Obtaining the necessary assessments is a critical process in special education. Assessments play an important role in evaluation, diagnostic, and eligibility decisions. They also play an important role in the development of the IEP including goal setting, placement, and instructional decisions.
Assessment Plan (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56321(a)):
The school is required to provide an assessment plan within 15 days of their receipt of your written referral for special education services. If the request is made near a vacation in excess of five schooldays then those vacation days are not counted. Also, if the request is made within 10 days of the end of the school year then the assessment plan shall be provided within 10 days after the commencement of the subsequent regular school year.
Type of Assessment (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56320(f) & 34 C.F.R. Section 300.304):
A student with a suspected disability must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability. The assessment must be made by a multidisciplinary team of professionals who are knowledgeable of that disability. The team of professionals must use a variety of assessment tools to gather relevant functional and developmental information. No single measure or assessment may be used by the IEP team.
A parent may ask for an assessment in an area that the district has not identified in the assessment plan. If the district refuses to do an evaluation, the parents may be entitled to an independent evaluation at the school district’s expense.
Independent Educational Evaluation (34 C.F.R. 300.502):
A parent who disagrees with the district’s evaluation may have a right to an independent educational evaluation at the expense of the district. The district must either provide information to the parent to allow them to obtain the independent educational evaluation or file a due process claim.
Many parents obtain independent evaluations regardless of whether the district pays for them or not. If the parents obtain an independent evaluation, at the public expense or their own expense, then the IEP team must consider the evaluations.
Contents of the Assessment Report (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56327):
The personnel who assess the student shall prepare a written report that shall include, without limitation, the following: 1) whether the student may need special education and related services; 2) the basis for making that determination; 3) the relevant behavior noted during observation of the student in an appropriate setting; 4) the relationship of that behavior to the student’s academic and social functioning; 5) the educationally relevant health, development and medical findings, if any; 6) if appropriate, a determination of the effects of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage; and 7) consistent with superintendent guidelines for low incidence disabilities (those effecting less than one percent of the total statewide enrollment in grades K through 12), the need for specialized services, materials, and equipment. (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56327) The report must be provided to the parent at the IEP team meeting regarding the assessment. (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56329(a)(3))
Failure to Conduct Appropriate Assessments:
A procedural violation by the district does not automatically require a finding at the student’s right to a free and public education (FAPE) was violated. If a district fails to conduct appropriate assessments in all areas of suspected disability there may be a procedural denial of FAPE. (Park v. Anaheim Union High School Dist. 4 (9th. Cir. 2006) 64 F.3d 1025. A procedural violation results in a denial of a FAPE only if the violation: (1) impeded the child’s right to a FAPE; (2) significantly impeded the parent’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process; or (3) caused a deprivation of educational benefits. (20 U.S.C. Section 1415(f)(3)(E)(ii); Cal. Ed. Code Section 56505(f)(2); W.G. v. Board of Trustees of Target Range School Dist. No. 23 (9th Cir. 1992) 960 F.2d 1479, 1484.)
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