Most people know why the IEP is such an important document. Below, I am going to try and explain why the (Re) Evaluation Report is equally important, and how the quality of this report impacts upon the quality of the IEP.
Let me start off with an analogy again. We have all seen enough crime shows to know that when someone is charged with a crime, they hire a lawyer. Think of court as the IEP meeting, and everything that happens prior to court as the (Re) Evaluation Report. No good lawyer walks straight into a court hearing without gathering good, sufficient data to argue their case. Why not? Because they would get much less of a desirable outcome. This analogy can be applied to the (Re) Evaluation process. From the moment the parent signs the permission form to begin the (Re) Evaluation process, until the team meets to review the completed (Re) Evaluation Report and make a determination (60 or 90 days later), the team is charged with gathering agreed upon data that will go into the report. Any data in the report can be used to argue for or against services when the IEP team meets. Any data not in the report can’t be used to argue for services when the IEP team meets.
Notice the words “the team is charged with gathering agreed upon data” in the paragraph above. Because the parent is an equal member of the team, let me stress two very important facts. First, you have the right and the obligation to your child to take part in the gathering of the data for the team’s consideration. When a school district completes a (Re) Evaluation Report, they tend to focus on speed (finishing within state mandated timelines), rather than thoroughness (finding every single disability that your child may have), to avoid being sanctioned by the state, and to reduce the cost of services they have to provide. With this in mind, you as a parent need to take an active role in helping make the (Re) evaluation report as thorough as possible. There are several ways that you can do this:
1. Ask your child’s teachers questions prior to the meeting, and take good notes. Use those notes to argue your points in the (Re) Evaluation Report meeting.
2. Review your past emails for staff statements you can use in the meeting to argue your point.
3. Review all prior report cards and progress reports for common statements (i.e. 3 different teachers list that your child needs extra time to complete assignments)
4. Review grades to see if there is a pattern (i.e. your child gets 90’s on class assignments and homework, but fails tests).
5. Review school incident reports to see if there is a common thread between behavior incidents (i.e. every “behavior problem” occurs in an unstructured setting like the hallway or cafeteria).
6. Review all progress reports to see if your child is making gains (the school can’t argue to continue on the current path if your child only grew half a reading level over the last school year).
7. Submit documentation from your private providers documenting 2 things. One, your child has a disability. Two, that disability impacts upon your child’s ability to benefit from their school program without services/accommodations.
The second point I want to make about the statement “the team is charged with gathering agreed upon data” is that you have the right to disagree with the data that the school wants to include in the report. Let’s return to the court analogy. Prior to the day of court, there will often be hearings to determine what evidence can or cannot be used come the day of court. The prosecution may want to introduce certain witnesses to show a pattern of behavior, and the defense may argue that admitting their testimony may prejudice the jury. The judge has to decide whether or not the evidence is admissible. There may not be a judge at the (Re) Evaluation Team meeting, but you can certainly argue that evidence they collected is: false; paints an unfair/atypical image of your child; and/or is being erroneously interpreted by school staff, and should therefore not be included in the report. If the district ignores your objection, ask them to note your objection in the report, and we will discuss ways to fight this in a subsequent blog post.
Bottom line, you won’t get IEP services just because you ask for them. You have to prove the services are needed. Therefore, the more data that you can get supporting your argument into the report, the easier your job will be to advocate for services at the IEP meeting. Secondly, read the final (Re) Evaluation Report carefully, to ensure that everything you discussed is included and worded appropriately. If not, ask for it to be corrected prior to the IEP meeting. Finally, you can yell, scream, and bang on the IEP table until you are blue in the face. However, if the (Re) Evaluation Report doesn’t say your child has ADHD (or any other number of needs), you won’t get IEP services for ADHD.
I hope that you find this information helpful. Please comment either way, and let me know if you have any questions. I am here to help and earn your trust.