Each school district must conduct a full initial evaluation, before providing special education and related services to a child with any kind of disability. Either a parent of a child or a public agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability.
The school district must provide notice to the parents of a child with a disability or learning problem that describes any evaluation procedures the school proposes to conduct. In conducting the evaluation, they must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child. This includes information provided by the parent that may assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability. The contents of an existing IEP is relevant with respect to information related to the child's ability to be involved and progress in the general education curriculum. Importantly, the screening of a student by a teacher or specialist to determine appropriate instructional strategies for curriculum implementation cannot be considered to be an evaluation for eligibility for special education and related services.
Upon completion of the assessments and other evaluation measures, a group of qualified professionals and the parent of the child determines whether the child has a disability, and based on the evaluation, the educational needs of the child which includes any special services or accommodations. A copy of the evaluation report and the documentation of determination of eligibility is provided by the school district at no cost to the parent.
If a determination is made that the child has a disability and needs special education and related services, an IEP must be developed for the child. An IEP is a written statement that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a Team meeting. It must include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children); and a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to meet the child’s needs that arise from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.
The IEP Team includes the parent, not less than one general education teacher of the child, not less than one special education teacher, a representative of the school district who is qualified in the area of special education, an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, and other individuals at the discretion of the parents. Optionally, the child may also be present at the IEP meetings.
IEP meetings are significant for the education of the child, and require the highest priority commitment on the part of the parent to be a knowledgeable part of the team. Helping the parent understand the nuances and rules of this process are a significant part of the Advocate's job.
There will be routine periodic reviews to determine whether the child is benefiting from the services and accommodations that have been put in place. Goals will be assessed and performance measured to insure the child is progressing under the program set forth in the IEP. The IEP process should remain in place during the child's school career. If the child is withdrawn from the school, moves to another school in a different district, or goes to a private school, the IEP is no longer in effect. Re-enrollment in another public school may require re-starting the entire process, but the original IEP remains part of the child's record.