independent educational evaluations
Independent Educational Evaluations
September 23, 2013
Chad W. Leonard, M.S.,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania Certified School Psychologist
CEO of Leonard Educational Evaluations, LLC.
What is an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)?
There are approximately 6.4 million American children (13%) that have been classified and/or diagnosed with a disability (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). That statistic affects many students, parents, and educators. As a result, it’s important more than ever for parents and educators to understand the special education process, including Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE). Independent Educational Evaluations are three powerful words and a valuable tool for parents (and for school districts) whose children experience significant difficulty in school and need special education services. An IEE is a second opinion that provides an unbiased educational assessment of a child’s skills (e.g. cognitive, academic, emotional, behavioral, social, language, etc…) to determine if he or she has a disability and needs special education services at school. The right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation is one of the strongest federal laws available to parents!
Why would a parent want to get an Independent Educational Evaluation?
Parents want an Independent Educational Evaluation when there is a disagreement about the school district’s evaluation. The basis of a parent’s rationale for disagreeing with the evaluation can vary (e.g. lack of or use of inappropriate assessments to evaluate the student, misinterpretation of scores, mistakes within the report, or limited information to form a conclusive decision on whether or not the student has a disability). If there are problems with the school district’s evaluation (as described above), it can cause parents to question whether or not his or her child was appropriately evaluated by the school. This can impact critical issues such as: determining if the student has a disability, correctly identifying the disability, proper school and program placement, need for related services, and selecting goals, modifications, and accommodations. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that, “A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency [school district]...” (34 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] § 300.502[b]).
How does a parent obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation from the school district?
The parent can request an Independent Educational Evaluation from the Director of Special Education at your child’s school district. “Each public agency [school district] must provide to parents, upon request for an independent educational evaluation, information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained, and the agency criteria applicable for independent educational evaluations…” (34 CFR § 300.502[a]).
Can the school district force a parent to choose an examiner from the school’s Independent Educational Evaluation list?
No. While the school district must provide you with a list of examiners that can provide Independent Educational Evaluations within your geographical location, you do not have to select any of those evaluators. You have the right to choose another examiner as long as it meets the school district’s requirements. For example, a school district’s requirement might allow a Certified School Psychologist to conduct an Independent Educational Evaluation. According to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services of the United States Department of Education (OSERS-USDE), “In order to ensure the parent’s right to obtain an independent evaluation, it is the parent, not the school district, who has the right to choose which evaluator on the list will conduct the IEE. The district must allow the parents the opportunity to select an evaluator who is not on the list, but who meets the criteria set by the public agency [school district]” (Letter from OSERS-USDE to Parker, 2/20/2004).
Can the school district impose conditions or create timelines for the parent when trying to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation?
No. The School District can not insist on certain conditions or timelines for the parent to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation. For example, the school district cannot say that you must choose someone from their list of Independent Educational Evaluators, nor can they pressure you to have the evaluations completed by a specific date. However, the parent must follow the school districts’ criteria for which an evaluation is obtained (e.g. qualifications of examiner, etc…). “The public agency [school district] may not impose conditions or timelines related to a parent obtaining an IEE at public expense…” (34 CRF § 300.502[e]-).
Can the school district force a parent to explain his or her request for an Independent Educational Evaluation?
No. The school district can request, but it can not require a parent to explain why he or she objects to the school district’s educational evaluation; nor can they unreasonably delay the process in providing the Independent Educational Evaluation. “If a parent requests an independent educational evaluation, the public agency may ask for the parent's reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation. However, the public agency may not require the parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay either providing the independent educational evaluation at public expense or filing a due process complaint to request a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation” (34 CRF § 300.502[b]).
Who pays for an Independent Educational Evaluation?
In most cases, the school district is responsible for paying for the Independent Educational Evaluation. “Public expense means that the public agency [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…” (34 CFR § 300.5023[ii]). However, there is a chance that the school district could file for a due process hearing and state that its’ evaluation(s) are appropriate and that there is no need for an Independent Educational Evaluation, or that the parent obtained an evaluation that did not meet agency [school] criteria. If the hearing officer agrees with the school district, then the parent will not receive funding to pay for the Independent Educational Evaluation. “Ensure that an independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense, unless the agency [school] demonstrated in a hearing…that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency [school] criteria” (34 CFR § 300.502[b][ii]). Nonetheless, the parent can still move forward with an Independent Educational Evaluation, but the parent will have to use his or her money to pay for it. “If the public agency files a due process complaint notice to request a hearing and the final decision is that the agency's evaluation is appropriate, the parent still has the right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at public expense” (34 CFR § 300.502[b]).
How many times can the parent request an Independent Educational Evaluation?
A parent can request one independent educational evaluation every time the school district conducts an evaluation (which is usually every three years depending on the circumstances). “A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees” (34 CFR § 300.502[b]).
Who conducts an Independent Educational Evaluation?
An Independent Educational Evaluation can be conducted by a qualified examiner as long as he or she is not employed by the child’s school district because that would be a conflict of interest and defeat the purpose of an unbiased evaluation. “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 child in question” (34 CFR § 300.502[a][i]). A qualified examiner that conducts an Independent Educational Evaluation must have the same criteria that the school district uses when it conducts an evaluation. Generally speaking, a Certified School Psychologist conducts evaluations within the school district; this suggests that parents can select a Certified School Psychologist to conduct an Independent Educational Evaluation for their child; however, examiner qualifications vary depending on the state and school district requirements. Clarification of requirements and similar issues can be addressed by contacting the appropriate state agencies for the most up-to-date information. “If an independent educational evaluation is at public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria that the public agency uses when it initiates an evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with the parent's right to an independent educational evaluation” (34 CFR § 300.502[e]).
What happens after the Independent Educational Evaluation is completed?
The Independent Educational Evaluation must be considered by the school district. The school district must also consider the Independent Educational Evaluation when making any decisions regarding the student’s Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and can be presented as evidence at a hearing on a due process compliant. “The results of the evaluation…Must be considered by the public agency [school district], if it meets agency [school] criteria, in any decision made with respect to the provision of FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education] to the child; and...May be presented by any party as evidence at a hearing on a due process complaint” (34 § CFR 300.502[c]-.
About the Author
Chad W. Leonard, M.S., C.S.P., is a New Jersey and Pennsylvania Certified School Psychologist. He is also the CEO of Leonard Educational Evaluations, LLC., which provides educational services to parents and school districts for students in preschool through college. His company provides an array of educational and testing services for special, general, and gifted education students. Independent Educational Evaluations, Child Study Team Evaluations, and IEP/504 Plan Expertise are some of the most popular services the company offers. For more information, please contact Chad Leonard at 609-220-8596, LeonardEdEvaluations@Gmail.com or http://LeonardEducationalEvaluations.Weebly.com
Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities and Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities; Final Rule, Title 34 Code of Federal Regulations, Pt. 300.502 2006 ed. Retrieved 22 September 2013 from the United States Department of Education website: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,regs,300,E,300%252E502
United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The condition of education 2013 (NCES Publication No. 2013-037. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013037.pdf
United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (2004, Feb. 20). Letter to Alice D. Parker regarding Independent Educational Evaluations. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/letters/2004-1/parker022004iee1q2004.pdf
Copyright 2013 - Leonard Educational Evaluations, LLC. This document can only be used with written permission from author.