or prior to conducting a reevaluation, the parents must receive prior written notice that includes:

Sharing evaluation results

For both preschool and school-age students, the results of the evaluation must be provided to the student’s parent in the native language or mode of communication of the parent. This usually involves a meeting with the parent(s) where the technical language and the scoring of individual tests and assessments are explained to the parent, usually by the professionals who administered the tests or assessments. Whenever feasible, this should occur when the evaluation reports are shared with other members of the CSE or CPSE before any meeting to discuss the identification, evaluation or educational placement of the student or the provision of a free appropriate public education to the student. Parents are members of the CSE or CPSE and, therefore, should have the same information as other members in order to fully participate in the meeting.

Copies of the evaluation report

In addition to sharing the results of the evaluations with the parent, the parent has the right to receive copies of the evaluation reports that were used to determine their child’s eligibility for special education:

CHECKLIST FOR PARENT PARTICIPATION IN THE EVALUATION PROCESS

  • The parent has input as to the tests and assessments to be conducted as part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation.

  • The parent is fully informed of the proposed evaluation and the purposes for which the evaluation would be used.

  • Written parental consent is obtained for the proposed evaluation.

  • The concerns of the parent about the education of the student are considered in the evaluation process.

  • The results of the evaluation are shared with the parent in the parent’s native language or mode of communication.

  • Evaluation information provided by the parent is considered in the IEP development process.

  • For preschool students, a copy of the Preschool Student Evaluation Summary Report, in the parent’s native language, is provided to the parent.

  • A copy of the evaluation report is provided to the parent (for evaluations conducted to determine initial or continuing eligibility).

II. INDIVIDUAL EVALUATION PROCEDURES

COMPONENTS OF AN INDIVIDUAL EVALUATION

Quality Indicators:

  • The individual evaluation provides relevant and functional information about the student.

  • The individual evaluation provides information to determine a student’s eligibility or continuing eligibility for special education services.

  • The individual evaluation provides information to determine a student’s present levels of educational performance including areas of strength and areas of need arising from the student’s disability.

  • The individual evaluation provides information to identify supports, services and modifications to ensure that a student with a disability is involved in and progresses in the general curriculum.

  • The individual evaluation report provides information to address a student’s instructional needs.

  • The evaluation results for each student includes the strengths of the student and the concerns of the parent about his or her child’s education needs.

  • The evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all the student’s special education needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the child has been classified.

An individual evaluation means any procedures, tests or assessments used selectively with an individual student as may be necessary to determine whether a student has a disability and the extent of his or her special education needs. An individual evaluation does not include basic tests administered to, or procedures used with, all students in a grade or class.

An individual evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies, including information provided by the parent, to gather:

  • functional and developmental information about the student; and

  • information related to enabling the student to participate and progress in the general education curriculum.

The individual evaluation must:

  • be made by a multidisciplinary team or group of persons, including at least one teacher or other specialist with certification or knowledge in the area of the suspected disability.

  • include assessments in all areas related to the suspected disability including, where appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, vocational skills, communicative status and motor abilities.

  • be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the student’s special education needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the student has been identified.

  • No single procedure may be used as the sole criterion for determining whether a student is a student with a disability or for determining an appropriate educational program for a student.

Timelines to Conduct an Individual Evaluation

For a school-age student with a disability not previously identified as having a disability (i.e., initial referral for evaluation), the CSE must complete the evaluation, meet to determine eligibility, develop a recommendation to the board of education and arrange for the appropriate special education services and programs to be provided to the student within 60 school days of receiving the parent’s consent to evaluate.

Upon receipt of a request for a reevaluation, the CSE must complete the evaluation, meet to develop a recommendation to the board of education, and arrange for the appropriate special education services and programs to be provided to the student within 60 school days of the receipt of referral for reevaluation.

For reevaluations, the reevaluation and the meeting to review the results of the individual evaluation must be conducted no later than three years from the date of the initial determination of eligibility for special education (i.e., the initial CSE meeting).

For preschool students, the CPSE must complete the evaluation and provide a recommendation to the board of education within 30 school days from the date of the parent’s consent to evaluate.

Also see CSE Responsibilities for Expedited Evaluations.

Components of an Initial Individual Evaluation

An initial individual evaluation must include:

  • a physical examination (see Footnote 3);

  • an individual psychological evaluation, except when a school psychologist determines that, after an assessment of a school-age student, further evaluation is unnecessary (see Footnote 4);

  • a social history;

  • an observation of the student in the current educational placement; and

  • other appropriate assessments or evaluations, including a functional behavioral assessment for a student whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others, as necessary to ascertain the physical, mental, behavioral and emotional factors which contribute to the suspected disabilities.

  • for students age 12 and those referred to special education for the first time who are age 12 and older, an assessment that includes a review of school records, teacher assessments, and parent and student interviews to determine vocational skills, aptitudes and interests (also known as a Level 1 vocational assessment).

The determination of the need to conduct an individual psychological evaluation for school-age students must be made on an individual basis using a variety of data collection methodologies and information sources (e.g., analysis of the referral, interviews, observation, rating scales completed by parents, teachers and the student and a review of school records). No determination can be made on a categorical basis; i.e., it can not be predetermined, based on the type of disability suspected, whether a psychological evaluation is needed or not.

If the CSE (see Footnote 5) and other qualified individuals determine that existing evaluations, reports and observations are appropriate to meet the requirements for the initial evaluation, then no additional assessments need to be conducted unless requested by the parent of the student.

Components of a Reevaluation of a Student with a Disability

A reevaluation is the opportunity to thoroughly assess the student’s individual needs and the continued appropriateness of the special education services that have been provided to the student. Therefore, a reevaluation of a student (formerly called a "triennial evaluation") must be conducted if conditions warrant a reevaluation, or if the student’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation, but at least once every three years (see Footnote 6).

The reevaluation must be multidisciplinary and sufficient to assess a student in all areas of the identified disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status and motor abilities. The reevaluation must be sufficient to determine the individual student’s needs, educational progress and achievement; the student’s ability to participate in instructional programs in regular education; and the student’s continuing eligibility for special education.

The selection of tests and assessment techniques to be conducted in a reevaluation of a student with a disability must be determined on an individual basis. The components of the reevaluation should be determined based on historical information about the student, including information from the initial individual evaluation, the IEP goals, the annual reviews, etc. As with an initial evaluation, the determination of the necessity to administer an individual psychological evaluation to a school-age student is the responsibility of the school psychologist. In addition to the Level 1 vocational assessment required for students who are age 12 and older, the consideration of tests and assessments to be conducted should include appropriate assessments to provide information on transition planning based on a student’s needs, preferences and interests. This requires an effective, student-based vocational assessment process.

If it is determined that existing evaluations, reports and observations are appropriate to meet the requirements for the reevaluation, then no additional assessments would need to be conducted. The CSE must notify the parent of this determination and of the parent’s right to request a test or assessment if the evaluation is being conducted to determine a student’s eligibility or continuing eligibility for special education. In this case, the district must conduct an assessment if the student’s parent requests one.

DETERMINATION OF EVALUATIONS TO BE CONDUCTED

Quality Indicator:
  • The tests and assessments to be conducted are determined on an individual basis.

Whether additional data are needed as part of an initial evaluation or reevaluation must be determined by the professionals and the student’s parents on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the needs of the student and the information available regarding the student. This process will ensure that the individual evaluation is comprehensive and includes all the required components to determine a student’s educational needs without subjecting the student to additional tests or assessments.

The following summarizes the requirements on how the decisions are made as to the determination of evaluations to be conducted:

Who: A group that includes the CSE (see Footnote 7) or CPSE, and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, must review existing evaluation data on the student. The composition of the group that makes this decision will vary depending on the nature of the student’s suspected disability and must include individuals beyond the required CSE or CPSE members when necessary to ensure that appropriate decisions are made. For example, in determining the necessary evaluation information for a student with limited English proficiency, it may be appropriate to include a person who is knowledgeable about the identification, assessment and education of such students. For preschool students, the approved evaluator selected by the parent makes a recommendation to the CPSE as to the tests or assessments to be conducted as part of an initial or reevaluation of a preschool child.

The review of existing evaluation data can be done individually by each member of the CSE or CPSE, and other qualified professionals as appropriate, and does not necessarily need to take place at a formal meeting. The parent of the student is a member of the CSE/CPSE and, therefore, must have the opportunity to participate in the discussion and decision as to whether additional assessment data is needed. However, if the determination of whether additional data are needed is not made at a meeting of the CSE or CPSE, there is an obligation on the part of the school district to otherwise obtain the participation of the appropriate professionals and the student’s parent in this determination.

How: Based on a review of existing evaluation information, and input from the student’s parent, the CSE or CPSE and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, must identify what additional data, if any, are needed to meet the individual evaluation requirements to determine:

  • eligibility for special education;

  • whether the student has a particular category of disability (i.e., classification);

  • present levels of educational performance and the educational needs of the student; and

  • the special education services or modifications needed to meet the student’s annual goals as set out in the IEP and to promote participation and progress, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum.

The CSE or CPSE must then arrange for the additional tests and other evaluation materials to be administered.

What: The information to be reviewed must include all relevant existing evaluation data on a student, including:

  • evaluations provided by the parent;

  • where appropriate, data from evaluations conducted by other agencies (e.g., recent evaluations conducted by early intervention programs).

  • current classroom-based assessments and observations (i.e., formal observations conducted to assess the student in one or more areas); and

  • observations by teachers and related service providers (i.e., information noted by teachers and related service providers in their ongoing work with the student).

The determination of the need to conduct an individual psychological evaluation must be made individually for each student.

  • If a current and relevant individual psychological evaluation of a preschool or school-age student is available for the CSE or CPSE to review as part of its evaluation information, the CSE or CPSE may determine that it is not necessary to conduct another psychological evaluation of the student.

  • If a current and relevant individual psychological evaluation of the student is not available for the CSE or CPSE to review, one must be conducted as part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation, except that, for school-age students, a school psychologist may conduct an assessment and determine there is no need for an individual psychological evaluation for that student. The process to determine the need for an individual psychological evaluation of a school-age student includes the following:

  • The school psychologist conducts as assessment upon which a determination of the need to administer a complete individual psychological evaluation is based.

  • The CSE must consider the written report of the assessment by the school psychologist, which must include a statement of the reasons why a psychological evaluation is unnecessary.

  • If, after reviewing the written report of the assessment and other evaluation results, the CSE determines that it is unable to make a recommendation without additional information, and that a psychological evaluation should be done to obtain that information, the CSE may request a psychological evaluation.

  • The school psychologist, as a member of the CSE, is involved in the decision to request the complete psychological evaluation.

TESTS AND ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES

Quality Indicators:
  • The district has a process for assessing its evaluation procedures on a regular basis.

  • Standardized tests are psychometrically reliable and valid.

  • Professionals are knowledgeable of new tests and assessments.

  • Schools ensure the most recent versions of assessment instruments are available and used.

  • Results of tests are interpreted using the most up-to-date normative information.

Federal and State regulations require that school districts have established procedures for conducting an individual evaluation. These must include procedures to ensure that tests and assessments are:

  • provided and administered in the student’s native language or other mode of communication, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so;

  • validated for the specific purpose for which they are used;

  • administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel in accordance with the instruction provided by those who developed such tests or procedures;

  • if an assessment is not conducted under standard conditions, a description of the extent to which it varied from standard conditions (for example, the qualifications of the person administering the test or the method of test administration) must be included in the evaluation report;

  • administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory;

  • selected to assess specific areas of educational need and not merely general intelligence quotient; and

  • selected and administered to ensure that, when a test is administered to a student with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills, the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting the student’s impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills, except when the test purports to measure those skills.

  • selected and administered so that they measure the extent to which the student with limited English proficiency has a disability and needs special education, rather than measure the student's English-language skills.

The school district must:

  • use technically sound instruments that assess how cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors of the student’s disability, contribute to a student’s learning difficulties; and

  • use assessment tools and strategies that provide relevant information to determine the educational needs of the student.

Evaluation information provided to parents:

  • For both preschool and school-age students, the results of the evaluation must be provided to the parent in the native language or mode of communication of the parent so he or she can fully understand the evaluation results.

  • For both preschool and school-age students, a copy of the evaluation report and the documentation of the determination of eligibility must be provided to the parent when an evaluation is for purposes of determining eligibility or continuing eligibility for special education.

  • For preschool students, a copy of the summary report of the evaluation must be provided to the parents in the native language of the parent.

Other evaluation procedures

  • If an assessment is not conducted under standard conditions, a description of the extent to which it varied from standard conditions (for example, the qualifications of the person administering the test or the method of test administration) must be included in the evaluation report.

  • The procedures for evaluating students suspected of having a learning disability must be in accordance with sections 300.540 through 300.543 of the Code of Federal Regulations as summarized below.

  • The procedures for conducting expedited evaluations must be conducted pursuant to section 201.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education as summarized below.

Procedures for Determining if a School-Age Student has a Learning Disability

Part 200 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines learning disability as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which manifests itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage. A student who exhibits a discrepancy of 50 percent or more between expected achievement and actual achievement determined on an individual basis shall be deemed to have a learning disability.

In applying the criteria for learning disability, the CSE must apply the 50 percent discrepancy standard as a guideline in making a qualitative assessment of the student’s ability. It is not intended that the CSE would base its determination solely on this quantitative standard. This means that some students may be identified as having a learning disability if they have a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability that is less than 50 percent. If a student does have a 50 percent discrepancy between expected achievement and actual achievement and otherwise meets the definition, the student must be deemed to have a learning disability. Expected achievement is determined on an individual basis (e.g., a student who scores in the very superior range on an individual intelligence test may be determined to be a student with a learning disability due to low-average achievement in the area of reading caused by a deficit in phonological processing).

Federal regulations (34 CFR ßß300.540-300.543) have additional procedures for evaluating students with suspected learning disabilities. These procedures include requirements relating to:

  • additional team members;

  • criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability;

  • student observation; and

  • written report.

Additional team members: The CSE must include:

  • the student’s regular teacher (see Footnote 8) or, if the student does not have a regular education teacher, a regular classroom teacher qualified to teach a child of his or her age; and

  • at least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist or remedial reading teacher.

Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Learning Disability: A CSE may determine that a student has a specific learning disability if:

  • the student does not achieve commensurate with his or her age and ability levels in one or more areas if provided with learning experiences appropriate for the student’s age and ability levels; and

  • the CSE finds that a student has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of the following areas:

  • oral expression

  • listening comprehension

  • written expression

  • basic reading skill

  • reading comprehension

  • mathematics calculation

  • mathematics reasoning

Student Observation: At least one team member other than the student’s regular education teacher must observe the student’s academic performance in the regular classroom setting.

Written Report: In the documentation (see Footnote 9) of the CSE’s determination of a student’s eligibility for special education services, the following information must be provided:

  • whether the student has a learning disability;

  • the basis for making the determination;

  • the relevant behavior noted during the observation of the student;

  • the relationship of that behavior to the student’s academic functioning;

  • the educationally relevant medical findings, if any;

  • whether there is a severe discrepancy between achievement and ability that is not correctable without special education; and

  • the determination of the CSE concerning the effects of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Each member of the CSE must certify in writing whether the report of the determination of eligibility reflects his or her conclusion. If it does not reflect his or her conclusion, the team member must submit a separate statement presenting his or her conclusion. A sample report form on the Documentation of Determination of Eligibility for Students Suspected of Having a Learning Disability is provided in Appendix C.

CSE responsibilities for expedited evaluations.

If a request for an initial individual evaluation is made during the period that a student is suspended or removed for discipline reasons, the evaluation must be conducted in an expedited manner. This expedited evaluation is required to determine if the student is a student with a disability who should be receiving special education services that would address his or her behaviors that resulted in the disciplinary action. An expedited evaluation under these circumstances must be completed no later than 15 school days after receipt of the request for evaluation. It must be conducted in accordance with the procedural requirements for individual evaluations and with all the due process protections (such as notice and consent) required for initial individual evaluations. The CSE must make a determination of eligibility of such student in a meeting held no later than five school days after completion of the expedited evaluation.

CHECKLIST FOR INDIVIDUAL EVALUATION PROCEDURES

  • The determination of the evaluations to be conducted is made on a case-by-case basis with input from the CSE members, including the student’s parent(s).

  • Individual evaluations include a variety of tools and strategies.

  • Individual evaluations are conducted by a multidisciplinary team.

  • Procedures for determining the existence of a learning disability are followed.

  • Test and assessment procedures meet the State and federal requirements.

  • At least one individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results participates in the CSE or CPSE meeting.

 

III. INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATIONS

Quality Indicator:

  • Evaluation information provided by the parent is given meaningful consideration in the IEP development process.

An independent educational evaluation means an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the student in question. Federal and State regulations require that:

  • If a parent obtains an independent educational evaluation, the CSE or CPSE must consider the results as long as the evaluation meets same criteria for evaluation procedures that the school district uses when it initiates an evaluation (see below).
  • The results of an independent educational evaluation may be presented as evidence at an impartial hearing regarding the student.
  • If a parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained or conducted by the CSE or CPSE, the parent has a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation and to request that it be at public expense (i.e., the school district either pays for the full cost of the evaluation or ensures that the evaluation is otherwise provided at no cost to the parent). The school district must provide the parent with information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained, and the school districtís criteria applicable to independent educational evaluations.

The criteria under which the independent educational evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria the school district uses when it initiates an evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with the parentís right to an independent educational evaluation. Therefore, the criteria in federal and State regulations (34CFR ßß300.530-300.536 and CR ß200.4) relating to evaluation procedures apply to the independent educational evaluations (see pages 13-14). In addition to the federal and State criteria for conducting public evaluations, boards of education may also establish policy regarding criteria for the reimbursement of an independent evaluation regarding the following, provided such criteria allows for exceptions for unique circumstances. A school district may not impose any additional conditions other than those indicated below:

    • allowable fees for specific tests to avoid unreasonable charges (provided maximum allowable fees are high enough to permit parents to choose among qualified professionals in the area and the policies allow for exceptions to the fee schedule where justified by the studentís unique circumstances);
    • specifications on the geographic area in which such evaluations may take place (provided the policies allow for exceptions to location where justified by the studentís unique circumstances);
    • minimum qualifications of the professionals who administer and interpret various tests. Because NYS certification or licensure is a minimum qualification for all evaluators who conduct district-initiated evaluations, this criterion must also be applied to independent evaluations (Commissionerís Decision No. 12,822); and
    • reasonable timelines for parents to request reimbursement for an independent evaluation after the evaluation was conducted. (Note: A school district may not condition reimbursement on whether the parent notified the district prior to obtaining the independent evaluation nor may it impose timelines related to when a parent may obtain an independent educational evaluation at public expense.)

If a parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained or conducted by the CSE or CPSE, the parent has a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation and to request that it be at public expense (i.e., the school district either pays for the full cost of the evaluation or ensures that the evaluation is otherwise provided at no cost to the parent). When a parent requests that the school district pay for the costs of the independent educational evaluation, the school district must, without unnecessary delay, either:

  • initiate an impartial hearing to demonstrate that its evaluation is appropriate and/or that the independent educational evaluation obtained by the parent did not conform to the school districtís criteria; or
  • ensure that the independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense.

Unless a school district and parent otherwise agree, a school district may not use its criteria as a basis for refusing to pay for the full cost of the independent educational evaluation without initiating an impartial hearing to demonstrate that the independent educational evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet the school districtís criteria.

The school district may ask for the parentís reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation. This is important because it gives the school district and parent an opportunity to review the evaluations conducted and determine what, if any, further evaluations the district may need to conduct to address the parentís concern. However, the parentís explanation or refusal to provide a reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation is not reason for the school district to unreasonably delay either paying for the independent educational evaluation or initiating a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation.

In the event the school district initiates an impartial hearing and an impartial hearing officer determines that the school districtís evaluation is appropriate, or that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet school district criteria, the parent has a right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at public expense. If an impartial hearing officer requests an independent educational evaluation as part of a hearing, the cost of the evaluation must be at public expense.
 

CHECKLIST FOR INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATIONS

  • The CSE or CPSE considers the results of the independent educational evaluation (whether obtained through public or private expense) in the IEP development process.

  • Upon request of the student’s parent, a district provides the parent with information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained and the school district’s criteria applicable to independent educational evaluations including any criteria relating to the reimbursement of independent educational evaluations.

  • The district annually updates its list of independent educational evaluators.

  • When a parent requests that the school pay for the costs of the independent educational evaluation, the school district either (1) initiates an impartial hearing to demonstrate that its evaluation is appropriate and/or that the evaluation did not conform to the school district's criteria; or (2) ensures that the independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense.

IV. ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATIONS

Quality Indicators:

  • A school provides intervention services, programs and a variety of instructional methodologies to address a student’s needs prior to referral for special education.

  • The individual evaluation provides information to determine a student’s eligibility or continuing eligibility for special education services.

  • The school has established plans and policies for the regular consideration for declassifying students when appropriate.

  • The school provides educational and support services to a student upon declassification.

Once the individual evaluation is completed, the CSE or CPSE must convene a meeting to determine whether the student is or continues to be a student with a disability. In making this determination, the CSE or CPSE must consider the results of the individual evaluation to ascertain:

  • whether the appropriateness of the resources of the regular education program, including educationally related support services, and academic intervention services, has been considered.

  • whether the student, because of mental, physical or emotional reasons, requires specially designed individual or group instruction or special services or programs to meet his or her unique needs and to participate and progress in the general curriculum;

  • whether the school-age student has a disability as defined in section 200.1(zz) of the Regulations of the Commissioner: autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, learning disability, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other-health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment.

  • whether a preschool child has a developmental delay as defined in section 200.1(mm) of the Regulations of the Commissioner or one of the following disabilities as defined in section 200.1(zz): autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, other-health impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment.

In making an eligibility determination, the CSE or CPSE may not determine a student to require special education services if the determinant factor for that eligibility determination is limited English proficiency or lack of instruction in reading or math. (See questions 11 and 12)

In making a determination that a student is no longer eligible for special education (declassification) a school district must conduct a reevaluation of the student. This individual evaluation is conducted under the same procedures for a reevaluation. However, a school district is not required to conduct a reevaluation of a student before termination of a student’s eligibility due to graduation with a local high school or Regents diploma or exceeding the age eligibility for a free appropriate public education.

Each board of education must establish plans and policies for the appropriate declassification of students with disabilities that includes:

  • a process for regularly considering whether a student should be declassified;

  • a reevaluation of the student prior to declassification; and

  • the provision of educational and support services to the student upon declassification.

Students Determined Ineligible for Special Education:

If a student not previously identified is determined to be ineligible for special education services, the CSE must:

  • provide the recommendation to the board of education
  • give prior notice to the parent that indicates the reasons the student was found ineligible.

  • for school-age students, give a copy of the recommendation and appropriate evaluation information to the building administrator who must determine which educationally related support services, if appropriate, will be provided to the student. The building administrator is responsible to ensure that such services are provided.

Students Declassified:

If the CSE declassifies a student who was receiving special education services, the recommendation must:

  • identify the declassification support services, if any, to be provided to the student and/or to the student’s teachers; and

  • indicate the projected date of initiation of such services as well as the frequency and duration of the services. The provision of declassification services is limited to one-year after the student enters the full-time education program. (An exemption for the language other than English requirement and recommended testing accommodations continue until the student graduates.)

Students Determined Eligible for Special Education:

If the CSE determines the student to be eligible for special education services, the CSE must develop and implement an IEP for the student in accordance with section 200.4(d) of the Regulations of the Commissioner.

CHECKLIST FOR ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATIONS

  • Evaluation information supports a determination of eligibility or ineligibility for special education services.

  • The evaluation information provides sufficient information to determine a disability classification.

  • A CSE/CPSE considers whether limited English proficiency is the determinant factor for determining that the student needs special education services.

  • A CSE considers whether lack of instruction in reading or math is the determinant factor for determining that the student needs special education services.

  • A student’s eligibility for special education services is reevaluated at least once every three years.

  • A student determined ineligible for special education is referred to the building administrator for the determination of appropriate educationally related support services to be provided to the student.

  • A student is reevaluated prior to declassifying a student with a disability.

  • The parent receives prior notice that provides documentation of the determination of eligibility or ineligibility for special education services.

  • The parent provides informed written consent for the initial provision of special education services.

  • A student declassified from special education receives declassification support services, as appropriate.

V. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1.    Should information on regular education supports and services provided prior to referral to special education be considered in the evaluation process?

2.    Does an individual evaluation of a student include basic tests administered to, or procedures used  with, all students in a school grade or class?

3.    How should information on a student’s strengths be used in the individual evaluation and IEP development process?

4.    When must a reevaluation be conducted?

5.    May the student’s parent(s) request a test or assessment as part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation of his or her child?

6.    What factors should the CSE (or Subcommittee on Special Education) or CPSE consider to determine whether existing evaluation data are sufficient to fulfill the individual evaluation requirements for an initial evaluation or reevaluation? How is the process documented and how is the parent notified of the decision?

7.    Following the completion of the reevaluation, must the CSE convene a meeting to address the results of the reevaluation and to review and, as appropriate, revise a student’s IEP?

8.    Must a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) be classified as a student with "other health impairment"?

9.    What standard should be used to determine "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning" for the classification of mental retardation?

10.    Is a medical diagnosis required to determine if a student meets the eligibility criteria for any one of the 13 disability categories?

11.    How does the CSE ensure that lack of instruction in reading or math is not the determinant factor in determining that a student is a student with a disability?

12.    How does the CSE ensure that the determinant factor in the decision to classify a student as a student with a disability is not a student’s limited English proficiency?

13.    May a CSE determine that a student is not eligible for special education based on the fact that the student is advancing from grade to grade?

14.    What is meant by the terms "evaluation report" and the "documentation of determination of eligibility"?

15.    When must the copy of the evaluation report be provided to the parent?

 

1.    Should information on regular education supports and services provided prior to referral to special education be considered in the evaluation process?

Yes. A referral to special education submitted by an individual other than the parent, student or a judicial officer must state the reasons for the referral and include any test results, records or reports upon which the referral is based that may be in the possession of the person submitting the referral. The referral must also describe in writing intervention services, programs or instructional methodologies, such as educationally related support services, speech and language improvement services and academic intervention services, provided to a student to remediate the student’s performance prior to referral. If none were provided, the referral must state the reasons why no such attempts were made. For preschool students, the referral must specify the extent to which the preschool student has received any services prior to referral. The referral must also describe the extent of parental contact or involvement prior to the referral. This information is important in planning the individual evaluation and determining, if appropriate, the special education services a student needs.

2.    Does an individual evaluation of a student include basic tests administered to, or procedures used with, all students in a school grade or class?

No. While the CSE must consider the results of the student’s performance on any general State or districtwide assessment programs, such information is in addition to the individual evaluation conducted on the student. An individual evaluation is defined as any procedures, tests or assessments used selectively with an individual student to determine whether a student has a disability and the extent of his/her special education needs, but does not include basic tests administered to, or procedures used with, all students in a school grade or class.

3.    How should information on a student’s strengths be used in the individual evaluation and IEP development process?

Identifying what a student does well in or how a student learns best, in addition to identifying his or her needs, provides the basis for strengths-based planning. The identification of a student’s strengths can be one of the most significant factors in developing an individualized education program that builds on a student’s interests and abilities. Important factors in identifying a student’s strengths include a student’s likes and dislikes, interests, talents and goals for the future, as well as those strengths that will keep him or her on track toward that goal.

4.    When must a reevaluation be conducted?

A CSE must arrange for an appropriate reevaluation of each student with a disability if conditions warrant a reevaluation, or if the student’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation, but at least every three years. The reevaluation must be conducted by a multidisciplinary team or group of persons, including at least one teacher or other specialist with knowledge in the area of the student’s disability.

The reevaluation must be sufficient to determine the student’s:

  • individual needs;

  • educational progress and achievement;

  • ability to participate in instructional programs in regular education; and

  • continuing eligibility for special education.

5.    May the student’s parent(s) request a test or assessment as part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation of his or her child?

The concerns and recommendations of a parent regarding the individual evaluation of his or her child are an important consideration in the determination of the components of the individual evaluation. The CSE should always consider the parent’s request for additional evaluation data, such as an assessment of the student’s speech and language functioning, or fine or gross motor skills. Parents must be included in the group that reviews existing data and determines what additional data are needed. As part of that group, they have the right to identify additional assessment data that they believe are needed and to participate in the decision regarding the need for those data. Both federal and State regulations require that the determination of additional data must be based, in part, on input from the parents.

Parents also have the right to request an assessment as part of the initial or reevaluation to determine continuing eligibility for special education. In this case, the CSE or CPSE is responsible to ensure that the test or assessment is conducted. This right is limited to determinations of eligibility for special education services. If the parent requests an assessment for reasons other than determining eligibility (e.g., an assessment for college admission; an assessment for additional services; an assessment for a particular methodology), then the district does not have to conduct the assessment. The denial of the parent’s request, however, would be subject to due process.

6.    What factors should the CSE (or Subcommittee on Special Education) or CPSE consider to determine whether existing evaluation data are sufficient to fulfill the individual evaluation requirements for an initial evaluation or reevaluation? How is the process documented and how is the parent notified of the decision?

To make this determination, the CSE or CPSE must compare the existing evaluation information against the requirements for an initial evaluation or reevaluation. If the school has on record a particular test or assessment conducted on the student that is current and relevant to the purpose of the evaluation, then it may not be necessary to repeat that test or assessment. Whether an existing test or assessment is current should be determined on an individual basis, depending on such factors, for example, as the student’s age, disability, recent events in the student’s life and situations under which the test or assessment was conducted. Generally, a test or assessment would be considered current if it were conducted within one year of the request for an initial evaluation or reevaluation. However, for some students, a test or assessment conducted within one year could be determined not to be a current and relevant evaluation of the student’s needs. For example, students with traumatic brain injury often require more frequent evaluations due to neurological change in the initial 12 to 18 months after injury.

The school should document how it included the CSE members, including the parent, in the determination of needed evaluation data (e.g., CSE meeting notes, telephone log, written correspondence). If a CSE/CPSE determines that additional data are not needed, it must:

  • Send a written notice (prior notice) to the parent that the CSE has determined that the existing evaluation information on his or her child has been determined to be sufficient (i.e., current and relevant) to determine:

  • eligibility for special education;

  • continuing eligibility for special education;

  • whether the student has a particular category of disability (classification);

  • present levels of performance and the educational needs of the student;

  • the special education services or modifications needed to meet the student’s annual goals as set out in the IEP and to participate, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum.

  • Notify the parent that he or she has the right to request an assessment (if the individual evaluation is being made to determine eligibility or continuing eligibility for special education).

7.    Following the completion of the reevaluation, must the CSE convene a meeting to address the results of the reevaluation and to review and, as appropriate, revise a student’s IEP?

Yes.

8.    Must a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) be classified as a student with "other health impairment"?

Students with ADHD or ADD may be eligible for special education under the category of "other health impairment" if they have limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that adversely affects their educational performance. A student who has ADD or ADHD may also meet the eligibility criteria for emotional disturbance or learning disability. Some students with ADD or ADHD may not be eligible under IDEA, but may be eligible for services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In this case, the services would be documented in a written Accommodation Plan. Districts are responsible for evaluating all children who may need special education, including students with a medical diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.

9.    What standard should be adhered to determine "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning" for the classification of mental retardation?

The amendments to Part 200 of the Regulations of the Commissioner (January 2000) repealed the criteria that a student consistently demonstrate general intellectual functioning that is determined to be 1.5 standard deviations or more below the mean of the general population on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation. The amended definition of mental retardation, consistent with the federal definition, requires that the student demonstrate significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period.

For the purposes of determining what constitutes "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning," professionals may refer to the standards set by State and national organizations. For example, the American Association of Mental Retardation (AAMR) indicates that intellectual functioning level (IQ) that is below 70-75 would constitute significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning. According to another source, "significant limitations in intellectual functioning are determined from the findings of assessment by using a valid and comprehensive, individual measure of intelligence that is administered in a standardized format and interpreted by a qualified practitioner. The criterion of significance is an IQ or comparable normed score that is two or more standard deviations below the population mean for the measure." (Jacobson, J.W. and Mulick, J.A. Manual of Diagnosis and Professional Practice in Mental Retardation, American Psychological Association, 1996, p. 13)

10.    Is a medical diagnosis required to determine if a student meets the eligibility criteria for any one of the 13 disability categories?

No. The CSE’s determination of eligibility must be made on the basis of the individual evaluation and no single procedure may be used as the sole criterion for determining whether the student is a student with a disability and determining an appropriate educational program for the student. While the CSE is required to consider a student’s physical development (including the degree and quality of the student’s motor and sensory development, health, vitality, and physical skills or limitations which pertain to the learning process), a CSE cannot base its decision solely on a medical diagnosis.

11.    How does the CSE ensure that lack of instruction in reading or math is not the determinant factor in determining that a student is a student with a disability?

A student is not eligible for special education if he or she needs specialized instruction because of a lack of instruction in reading or math, but does not need specialized instruction because of a disability. Therefore, the CSE must give serious consideration at the conclusion of the evaluation process to other factors that might be affecting a student’s performance, such as whether the student has received proper academic support in the core areas of reading or math. To make this determination, the CSE must consider and discuss the student’s present performance levels in the areas of reading and math and whether the student’s prior instruction in these areas was adequate and appropriate to foster learning in these areas.

In some instances, a CSE may determine that a student meets the criteria of one of the disability categories even though that student also lacked instruction in the areas of reading or math. A student who has been evaluated and determined by the CSE to meet the criteria of one of the disability categories and to need special education services should not be excluded from special education because that student also has a lack of instruction in reading or math. Whether a student’s excessive absences from school may be a significant factor to determine that a student lacked appropriate instruction in math or reading must be based on whether the reasons for the absences are related to the student’s suspected disability.

12.    How does the CSE ensure that the determinant factor in the decision to classify a student as a student with a disability is not a student’s limited English proficiency?

A student is not eligible for special education if he or she needs specialized instruction because of limited English proficiency, but does not need specialized instruction because of a disability. The tools and assessments to be used with a student with limited English proficiency must be selected and administered to ensure that the tests and assessments measure the extent to which the student has a disability and needs special education and not the student’s English language skills. In order to properly evaluate a student who may have limited English proficiency, a CSE should assess the student’s proficiency in English as well as in the student’s native language to distinguish language proficiency from disability needs. An accurate assessment of the student’s language proficiency should include objective assessment of reading, writing, speaking and understanding. It is appropriate to include a professional certified in bilingual special education in the determination of the data needed in the individual evaluation for a student who has limited English proficiency. (For further information, refer to the June 1997 Policy Memorandum Certification and Licensing of Bilingual Special Education Professionals).

A student who has been determined to meet the criteria of one of the disability categories should not be excluded from special education because that student also has limited English proficiency if it is determined that the student also has a disability. If a student with limited English proficiency is determined to be eligible for special education, the CSE must consider how the student’s level of English language proficiency affects the special education needed to receive a free and appropriate public education. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools are required to provide students with limited English proficiency with alternative language services to enable them to acquire proficiency in English and to provide them with meaningful access to the content of the educational curriculum that is available to all students, including special education and related services. The IEP of a student with a disability who has limited English proficiency must address whether the special education services the student needs will be provided in a language other than English.

13.    May a CSE determine that a student is not eligible for special education based on the fact that the student is advancing from grade to grade?

No. A school district must identify all students who are suspected of having disabilities even though they are advancing from grade to grade.

14.    What is meant by the terms "evaluation report" and the "documentation of determination of eligibility"?

The term "evaluation report" means the report of the assessments that were conducted to determine a student’s need for special education services. A school may forward to the parent each individual assessment report (e.g., speech and language assessment report, psychological assessment report, physical therapy assessment report) or it may compile the individual test reports into one evaluation report that provides sufficient information for the parent and the other members of the CSE or CPSE to determine how the student was assessed and provides the results of the assessments.

The term "documentation of determination of eligibility" means written documentation that includes a statement as to whether the student was determined eligible or ineligible for special education, as well as a description of each evaluation procedure, test, record or report the district used as a basis for determining the eligibility of a student for special education. For students evaluated for learning disabilities, the documentation of the determination of eligibility must also include:

  • whether the student has a specific learning disability;

  • the basis for making the determination;

  • the relevant behavior noted during the observation of the student;

  • the relationship of the behavior to the student’s academic functioning;

  • the educationally related medical findings, if any;

  • whether there is a severe discrepancy between achievement and ability that is not correctable without special education; and

  • the determination of the CSE concerning the effects of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

A sample report form on the Documentation of Determination of Eligibility for Students Suspected of Having a Learning Disability is provided in Appendix C.

The documentation of determination of eligibility must be provided to the parent in prior notice. Some schools attach the student’s IEP to a letter sent to the parent to meet the prior notice requirement regarding documentation of the determination of eligibility. This is only appropriate to the extent the letter and the IEP together provide the information required by section 200.5(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner. When districts rely on the IEP to satisfy some aspects of the notice requirement, the letter alone would be insufficient and the district would always be required to attach the IEP. Regardless of the district’s practice of using the IEP to meet the prior notice requirements, a copy of the student’s IEP must be provided to the parent.

15.    When must the copy of the evaluation report be provided to the parent?

While no specific timeline has been established as to when the copy of the evaluation report must be provided to the parent, it is important to ensure that the parent(s) has all the information he or she needs to participate meaningfully in the CSE or CPSE meetings. If not provided to the parent prior to the CSE meeting, such reports should be provided when prior notice of the CSE’s recommendation is sent to the parent.

For preschool students, Education Law and regulations specify that the parent of the student be given a copy of the summary report of the findings of the evaluation prior to the CPSE meeting (see Appendix B). In addition, for both preschool and school-age students, federal regulations require schools to comply with a parent’s request to inspect and review all existing education records, including an evaluation report, without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP for his or her child.

In addition to the requirement that a copy of the evaluation report be provided to the student’s parent, the regulations also require that the results of the evaluations must be provided to the parent(s) of the student in a language they can understand. This is often done in face-to-face meetings either prior to or at the CSE meeting.

 

Footnote Page

CSE - Footnote 1 - A Subcommittee on Special Education may fulfill this role (see Section 200.3(c) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education).

Reevaluation - Footnote 2 - If the school makes documented efforts to obtain parental consent for a reevaluation and the parent fails to respond, the school may conduct the reevaluation without parental consent. Parental consent is not required to review existing information as part of an initial evaluation or reevaluation. Consent is not needed for a test administered to all students unless consent is required of parents of all students.

Physical Examination - Footnote 3- A physical examination must be in accordance with the provisions of sections 903, 904 and 905 of the Education Law. Section 905 addresses examinations of vision, hearing and scoliosis tests.

Unnecessary - Footnote 4 - If it is determined that a complete psychological evaluation is unnecessary, the psychologist must prepare a written report of the assessment. This report becomes a part of the evaluation results that are reviewed by the CSE in making its recommendation.

CSE - Footnote 5 - The members of a Subcommittee on Special education may serve this role.

Three years - Footnote 6 - The date of the initial determination of eligibility for special education services (the initial CSE or CPSE meeting) serves the date from which the three-year maximum timeframe is calculated. Each subsequent reevaluation must be conducted within at least a three-year period, calculated from the date of the CSE or CPSE meeting at which the previous reevaluation was discussed.

CSE - Footnote 7 - A Subcommittee on Special Education may fulfill this role.

Teacher - Footnote 8 - The CSE includes the regular education teacher of the student if the student is or may be participating in the regular education environment. This additional requirement ensures that the student's regular education teacher is always present at the CSE meeting when a student's eligibility for special education as a student with a learning disability is determined.

Documentation - Footnote 9 - The documentation of eligibility may be provided tot he parent in prior written notice in accordance with section 200.5(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner. For students suspected of or determined to have a learning disability, prior notice must include the additional information noted above or a separate report must be developed.

Tests - Footnote 10 - Because NYS certification of licensure is a minimum qualification for all evaluators who conduct district initiated evaluations, this criterion must also be applied to independent evaluations. (Commissioner's Decision No. 12,822)

Evaluation - Footnote 11 - A parent's refusal to provide a reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation is not reason for the school district to unreasonably delay either paying for the independent educational evaluation or initiating a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation.