There are two basic reasons to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation in the school setting. The first, is that either a parent or a teacher has a concern that a student may have a disability that is impacting his or her learning. The second, is that a student who is already receiving special education services and supports has not had an evaluation in three years.
Sometimes, a student’s parents are the first to express a concern over a child’s learning. When this is the case, parents must request in writing an evaluation of their child to determine if they would benefit from special education services and supports. The school then has 60 days to conduct the evaluation. A consent form is provided to the parents that describes the nature of the evaluation, including any specific tests that will be used.
The evaluation is developed by using information from parents, teachers and related professionals. The evaluation must be conducted by trained staff. If specific tests are used, the staff administering the test(s) must have had training to conduct and interpret those tests. Medical concerns will be included in the evaluation. The evaluation must include more that one test and be administered in the student’s native language.
Evaluations look at a student’s cognitive—or intellectual—ability, any emotional/behavioral issues, and the development of self-help skills, also known as adaptive functioning. Information is gathered through both observation and interviews across multiple settings. This means that the assessment should not occur in only one classroom, for example. It should be conducted in various parts of the schoolday, in different classrooms, and even in the home, as appropriate.
Another important component of the evaluation process, is specialty services evaluation. If there are concerns about a child’s motor development, a physical therapist will conduct an evaluation. Speech and occupational therapists will also be pulled into the multidisciplinary evaluation if needed.
For children who are not yet school-aged, a developmental assessment is conducted to determine eligibility for preschool special education services and supports.
The results of the evaluation should be explained by a trained individual who is qualified to interpret the test results and the evaluation as a whole. Eligibility for special education services and supports will be determined at this time. If parents disagree with the results of the evaluation, they may request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This request should be made in writing. A school district may opt to provide an IEE at no cost to the parent or they may proceed to a hearing to prove that the initial evaluation is appropriate. School districts often provide an IEE at the family’s request because the cost involved in a hearing process usually outweighs that of the IEE.
Re-evaluation is a way to objectively measure a student’s progress: academic, behavioral/emotional, and adaptive. It is important that a re-evaluation be done at least every three years. Initial evaluations serve as a baseline against which subsequent evaluations can be compared. Modifications to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can be made based on the results, leading to the most appropriate education for the student.
For further information on evaluations, please see the links on the special education homepage. Sign up for our newsletter to keep connected to more information and resources.