All students must be assessed in order to qualify for special education services. Once a referral is made, school district personnel must develop an assessment plan with an assessment prior written notice and provide it to the parent/guardian within 15 calendar days of the referral, excepting during time periods when school is not in session for more than 5 school days. An Assessment Plan is a description of the evaluation procedures that will be used to help the IEP team determine the:
- Presence/nature of a qualifying disability
- Eligibility for special education and related services
- Needs of the student and how they will be met
- Appropriate instructional strategies
A multidisciplinary team of qualified district professionals typically conducts the assessment.
5.1 Assessment Plans
Within 15 calendar days of referral or request for assessment
Send to the parent/guardian or their representative the Referral for Special Education, the proposed Assessment Plan and the Procedural Safeguards. If the parent/guardian does not return the assessment plan within the requested timeline, the case manager must make three separate (3) attempts, on three (3) separate dates to contact parent/guardian or their representative through a minimum of three (3) different modes of communication, e.g. regular mail, e-mail, phone call, face-to-face meeting, home visit. All attempts to contact parent/guardian or representative must be documented.
Contact your district level support person if the parent/guardian does not sign the assessment plan. The district level support person will:
- Review the case with the case manager to determine issues and attempt to resolve them.
- Notify the site administrator of the issues and the attempts made to resolve them.
- Notify the Program Manager of the issue
Should district level support personnel, including the program manager determine that a request for due process is appropriate; a request for Due Process Review will be made by the program manager.
All communications with a student’s parent/guardian must be provided in the primary language of the parent/guardian unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. In such instances, an interpreter or translator must be used to explain the information to the parent/guardian.
5.1.2 Additional Assessment for Students Receiving Special Education Services
For students already receiving special education services and for whom additional assessments are needed (such as Speech, APE, OT, PT, Assistive Technology), all assessment procedures and timelines apply. These procedures hold true for any assessment, including initial and triennial reassessments. Assessment plans are not required when evaluating annual goals. An assessment plan must be developed for a Triennial Reassessment. If parent/guardian does not consent to the assessment plan, the Triennial Reassessment can be completed through a records review.
A significant change in placement CANNOT occur without a comprehensive assessment. (Exception: a mental health assessment may determine that a more or less restrictive setting is required)
5.1.3 Notice of Refusal to Assess
If the school staff determines there is not an area of suspected disability, they can make the decision not to assess. Prior Written Notice must be provided to the parent/guardian whenever the district refuses to assess. This notice must be given to the parent/guardians within 15 calendar days of receiving a verbal or written request for assessment.
It is best practice is to conduct an assessment if the parent/advocate requests one, even if the site team does not suspect a disability exists. The district cannot refute a private assessment if it lacks its own assessments.
5.1.4 Assessment Plan Development
An assessment plan must indicate the areas to be assessed. Assessments will be conducted in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the student knows and can do in the areas of academic learning, communication, social-emotional/behavioral, adaptive and self-help, motor and sensory-motor. If there are areas of concern that cannot be assessed using standard assessment procedures, alternative procedures for assessment must be included in the Assessment Plan. Contact your site Special Education Related Services team and/or your district level support staff for specifics.
- Assessors of English Learners should accumulate evidence acquired through interviews, student observation, and review of background information, in order to support their determination of the language(s) most likely to yield accurate information on what the student knows and can do. To review language proficiency measures (e.g., CELDT: California English Language Development Test and primary language instruments), consult with the classroom teacher, English Learner Support Teacher (ELST), designated English Learner Resource Teacher, the student’s cumulative file, or one of the district’s data keeping systems. Nonverbal assessments alone for students who are able to speak are not acceptable.
The case manager must indicate the following on the Assessment Plan:
- Proposed areas of assessments
- Other information needed to determine the student’s eligibility and instructional needs, e.g. records review, student observation, work samples
- Any recent assessments conducted, including any available outside independent assessments
- Information indicating the student’s primary language modality, primary language, and language proficiency in the primary language
Only those evaluation areas indicated on the plan and agreed to by the parent/guardian may be administered. No assessment(s) can be conducted without the parent/guardian’s written consent.
In instances where an area of evaluation is no longer deemed an area of concern, a Prior Written Notice must be given to the parent/guardian if any of the previously agreed upon areas of concern will not be assessed.
5.1.5 Assessing in All Areas of Suspected Disability
The team must assess and document all areas of suspected disability. When a team develops an assessment plan, they must consider all factors that influence educational performance (e.g. academics, social and emotional issues, health, etc.).
Students are to be assessed by a transdisciplinary team in all areas related to the suspected disability including, where appropriate:
- Academic achievement
- Career and vocational abilities and interests
- Hearing and vision (initial and triennial)
- Health and development
- Intellectual development
- Language, communication, speech development
- Motor skills, sensory-motor development
- Orientation and mobility skills
- Social, emotional and behavioral status
All students assessed for initial and three-year reviews must have a hearing and vision screening unless parent/guardian permission is denied.
If the assessment team determines that the student does not have an area(s) of suspected disability, a Prior Written Notice must be sent to the parent/guardian indicating why the assessment will not occur.
Under IDEA 2004, school district personnel cannot require a student to obtain a prescription for any medication; for example, medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as a condition of attending school or receiving a special education assessment and/or services.
5.2 Receipt of Signed Assessment Plan
Upon receipt of the signed assessment plan, the case manager must:
- Document the date received next to parent/guardian signature and initial or date-stamp the signed plan.
- Enter into the electronic IEP system the date that the signed assessment plan was received and lock the event. The IEP due date will be generated by the electronic IEP system. An IEP team meeting must be scheduled and held on or before that date.
- Inform assessors that written consent has been received. Inform them of the due date of the IEP.
- Refer to Special Education Division website to locate contact information for lead Related Services staff to request assistance when assessments need to be conducted by specialists who do not regularly serve the school. If unable to locate the specialist, contact your district level support person.
- Assure that assessments are conducted in the student’s primary language, as appropriate, if the students are English Learners.
- Convene IEP meeting within 60 calendar days from the date the district receives parent/guardian consent in writing to the assessments, excepting time periods when school is not in session in excess of five consecutive days. If you have questions regarding this, contact your district-level support staff.
Best practice: Convene meeting BEFORE the 60-day timeline to ensure compliance with required timeline.
5.3 Assessment Procedures
Assessment procedures used will depend on the student’s suspected disability. These might include, but are not limited to:
- Observation of the student in classroom and real-life settings.
- Non-standardized (for example, portfolio, authentic, curriculum-based measurement, etc.) and standardized evaluation measures.
- Review of relevant school records.
- Review of progress on interventions already implemented.
A variety of tools/measures must be used to determine a student’s educational program. The testing and assessment procedures and materials used in the assessment process must be:
- Administered so as not to be racially, culturally or sexually discriminatory.
- Administered in the language(s) or mode(s) of communication with which the student is most likely to demonstrate what s/he knows or can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, if feasible. If it is not feasible to do so, the reason must be stated in the assessment plan, which also must indicate the language or mode of communication in which the assessment will be conducted. When an interpreter is used, the assessment report needs to document this and note if the validity may have been affected.
- Validated for the specific purposes for which they are intended.
- Administered by trained personnel, knowledgeable about the disabilities the student may have, in conformance with the instructions provided by the producers of such tests and other assessment materials.
- Tailored to the student’s specific educational needs.
No single measure or assessment may be used as the sole criterion for determining whether the pupil is an individual with exceptional needs; or for determining an appropriate educational program.
A 1979 Larry P. vs. Riles court order prohibited the administration of standardized intelligence tests to African-American students to determine special education eligibility. Any reference to IQ scores, and the scores themselves, must be stricken from the assessment report(s) so as not to be readable. The original assessment report must be placed in a sealed, labeled envelope and placed within the student’s Special Education container.
When students with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills are tested, the materials and procedures must be selected and administered to ensure that their results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement level, and does not merely assess the students’ impaired skills, unless those skills are the factors the tests purport to measure.
When assessing students with suspected low-incidence disabilities, such as visual impairments, severe orthopedic impairments, and/or hearing impairments, special attention must be given by a qualified assessor to the unique educational needs of the student requiring specialized services, materials and equipment.
A student may be referred, as appropriate, for further assessment and recommendations, to the California Schools for the Deaf and for the Blind or the California Diagnostic Centers. Your district-level support staff must be contacted if you are considering this option.
District staff must consider any and all information and reports provided by outside assessors.
5.3.1 Extending the Assessment Timeline
The IEP team meeting is to be held within 60 days calendar days from the date the district receives parent/guardian written consent for assessment, not counting time periods in excess of five school days when school is not in session.
- If it appears that the assessment will not be completed within the established timelines, the assessors should notify the case manager. The extension of the assessment timeline should only occur in extreme cases and NOT on a regular basis. For example, an extension is not permissible because the assessor did not have sufficient time to write the assessment report or cannot attend the IEP team meeting. The reason for the extension must be documented via a Prior Written Notice. A copy of the Prior Written Notice must be placed in the student’s Special Education container.
The case manager will hold the IEP team meeting within the original 60-day timeline if the parent/guardian does not agree to extend the timeline.
A request for the extension of an assessment timeline (and IEP meeting) beyond the original 60-day timeline may be made IF:
- Parent/guardian is unable/unavailable to attend meeting within the 60 day timeline; or refuses to attend the meeting due to attorney/advocate not being able to attend within the 60 day timeline period.
- Student has been unavailable for testing due to absences
- Parent/guardian has not made the student available for testing
5.4 Assessment Reports
Once an assessment is completed, assessors must prepare a written Assessment Report and an IEP team meeting must be held. A completed DRAFT written report must be available at the IEP team meeting. The report shall include, but is not limited to (Education Code Section 56327):
- Whether the student requires specialized education and related services to access and progress in general education core curriculum.
- The relevant behavior noted during the observation of the student in an appropriate setting(s). The relationship of that behavior to the pupil’s academic and social functioning.
- The educationally relevant health and development, and medical findings, if any.
- Whether there is such a discrepancy between achievement and ability that cannot be corrected without special education and related services for students with learning disabilities.
- A determination concerning the effects of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage, where appropriate.
- The need for specialized services, materials, and equipment for students with low incidence disabilities
There is no legal requirement to provide DRAFT assessment reports in advance of the IEP meeting; however assessors may choose to provide those reports in advance if requested by parent or parent representative.
- The assessor must include a statement in the assessment report indicating whether they believe the test results are valid for the specific student being tested. If they believe that the test results are not valid they must include the following:
- A statement explaining why and a description, if any, to which the assessment varied from standard conditions.
- Methods, procedures, and tests used to assess the student must be written in the assessment report.
- Instructional implications of assessment results.
- Language in which the testing was completed and test results.
- Consideration of any independent assessments that parent/guardian requested to be part of the assessment process.
- Basis for making determination of eligibility recommendation.
At the IEP meeting, assessors must provide the parent/guardian copies of the DRAFT assessment reports. When possible these copies should be provided to case managers prior to the IEP meeting to allow for the development of a DRAFT IEP.
The determination of eligibility for special education and related services rests with the IEP team.
5.5 Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE)
A parent/guardian who disagrees with the results of the district’s educational assessment of his/her child has the right to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) from qualified personnel. If a parent/guardian asks for an IEE prior to the district assessing in that area of concern, the parent/guardian should be informed that the district has the right to conduct an assessment first.