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Evaluations of the student must be made in all areas of suspected disability in order to determine eligibility for Special Education. Eligibility must not be based on lack of reading or math instruction or on LEP. Evaluation activities should be tailored to the specific referral questions for the individual student and need to address whether or not there is a disability, and if the disability affects the student’s learning. Evaluations must provide information to determine present levels of academic achievement and related developmental needs. No single test should be used as the sole criterion for determining eligibility. Rather, a variety of techniques (both formal and informal assessments), including information provided by parents, observation of the student in the classroom, work samples/portfolios, interviews, and review of the record should be used. The Director should ensure that the student is notified in advance of any pullout from class.
An observation of the student must be made by at least one Team member other than the student’s teacher to determine a specific learning disability. The District is obligated to seek a surrogate parent, through the DESE, for wards of the state. A ward of the state includes foster children (except if child has a foster parent) and a child in the custody of a public child welfare agency.
Evaluations are required prior to a finding that a student is no longer eligible, except for graduation with a regular diploma or aging out. For those children, the LEA must provide a summary of academic and functional performance, including recommendations on how to assist the child to meet post secondary goals.
Evaluation must be provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is not feasible to so provide and administer.
Required Assessments for An Initial Evaluation:
- Educational Assessment: Part A(28R/1) (completed by the Chairperson)
- Educational Assessment: Part B (28R/1) (completed by the student’s mainstream education teachers)
- Specialist Assessment(s) should include assessments in all areas of the child’s suspected disability. Functional behavioral assessments (FBA) must be conducted if the student’s behavior interferes with learning.
- Observation of the student in a classroom
The following assessments can be recommended by the Team or requested by parents:
- Home Assessment: The Team should request this only if there are significant concerns related to the home or family environment as they affect student’s school performance.
- Health Assessment
- Behavioral Assessment
Evaluation Process Procedures
- The Director of Special Education will ensure that the assessments are completed within 30 school days of the parent’s signed consent. If consent is received within thirty (30) to forty-five (45) school days before the end of the school year, the District ensures that a Team meeting is scheduled so as to allow for the provision of the proposed IEP or written notice of the finding that the student is not eligible no later than fourteen (14) days after the end of the school year.
- The Director must collect all evaluation reports from evaluators and then give a copy to the Chairperson. The Chairperson is responsible for collating the evaluation packet. The packet should the following:
- Evaluation reports
- Chairperson observation
- Educational Assessment A forms
- Educational Assessment B
- Cover Letter for Evaluations
The Chairperson is responsible for distributing copies to all Team Members prior to the Team Meeting. Copies must be available for the parent and student if age 18 two days prior to the meeting.
- In the case of a suspected Specific Learning Disability, the Chairperson must complete a classroom observation and complete the SLD forms. All appropriate SLD forms must be completed during the Team meeting which includes written consent for all Team members.
Evaluation Reports: All evaluation reports should be written in clear, jargon-free language. Assessors should interpret and summarize results and diagnostic impressions to help the Team determine eligibility including the student’s present levels of educational performance and areas of need arising from the student’s disability. Educationally relevant accommodations and modifications should be identified to ensure the student’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum.
“Outside” Evaluation Reports Submitted by Parents: All efforts will be made to avoid duplication of assessments. If a decision is made to waive any assessment, the Chairperson will send a request for Waiver of Assessment (28R/2) to the parent for signature with the Evaluation Consent Form. It is important to note that any time the Charter School waives its right of assessment, it places the District in the position of accepting any recommendation(s) made by the evaluator(s).
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): Parents should be asked if they agree with the evaluation findings.
When a student is referred for an evaluation, the school district must assess the student in all areas related to suspected disabilities as well as conduct a comprehensive educational assessment. Team members should check a parent’s understanding of the district’s evaluation and their agreement with it. If parents disagree with the district’s evaluation, parents may have a right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
School District Response to Parental Request for Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
If a parent disagrees with an initial evaluation or re-evaluation completed by LMACS, and the parent requests an independent educational evaluation, LMACS will implement the following requirements:
- All independent educational evaluations funded by the charter school are conducted by qualified persons who are registered, certified, licensed, or otherwise approved and who abide by the rates set by the state agency responsible for setting such rates. Unique circumstances of the child are justified when an individual assessment rate is higher than that normally allowed.
- LMACS will offer parents the option of participating in an income eligibility program for free or reduced cost independent educational evaluations that are equivalent to the types of assessments done by the school district.
- LMACS will extend the right to a publicly funded independent evaluation (only if cost shared or funded for state wards or for students receiving free or reduced cost lunch) for sixteen (16) months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees. No additional documentation of family financial status is required from the parent.
- If the parent is requesting an evaluation in an area not assessed by the charter school, or if the student does not meet or the parent does not choose to share the financial documentation regarding the income eligibility standards for free or reduced cost independent educational evaluation, then the charter school will respond in accordance with the requirements of federal law by paying for the independent educational evaluation or, within five school days, proceeding to Special Educational Appeals to show that its evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate, LMACS will not pay for the independent educational evaluation requested by the parent.
- Whenever possible, the independent educational evaluation will be completed and a written report sent no later than thirty (30) days after the date the parent requests the independent educational evaluation. If publicly funded, the report is sent to the parents and to the school district. The independent evaluator’s report summarizes, in writing, procedures, assessments, results, and diagnostic impressions as well as educationally relevant recommendations for meeting identified needs of the student. The independent evaluator recommends appropriate types of placements, but does not recommend specific classrooms or schools.
- Within ten (10) school days from the time LMACS receives the report of the independent educational evaluation, the Team will reconvene and consider the independent educational evaluation (which may be publicly or privately funded) and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.
Under federal and state law, if the parent requests an IEE at public expense, the district must either pay for the IEE or, within five (5) school days, request a determination from the BSEA that the district’s evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate. Thus, the Chairperson should immediately notify the Director of Special Education of any request for an IEE so that the Director of Special Education can generate a response within five (5) school days.
Delayed Requests: The parent’s right to request an IEE is generally not limited to any particular timeframe. However, if the parent requests an IEE long after the district evaluation, or if there is a significant change of circumstances since the district’s evaluation, the best practice would be for the district to determine whether its own assessment information may be out of date and, if so, to seek the parents’ consent for the district to conduct its own updated assessments of the student first, within the regulated timelines.
Areas Not Assessed: If a parent requests an IEE in an area not assessed by the district, the best practice would be for the district to review its evaluation and determine whether the requested assessment would provide needed additional or new information about the student’s disability and if so, conduct the requested assessment with parental consent.
Extra Entitlement under MA law: Under MA law, districts are required to provide publicly funded IEEs on a sliding fee scale for students whose families meet certain criteria, so long as the IEE is in an area already assessed by the school and the request is received within 16 months of the school’s evaluation. Requests that fall within this entitlement are not subject to the BSEA hearing process
District Hearing Request: Even if the Charter School seeks parental consent for the district to conduct an updated evaluation or an assessment in a particular area or the school is awaiting income verification from the parent for the sliding scale entitlement under MA law, the district must nevertheless request a hearing at the BSEA within five (5) days of receiving a request for public funding of an IEE if it wishes to preserve any rights it may have to contest its obligation to provide such funding. The District can of course later withdraw its request if appropriate.
Parent Funding/Consideration of IEE: Parents may obtain an IEE at their own expense at any time. Whether an IEE is funded by the Charter School or the parent, within ten (10) school days from the time the district receives the report of the IEE, the Team must reconvene and consider the IEE and whether a new of amended IEP is appropriate.
REMINDER: The Director of Special Education should be notified immediately of any parental request for an IEE. It is imperative the Charter School makes a determination on the appropriate course of action, including asking for a hearing if appropriate, within five (5) school days.
In accordance with 603 CMR 28.00: Special Education, Section 28.04: Referral and Evaluation, the following outlines policy for IEEs.
Independent education evaluations. Upon receipt of evaluation results, if a parent disagrees with an initial evaluation or reevaluation completed by the school district, then the parent may request an independent education evaluation.
(a) All independent education evaluations shall be conducted by qualified persons who are registered, certified, licensed or otherwise approved and who abide by the rates set by the state agency responsible for setting such rates. Unique circumstances of the student may justify an individual assessment rate that is higher than that normally allowed.
(b) The parent may obtain an independent education evaluation at private expense at any time.
(c) Public funding of independent education evaluations – When the parent requests public funding for an independent education evaluation, the district shall abide by the following provisions for a sliding fee scale:
- If the student is eligible for free or reduced cost lunch or is in the custody of a state agency with an Educational Surrogate Parent appointed in accordance with federal law, then the school district shall provide, at full public expense, an independent education evaluation that is equivalent to the types of assessments done by the school district. No additional documentation of family financial status is required from the parent.
- If the family financial status is not known, the district shall offer the parent information about the sliding fee scale and the opportunity to provide family income information to determine if the family may be eligible for public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation. Provision of financial information by the family is completely voluntary on the part of the family. The lack of financial information provided by the family will disqualify the family from such additional public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) but shall not limit the rights of parents to request public funding under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(d).
- If the family agrees to provide financial information, such information shall include anticipated annual income of the family, including all sources of income and verifying documents. Financial information shall be reviewed by the district, shall be kept confidential during review by the district, shall not be copied or maintained in any form at the district except to note that information was provided and reviewed and met or did not meet sliding fee scale standards. Financial documents shall be promptly returned to the parent upon the district’s determination of financial income status.
- The district shall consider family size and family income information in relation to Federal Poverty Guidelines and shall contribute public funds to the costs of the independent education evaluation according to the following standards:
(i) If the family income is equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 100% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.
(ii) If the family income is between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 75% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.
(iii) If the family income is between 500% and 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 50% of the costs of an independent education evaluation
(iv) If the family income is over 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall have no obligation to cost-share with the parent.
- When the parent seeks and receives public funding for an independent education evaluation under these provisions, the parent may request independent assessments in one, more than one, or all of the areas assessed by the school district.
- The right to this publicly funded independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) continues for 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees.
(d) If the parent is requesting an independent education evaluation in an area not assessed by the school district, the student does not meet income eligibility standards, or the family chooses not to provide financial documentation to the district establishing family income level, the school district shall respond in accordance with the requirements of federal law. Within five school days, the district shall either agree to pay for the independent education evaluation or proceed to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals to show that its evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate. If the Bureau of Special Education Appeals finds that the school district’s evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate, then the school district shall not be obligated to pay for the independent education evaluation requested by the parent.
(e) Whenever possible, the independent education evaluation shall be completed and a written report sent no later than 30 days after the date the parent requests the independent education evaluation. If publicly funded, the report shall be sent to the parents and to the school district. The independent evaluator shall be requested to provide a report that summarizes, in writing, procedures, assessments, results, and diagnostic impressions as well as educationally relevant recommendations for meeting identified needs of the student. The independent evaluator may recommend appropriate types of placements but shall not recommend specific classrooms or schools.
(f) Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent education evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent education evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.
Extended Evaluation is an option if evaluations prove inconclusive.
If evaluation information is inconclusive, and the Team has found the student eligible, the Team may want to consider an Extended Evaluation (EE1, EE2). An Extended Evaluation may be used to gather further information needed to write an IEP. An Extended Evaluation may only be used if a parent agrees.
Immediately following a Team meeting, at which an Extended Evaluation is proposed, a new Evaluation Consent Form must be sent to the parents for any additional recommended assessments. Teams must be aware of the state regulatory restrictions placed on the use of the Extended Evaluation. Extended Evaluations cannot be used the following purposes:
- To extend the evaluation timelines for required assessments
- To deny programs or services to a student
- To constitute a temporary placement
The Team should write a partial IEP or full IEP in conjunction with an Extended Evaluation Form. This action will ensure, with parental acceptance of the IEP, that a student is not denied services determined necessary at a Team meeting. An Extended Evaluation may run from one to eight weeks. The Team may decide to meet during that evaluation period. However, the Team must reconvene as soon as the additional evaluation data is available in order to review assessment data and/or complete the writing of the IEP.
Last Updated on January 20, 2023