School Evaluation Process and FAQs
POSTED ON: January 24, 2022
The evaluation process in a school can seem overwhelming to unfamiliar parents. Numerous acronyms, meeting several staff members in addition to their child’s general education teacher, and the thick packet of procedural safeguards (parent rights) can be quite daunting. They are simultaneously processing the emotions surrounding their child struggling in school and trying to balance all other aspects of their everyday life. We will provide you with as much guidance as possible to help you navigate this process.
Although there are federal laws in place to regulate special education in public schools, nomenclature, systems used to collect data, and how intervention programs are structured varies by school district. If you have questions about your child’s school and their evaluation process, please contact them to learn more.
Phase 1: Identifying that the student is struggling
This can be done by the child’s teacher, another staff member, or the parent. Before referring a student to be evaluated, strategies need to be implemented in the classroom to support the student. Data is collected on what is and isn’t working.
Phase 2: MTSS/RTI & Data Collection
This may be different in each school district and not all districts have structured MTSS/RTI systems in place. MTSS stands for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support–what was previously known as Response to Intervention. It is a structured framework that gives support to students who are struggling in different areas of academics or behaviors. The different tiers reflect different levels of need. Tier One is composed of the majority of students; Tier Two is for small group instruction; Tier Three is for individuals. This is a more proactive approach to identifying struggling students. (citation: https://www.pbisrewards.com/blog/what-is-mtss) If they are still struggling with small group and individual instruction, an evaluation may be recommended.
Phase 3: Team Meeting to Review Existing Data
Also known as an RED meeting, all team members are present at this meeting including the caregivers, general education classroom teachers, admin-if necessary, and any related service and special education providers, as needed. The team will review all of the data that has been collected on the student and discuss the evaluation process and next steps.
Phase 4: Evaluation
If an evaluation is warranted, the school team has 60 days after the “permission to evaluate” has been signed to complete the evaluation and meet with the student’s caregivers. The school team will write the report and compile all data they have collected. Having the draft report sent home to caregivers with ample time for review prior to the meeting is best practice.
The team will meet within the 60 days to review the results with the caregivers. In this meeting, the team, including the caregivers, will determine whether or not a child meets criteria for a student with a disability and if they are in need of specialized services. If so, an IEP is developed as a team to reflect the needs of the student. Remember, needs drive goals and goals drive services.
No matter what, the more you know, the better prepared you are to support a dyslexic child. Here are some important things to know as you embark on this journey.
FAQs of a School Evaluation
1. How do I know if my child should be enrolled in special education?
If you or your child’s teacher has concerns about your child’s academic performance after all interventions in the classroom have been trialed, the school team should meet to review all existing data to determine next steps and whether an evaluation is warranted. The results of that evaluation and eligibility determination, if any, would be discussed as a team.
2. Holy Alphabet Soup!!! What do all of these acronyms mean?
- IEP-Individual Education Plan.
- PTE-Permission to Evaluate. You must sign this form to give the school personnel permission to assess your child in whatever areas the team determines necessary.
- MTSS/RTI-Multi Tiered System of Support/Response to Intervention. What was once called RTI is now referred to as MTSS. This is further explained above.
3. If I request an evaluation through the school, does that mean my child will get special education services?
The short answer is no. Eligibility is a team decision that is determined by looking at data from testing, observations, staff and parent input, and the overall impact on academic functioning. If they meet the criteria as a student with a disability and they show a need for specialized services, an IEP will be developed to address those needs.
4. If my child has a diagnosis of dyslexia, does that mean they will get services?
Not always. Schools determine services based on educational impact and academic functioning. Some dyslexics will qualify for direct services through an IEP while other dyslexics will be able to be supported through accommodations.
5. If my child receives private services, are they going to automatically receive school-based services?
Services through a public school and services through a private company or clinic are determined based on different criteria. Public schools base their services on whether or not the student’s academic functioning/educational needs are being negatively impacted by the disability or learning difference. Private companies and clinics have more flexibility when recommending services. If your child has a disability and did not qualify for education based specialized services, do not fret! There is an option to put accommodations in place for your student through a 504 plan, should your school team determine it appropriate.