Pursuant to 34 C.F.R. § 300.301, schools must conduct a
full and individual evaluation of a child before the initial provision of
special education and related services.
The School must provide notice to the parents of a child with a
disability that describes any evaluation procedures the agency proposes to
This information is typically
communicated in a Prior Written Notice or can also be indicated on the informed
consent form, which the parent signs when providing their consent to evaluate.
The notice required pertains to the testing areas, not what specific tests the
school will be administering.
should be sure to address all areas of suspected disability when determining
the areas to be evaluated.
be aware of issues that arise during the evaluation process, which may require
additional consent from the parent.
example, if a student performs low on the verbal comprehension portions during
the cognitive assessment, perhaps a speech evaluation/screening should be
considered and the parent will need to provide additional consent for that
must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant
functional, academic, and developmental information about the student,
including parent input.
cannot use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for
determining whether a student has a disability or to determine the appropriate
However, it is
acceptable to use only portions of multiple assessments to get an accurate
picture of the student’s skills and ability.
For example, the evaluator could utilize the fluency measures from
Woodcook-Johnson III, the writing subtest from Wechsler Individual Achievement
Test III, specific executive function subtests from Delis-Kaplan Executive
Function System, etc.
As with all
special education evaluations, it is imperative that the assessment tools are
selected with the individual needs of the student in mind.
A student cannot be determined to
be a student with a disability when the following factors are present and
affect the determination: (1) lack of appropriate instruction in reading (2)
lack of appropriate instruction in math or (3) limited English
Additionally, the team
should always consider the student’s native language before choosing evaluation
Do not be hesitant to request
a bilingual assessment whenever necessary or when the student’s language skills
are in question.
evaluations, when English is not the student’s native language, the evaluation
should always include assessments to evaluate the student’s language to
determine which language is dominant.
a language disorder is suspected, non-verbal assessments should be utilized to
increase the reliability of the results.
The category of Specific Learning
Disability (SLD) has additional requirements under the IDEA.
The IDEA states that the disability category
of SLD must be determined using State criteria for determining a learning disability.
In Arizona, there are two options: (1) using
a discrepancy model to determine if there is a significant difference between
intellectual ability and achievement; or (2) using a State-approved response to
intervention (RTI) process.
must be approved by the Arizona Department of Education (“ADE”) Exceptional
Student Services (“ESS”).
MET members must sign the eligibility determination paperwork that they are in
agreement or disagreement of the determination of eligibility for SLD; and if
any team member is in disagreement, they must submit a statement that describes
the nature of their disagreement.
At an eligibility determination meeting,
after reviewing the assessment data or the existing data in a reevaluation, the
MET must determine whether the student meets eligibility requirements for the
specific category of disability and whether the student requires special
education in order to benefit from an educational program. There are sixteen
different eligibility categories in Arizona.
The forms outlining eligibility criteria in Arizona for each disability
category can be found at:
The Office of Special Education
Programs (“OSEP”) has provided guidance that only in limited circumstances may
an initial evaluation include only a review of existing data without further
evaluation/assessments to make an eligibility determination.
A review of existing data is typically
insufficient in determining eligibility under an initial evaluation because
there is likely not enough information to determine whether a child initially
qualifies as a child with a disability, and the nature of his/her educational
The IDEA requires that a review of
existing data for any evaluation should include a review of the following
areas: prior evaluations; parent information; classroom-based observations and
assessments; teacher and related service provider observations; hearing and
vision screening; present levels of academic achievement and developmental
needs of the student; and whether any modifications or additions are necessary
to allow the student to either meet his/her IEP goals, or to continue to
participate in the general education curriculum.
Once a review of existing data takes place,
the evaluation process has begun and the school must either determine continued
eligibility based on the existing data, or conduct further evaluation of the
student before making any eligibility determinations.
If further evaluation is pursued, all components
of the evaluation and the eligibility determination meeting must be completed
by timeline for the type of evaluation.