When you disagree with an evaluation completed by your local school district, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE). Parents are entitled to one IEE at the school’s expense each time the district conducts an evaluation if the parent disagrees. When selecting the outside evaluator, it is important to consider whether or not they are the best fit for your child’s needs. First, it is important to determine whether or not the district has specific requirements for IEE providers. For example, they will often require that the outside provider has an equivalent licensure to practice in the schools. Here in Texas, for comprehensive IEEs, the appropriate school-based credential is often a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP). This ensures that the provider has demonstrated competencies related to working with school-age children and identifying whether or not they meet specific eligibility criteria for any of the federally recognized (IDEA 2004, Part B) disabilities. When investigating potential providers, seeking out providers who have their LSSP along with relevant school-based experience and training ensures that the evaluator is trained to understand educational need and legal requirements for IEE recommendations. Remember that in most cases, parents have the right to request an IEE that is paid for by the school district. However, when the public schools are paying for the evaluation, then they are able to specify that they evaluation complies with the same criteria that the school district uses when conducting evaluations. If the district has specific requirements for the IEE, then they are required to inform parents of these requirements. One frequently included requirement is requiring that the IEE provider conduct a classroom-based observation. A school district is not able to limit the scope of the IEE because they failed to evaluate a suspected area of disability. Therefore, experienced IEE providers will understand the importance of conducting a comprehensive and thorough evaluation of all areas.
Additionally, it is important to investigate whether or not the IEE provider has adequate experience conducting IEEs and if they are recommended by other professionals or parents in the area. A provider who has ample experience in conducting IEEs will be a better fit then one who rarely practices in this area. IEEs require extensive knowledge and understanding of the educational system and relevant disability laws in order to write a comprehensive evaluation report with educationally relevant recommendations. Furthermore, choosing a provider who maintains their national certification in school psychology is recommended. By maintaining their credential as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP), providers are required to meet rigorous national credentialing standards, and are also required to continue their participation in the community and ongoing professional development requirements.
Oftentimes school districts will provide parents with a list of recommended providers, ones they have likely contracted with the in past. While these lists are a helpful starting place, remember that parents have the right to select an evaluator of their choice. This guidance letter from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) reiterates relevant regulations and clarifies that parents do have the right to choose their independent evaluator. Another frequently encountered problem is when school districts attempt to impose a fee cap and refuse to cover the cost of your selected provider. Once again, the regulations specify that districts cannot impose a fee cap on IEE providers, and they are responsible for covering the cost of the IEE. This special education law and advocacy site offers an example of a letter that the parent may write to request an evaluator of their choice. Are you still unsure of next steps or how to proceed? Sometimes scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable professional will help you to develop a road map for next steps. Our providers at PACT have extensive experience both working in schools as well as conducting IEEs. Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options.