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Special Education Tip # 4: Do You Need an Evaluation to Determine Your Child’s Progress?


Special Education Tip # 4: Do You Need an Evaluation to Determine Your Child’s Progress?


Evaluations are Often Necessary to Determine Your Child’s Progress

As the school year comes to an end, take the time to carefully review your child’s final report card and progress reports. Are you satisfied that your child made progress this year? How did he perform in relation to the goals set forth in his IEP?

Under federal and state law, your child’s team must provide an educational program that is designed to allow her to make meaningful progress in accordance with her potential. Measuring “meaningful progress” is difficult and requires consideration of many factors. Grades and progress reports alone are insufficient indicators of progress, and parents should be wary if the team’s assessment of progress is based entirely on these subjective measures. In our view, objective measures and standardized tests are the best ways to assess a student’s performance and to determine whether he or she is demonstrating progress over time.

If you have concerns about your child’s performance, we strongly recommend that you consider scheduling an evaluation to assess his progress. Evaluations can be requested through the school district or, if you have the financial means or insurance to cover the cost, you may wish to retain a private evaluator. Private evaluations can be costly but are generally more extensive and detailed than evaluations conducted within the district. These evaluations are critical not only to show your child’s progress but also to provide recommendations for services designed to improve your child’s performance.

When considering whether to retain a private evaluator, be sure to inquire whether he or she is willing to present the findings of the evaluation at a team meeting or, if necessary, at a due process hearing. An evaluation by someone who is unwilling to present it is essentially worthless.

If you have decided to arrange for an evaluation, be aware that this can be a lengthy process. The most experienced evaluators are often booked months in advance. Because of their expertise, they are often worth waiting for, but advance planning is critical. It is best to schedule evaluations when you first have concerns about your child’s performance so that you can obtain a timely assessment and helpful recommendations.