The School Evaluation Process: How to Get Formal Assessments and Appropriate Services

Is your child eligible for a school evaluation for ADHD or a learning disability? If they are struggling with learning, behavior, or academic skills, the answer is probably Yes. Here, understand how to get your child a meaningful evaluation, the important first step to securing the school services and supports your child requires.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), the primary federal laws that apply to K-12 students with disabilities, recognize that no learning problem can be effectively addressed until it is fully understood. In their efforts to guarantee “free appropriate education” to all students, these laws require that — before any steps are taken to provide services or accommodations to a student — a thorough evaluation must be conducted to fully understand how and why that student is struggling.

What Does a School Evaluation Look Like?

A formal school evaluation critically analyzes many aspects of a student’s functioning in the school environment, such as memory, cognitive functioning, executive functioning, reasoning, verbal and non-verbal communication, behavior, and math, reading, and/or writing skills. The testing’s breadth often hinges on the parent concerns shared with the school, as well as areas of concern or weakness identified by teachers and other school staff.

School Evaluation Step 1: Give Written Consent

If your child is struggling, you may want to pursue an evaluation to understand why. While both the IDEA and Section 504 outline procedures for obtaining an evaluation, there is no single form that is used nationwide to begin the evaluation process. To get started, speak with the classroom teacher, guidance counselor, or principal in your child’s school to determine the contact person for obtaining an evaluation. But know that just asking for an evaluation is not enough.

Regardless of whom you contact, you must first give your written consent for the evaluation to take place. Note that your school will not evaluate your child without your consent.

School Evaluation Step 2: Gather Information

Once you have consented to a school evaluation, you will be asked to fill out a number of forms. Usually, a school will want information on how the student is doing at home and what the parents are seeing that relates to academic or attention issues.

The school will seek input from your child’s teacher about what they are seeing in the classroom.

School Evaluation Step 3: Perform Tests

Your child will be given a number of standardized tests by the school psychologist, generally over two or more sessions.

Preparing your child for the school evaluation can help minimize any anxiety that might be created by being pulled from class by someone they don’t know well and asked to spend time on academic and cognitive tasks. You should explain the evaluation process in age-appropriate language, try to make sure your child has a chance to meet the evaluator in advance, and make sure your child is well rested.

Because all areas of suspected disability need to be examined, additional professionals may also be involved in the evaluation, most commonly speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, or physical therapists.

The school must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies, including information provided by the parent, so that an appropriate Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be created.

School Evaluation Step 4: The IEP Team Meets

Once the evaluation is completed, a meeting of your school’s Committee on Special Education (sometimes called an IEP Team) will be held to determine if your child qualifies for an IEP under the IDEA. This process is called classification, because the IDEA requires that children have one of 13 classifications of disability in order to be provided with an IEP.

Excerpted from “The School Evaluation Process: How to Get Formal Assessments and Appropriate Services” in ADDitude Magazine. For additional details, read the full article online.

Source: ADDitude Magazine | The School Evaluation Process: How to Get Formal Assessments and Appropriate Services, | Copyright © 1998 – 2022 WebMD LLC.

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