January 19, 2022, Meeting Update Notification: The January 19, 2022, Connecticut State Board of Education meeting will be held at 450 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, at 9:30 a.m. The wearing of masks is required of all persons entering 450 Columbus Boulevard, as well as during the meeting. All mask and social distancing protocols will be adhered to during the meeting. This meeting will be live streamed and can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAyxss_PnAM

Guidance for Independent Educational Evaluations and In-School Observations

FAQs

  • 1. What is an evaluation?
    Answer: When conducting an evaluation, a school district must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent, about the student that may assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability and the content of the student’s individualized education program (IEP), including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum.

    A school district may not use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a student is a student with a disability and/or for determining the content of the student’s IEP.

    A school district must ensure that in evaluating each student with a disability, the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to assess the student in all areas related to the suspected disability, and must identify all of the student’s special needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the student has been classified.

    The PPT may determine that an independent evaluation with an evaluator selected by the school district is required as part of an initial evaluation or a reevaluation for a student.  This would not constitute an IEE at public expense.

    Note: As a best practice, the school district and the parent should work collaboratively when determining the assessments that will be included in an evaluation. This will help ensure that the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the student’s special needs. Evaluations driven by clearly identified questions are more likely to provide meaningful information and relevant recommendations.
     
    34 CFR § 300.304(b)(1); 34 CFR § 300.304(b)(2); 34 CFR § 300.304(c)(7)
     
  • 2. What is an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)?
    Answer: An evaluation conducted by a qualified evaluator who is not employed by the school district.
     
    34 CFR § 300.502(a)(3)(i) 
     
  • 3. What is meant by "at public expense"?
    Answer:

    The school district either pays for the full cost of the IEE or ensures that the IEE is otherwise provided at no cost to the parent.

    34 CFR § 300.502(a)(3)(ii) 

     

     

  • 4. When does a parent have the right to an IEE at public expense?
    Answer:

    A parent has the right to an IEE at public expense when the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the school district.  

    Note: A parent is entitled to only one IEE at public expense each time the school district conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. OSEP  has provided guidance that a school district may deny public funding of an IEE, and need not request a due process hearing, if the IEE is requested over two years after the school district completed its evaluation. This aligns with the two-year period under the IDEA and state law with which to file a due process complaint.      

    34 CFR § 300.502(b)(1); Letter to Thorne 16 IDELR 606 (OSEP 1990)

     

     

  • 5. Does a parent have the right to an IEE at public expense if the school district declines to evaluate a student to determine eligibility for special education (i.e., declines to conduct an initial evaluation)?
    Answer:

    No. This would not constitute a disagreement with an evaluation obtained by the school district.  In this case, the school district did not complete an evaluation and therefore, the parent would not be entitled to an IEE at public expense.  

    Note: If a parent disagrees with the school district’s decision to not conduct an initial evaluation, the parent may use the dispute resolution options (i.e., state complaint, mediation, due process hearing) afforded by the IDEA in order to pursue an evaluation by the school district.

    Procedural Safeguards

    Legal and Due Process

    Letter to Zirkel 52 IDELR 77 (OSEP 2008)

  • 6. Can a parent request an IEE at public expense in an area that was not previously assessed by the school district's evaluation?
    Answer:

    Yes.  OSEP  has provided guidance that when a parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the school district because the student was not assessed in a particular area, the parent has the right to request an IEE to assess the child in that area to determine whether the student has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the student needs. When a parent requests an IEE because the student was not assessed in a particular area, a school district may not conduct its own evaluation in the given area prior to granting the parent’s request for an IEE.

    Letter to Baus 65 IDELR 81 (OSEP 2015)

    Letter to Carroll 68 IDELR 279 (OSEP 2016)

     
  • 7. If a parent obtains an independent evaluation at their own expense, can they ask for reimbursement from the school district? Would this constitute a request for an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: Yes.  A parent may disagree with an evaluation obtained by the school district and decide to obtain an independent evaluation at his or her own expense and then request that the school district reimburse him or her for the cost of the evaluation. In this case, the request for reimbursement would be a request for an IEE at public expense and the school district would be required to respond accordingly. See FAQ #12. 
  • 8. How does a parent request an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: A request can be made verbally or in writing to the school district. This request does not have to be made during a PPT meeting.

    If the request is made during a PPT meeting, the school district does not have to provide an answer to the parent’s request at that time. Although the PPT may review the request during the meeting, the school district may inform the parent of its decision regarding the IEE at public expense subsequent to the PPT meeting, provided that the decision is made without unnecessary delay. The IDEA and its implementing regulations do not require that a request for an IEE be considered by a PPT. Therefore, if a parent requests an IEE at public expense outside of a PPT meeting the school district cannot require the parent to discuss his/her request for an IEE at public expense at a PPT meeting before deciding whether to provide the IEE at public expense or file a request for a due process hearing. With that said, nothing would prevent the school district and the parent agreeing to discuss the request at a subsequent PPT meeting, as long as doing so does not unnecessarily delay the school district’s decision to either provide the IEE at public expense or file a request for a due process hearing.

    Note: Although not required, the BSE advises parents to document their request for an IEE at public expense in writing (e.g., email or letter).     

    For a sample template for a written request please 
    English:__________________
    Spanish:
     
  • 9. Is a parent required to communicate a reason why the parent disagrees with the school district's evaluation?
    Answer: No. The school district may ask for the parent’s reason, but the school district may not require the parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay either providing the IEE at public expense or filing for a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate.
     
    Note: Parents and school districts should engage in open dialog. When the parent and school district work collaboratively it helps to ensure that specific questions are addressed within the process and the proper evaluation is conducted. Effective and timely communication may ultimately assist the parent and school district to resolve the disagreement.  

    34 CFR § 300.502(b)(4) 
     
  • 10. Who does a parent contact to request an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: The IDEA and its implementing regulations do not specify a specific individual to whom a request for an IEE at public expense must be made.

    Note: The BSE recommends sending a request to the administrator that is responsible for special education in the school district. This role may vary by school district; titles may include, Special Education Supervisor, Director of Special Education, or Pupil Services Director.   
     
  • 11. What information must a school district provide to parents upon a request for an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: The school district must provide (1) information about where an IEE may be obtained; and (2) the school district’s IEE criteria.

    Note: The school district may provide a list of independent evaluators that meet its IEE criteria to satisfy the first requirement. The parent may choose an evaluator from the school district’s list or the parent may choose an evaluator not on the list who meets the school district’s criteria. 

    34 CFR § 300.502(a)(2);   IEE Process Flow Chart
     
  • 12. Is the school district required to respond to a parent's request for an IEE at public expense?
    Answer:

    Yes. If a parent requests an IEE at public expense, a school district shall, without unnecessary delay, either:

    1. File a due process complaint to request a hearing to show its evaluation is appropriate; or
    2. Ensure the IEE is provided at public expense, unless the school district demonstrates in a due process hearing that the evaluation obtained by the parent does not meet the school district’s IEE criteria.

    34 CFR § 300.502(b)(2);   IEE Process Flow Chart

  • 13. How will a parent hear about the school district's decision regarding his or her request for an IEE at public expense?
    Answer:

    While not required by the regulations, the BSE believes it is the best practice for a school district to respond to a parent’s request for an IEE at public expense in writing.  The school district should state that it will either provide an IEE at public expense or file a request for a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. The decision to provide a parent with an IEE at public expense or file for a due process hearing is a school district decision, not a PPT decision.

     

  • 14. When can a parent expect to hear back from a school district regarding the school district's decision to provide an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: The school district shall respond without unnecessary delay.  

    Although unnecessary delay is not defined by the IDEA and its implementing regulations, some delay may be necessary to allow the school district to thoughtfully consider its options.  As best practice, a school district should provide a written response for a parent’s request to an IEE at public expense within 10 school days from when the request is made during the academic school year and 14 calendar days from when the request is made in between school years. This timeline assumes that the parent and school district have not agreed to a voluntary resolution period. See FAQ #17.

    34 CFR § 300.502(b)(2);  IEE Process Flow Chart
     

     
  • 15. If the school district files for due process is a parent required to obtain a lawyer?
    Answer: No.  Parents can represent themselves at a due process hearing, or hire legal counsel at their own expense. A due process hearing is a formal process where evidence is presented, including testimony from professionals and the cross-examination of witnesses. The decision whether to hire legal counsel is a decision made by the parents.   

    Note:
    The BSE or the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC) can make a parent aware of any free or low-cost legal services available. Also, the school district must provide a parent with information as to any free or low-cost legal services available in the area if the parent or the school district requests a due process hearing. The school district must also provide this information if the parent requests it, even if a request for a due process hearing has not been filed.

    RCSA § 10-76h-11; 34 CFR § 300.507(b);  Free or Low-Cost Legal Services resource 
     
  • 16. What happens at a due process hearing about an IEE at public expense?
    Answer:

    During a due process hearing, the school district must prove that its evaluation is appropriate. The hearing officer will make a determination about whether or not the school district evaluation is appropriate.

    • If the hearing officer determines that the school district’s evaluation is appropriate, the school district is not obligated to provide an IEE at public expense. A parent may still obtain an IEE at his or her own expense.
    • If the hearing officer determines that the school district evaluation is not appropriate, the hearing officer may order the school district to provide the parent with an IEE at public expense or may order the school district to reimburse the parent for the cost of an IEE. 

    Note: For more information about due process hearings please contact the BSE: 860-713-6910.  
    RCSA §§ 10-76h-1 to 10-76h-18;
     
    A Parent’s Guide to Special Education

    Legal and Due Process
    Procedural Safeguards

     

  • 17. Can the school district delay filing for a due process hearing to engage in a voluntary resolution process?
    Answer:

    Yes. OSEP has stated that although "unnecessary" delay is not defined by the IDEA or its implementing regulations, it allows for "a reasonably flexible, though normally brief, period of time that could accommodate good faith discussions and negotiations between the parties over the need for, and arrangements for, an IEE."

    The BSE recommends, prior to the IDEA required response, that a parent and a school district engage in a voluntary resolution process. After a parent requests an IEE at public expense, the parent and school district may agree to engage in a voluntary resolution process with the intent of resolving the issues or concerns related to the parent’s request for an IEE at public expense. The length of such resolution period may vary based upon the agreement between the parties, but the BSE considers a reasonable time period would not exceed 20 school days from when the request is made during the academic school year or 30 calendar days from when the request is made in between school years. Provided that both parties voluntarily agree to engage in this process, this period of time would be viewed as a necessary delay. The parties may also agree to engage in mediation during this time, which would also be viewed as a necessary delay.  If the parties do not resolve the issue during the informal resolution period or mediation, then the school district would be required to, without unnecessary delay, either file a request for a due process hearing or ensure that the IEE is provided at public expense. Even if a school district files a request for a due process hearing in response to an IEE request, parents and school districts should continue to discuss the matter and attempt to resolve the disagreement. If an agreement is reached, the school district can withdraw its request for a due process hearing.    

    Letter to Anonymous 56 IDELR 175 (OSEP 2010)  

    IEE Process Flow Chart

     
  • 18. If the school district agrees to provide an IEE at public expense, who chooses the independent evaluator?
    Answer: The parent chooses the independent evaluator. If the school district provides the parent with a list of independent evaluators that meet its IEE criteria, the parent may choose an evaluator from the school district’s list or the parent may choose an evaluator not on the list that meets the school district’s criteria.  

    IEE Process Flow Chart
     
  • 19. What is school district IEE criteria?
    Answer: The school district has the right to set standards which the independent evaluator must meet in order for the school district to publicly fund an IEE. This criteria may include, for example, the location of the evaluation, the qualifications of the evaluator, and maximum allowable costs. The IEE criteria must be the same criteria that the school district would use when it initiates its own evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with a parent’s right to an IEE. Except for the IEE criteria, a school district is prohibited from imposing other conditions or timelines related to obtaining an IEE at public expense.   

    The IEE criteria must include a statement explaining a parent’s opportunity to demonstrate unique circumstances to justify the use of an independent evaluator that does not meet the IEE criteria.

    34 CFR § 300.502(e)(2)
  • 20. Must the independent evaluator meet the school district IEE criteria?
    Answer: Yes. A school district has the right to set standards which the independent evaluator must meet in order for the school district to publicly fund an IEE. These criteria may include, for example, the location of the evaluation, the qualifications of the evaluator, and maximum allowable costs. The IEE criteria must be the same criteria that a school district would use when it initiates its own evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with a parent’s right to an IEE.

    Criteria may be inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE if the criteria are too restrictive and thus effectively prevents a parent from obtaining an IEE. Except for the IEE criteria, a school district is prohibited from imposing other conditions or timelines related to obtaining an IEE at public expense.  

    The IEE criteria must include a statement acknowledging that a parent has the opportunity to demonstrate unique circumstances justify the use of an independent evaluator that does not meet the IEE criteria. Since students must be assessed in all areas related to suspected disability, there may be situations in which some students need evaluations conducted by an evaluator who does not meet agency criteria.

    34 CFR § 300.502(e)
     
  • 21. If the requested independent evaluator does not meet the school district's IEE criteria, what are a parent's options?
    Answer:

     

    • Work with the school district to find an evaluator that meets the school district criteria; or 
    • Demonstrate that unique circumstances justify the use of an independent evaluator that does not meet the IEE criteria.

    Note: If the evaluator chosen by a parent does not meet the school district’s IEE criteria and the school district believes there is no justification for choosing an evaluator that does not meet its criteria, the school district is still required to, without unnecessary delay, either demonstrate in a due process hearing that the evaluator does not meet its IEE criteria or ensure that the IEE is provided at public expense. At any time, the parent may also use the dispute resolution procedures available under the IDEA (i.e., state complaint, mediation, and due process hearing).

     

    Legal and Due Process

    IEE Process Flow Chart

  • 22. Can a school district require evaluators to hold current certifications from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) as part of its IEE criteria?
    Answer:

    It depends. Generally, a school district may establish qualifications that require an IEE evaluator to hold or be eligible to hold a particular certification or license when a school district requires the same licensure or certification for its own staff conducting the same types of evaluations. This means that if a school district requires evaluators to hold specific educator certifications in its IEE criteria, then all district personnel and all independent evaluators hired by the school district must hold those same credentials as well. When requiring current certification from the CSDE as part of its IEE criteria, school districts must ensure that this criteria is not inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE.  OSEP  has provided guidance stating that there may be instances where the most appropriate individual to conduct an evaluation, given the specific aspect of a disability, might not have a certification from the State Department of Education or they may not be licensed by any state agency, because such licensure does not exist or is not required by state law at that time.  For example, a PPT may determine that a student requires an evaluation performed by a clinical psychologist who would not meet the qualifications the CSDE requires for a person to be certified in school psychology.  The clinical psychologist, however, would hold a license from the State Department of Public Health. In this case, the criteria requiring all psychologists to be certified in school psychology from the CSDE would be inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE.

    71 Fed. Reg. 46,540, 46,689 (August 14, 2006)

    Letter to Anonymous 56 IDELR 175 (OSEP 2010)  

     
  • 23. Can a school district include criteria about geographical location in its IEE criteria?
    Answer: Yes. A school district may include criteria about geographical location in its IEE criteria. The school district, however, must allow parents an opportunity to demonstrate unique circumstances to justify obtaining an IEE outside of the geographical location set by the criteria.

    Note: When including criteria about geographical location, the BSE recommends that school districts limit the location using a mileage radius instead of a specific county or region of the state. Given that Connecticut is a small state, this will help ensure that the criteria are not too restrictive. As a best practice, school districts should not arbitrarily limit the geographical location to Connecticut. If a school district is close to the border of another state, it is reasonable to include that state in the criteria using a mileage radius formula.

      
    34 CFR § 300.502(e)
     
  • 24. Can a school district require as part of its IEE criteria that an IEE be conducted within a certain timeframe?
    Answer: No. It is the BSE’s position that IEE criteria requiring that an IEE be conducted within a certain timeframe is inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE at public expense.

    Note: The school district and the parent should work collaboratively with the independent evaluator in order to understand the availability of the evaluator to complete the evaluation and report in a timely manner. The evaluation report should be available to be reviewed by the PPT before a significant period of time has elapsed after the origin of the concern leading to the IEE or after the assessments have been administered.  
     
  • 25. Can a school district include criteria about cost in its IEE criteria?
    Answer:

    Yes.  School districts should not be expected to bear the cost of unreasonably priced IEEs. It is appropriate for a school district to establish reasonable cost containment criteria applicable to personnel used by the school district, as well as evaluators used by the parent. A school district, however, would need to provide a parent with the opportunity to demonstrate that unique circumstances justify the selection of an independent evaluator whose fees fall outside a school district’s cost containment criteria.  Also, the criteria must be consistent with a parent’s right to an IEE and therefore must not be so restrictive as to effectively prevent a parent from obtaining an IEE. Guidance from OSEP  provides that if a school district does establish maximum allowable costs, the maximum cannot be an average of fees customarily charged in the area by professionals who are qualified to conduct a specific test. Instead, the cost criteria must allow parents to choose from among qualified professionals in the area and only eliminate unreasonable, excessive fees.  

    Note: It is the BSE’s position that cost criteria language such as, “evaluators must charge fees for evaluation services which are reasonable and customary for such evaluations” is too vague and does not provide adequate information or notice to parents. Parents may not read or interpret this criterion the same as a school district and will not know whether an evaluation they have obtained or are seeking to obtain meets the school district’s criterion for cost. Therefore, if a school district uses the above quoted language, it must also include language that informs the parents that they may request specific cost information from the school district. The school district should be prepared to provide the parents with cost information regarding specific types of evaluations.

    34 CFR § 300.502(e); 71 Fed. Reg. 46,540, 46,689 (August 14, 2006)

    Letter to Anonymous 22 IDELR 637 (OSEP 1995)

     
  • 26. Can the school district impose liability insurance requirements as part of its IEE criteria?
    Answer:

    No.  It is the BSE’s position that liability insurance requirements are not evaluation “criteria” and therefore should not be included in a school district’s IEE criteria. 

     

    Note: The BSE, however, understands that a school district may be required to abide by other state and/or local rules and regulations regarding contracting with individuals that have contact with students and might include these requirements in contracts that it uses when contracting with independent evaluators. In some cases these contractual requirements could restrict a parent’s right to an IEE at public expense if such requirements effectively preclude the ability of parents to obtain an IEE from an otherwise qualified evaluator. 

    Therefore, a school district should consider the following alternatives:

    1. Provide the parent with a list of independent evaluators who comply with state and/or local rules regarding such contracts;
    2. Request that the evaluation be conducted at the evaluator’s office instead of on school grounds. This would allow the school district to avoid any rules or regulations that apply to independent contractors being on school grounds;
    3. Work with its local town offices to resolve the contracting issue, such as obtaining a waiver, if available; or
    4. Request that a parent pay for the IEE and then reimburse the parent. This would allow the school district to avoid contracting directly with the independent evaluator and thus avoid any rules or regulations that apply to contracting with independent contractors. 
    The IDEA and its implementing regulations do not address whether funding should be paid as a reimbursement to the Parent or as an advance payment directly to the evaluator. It is the BSE’s position that it would be inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE if the denial of advance funding for the IEE would effectively deny the parent the right to an IEE.  
  • 27. What are examples of IEE criteria that are not permissible?
    Answer:

    OSEP has provided guidance that the following IEE criteria are inconsistent with a parent’s right to an IEE:

    • Criteria prohibiting evaluators from being affiliated with private schools and advocacy organizations (including those advocating particular instructional approaches);
    • Criteria prohibiting evaluators who have a history of testifying for parents;
    • Criteria requiring evaluators to have recent and extensive experience in public schools; an
    • Criteria prohibiting evaluators from including age and grade level scores in evaluation reports.

    Letter to Petska 35 IDELR 191 (OSEP 2001)

    Letter to LoDolce 50 IDELR 106 (OSEP 2007)  

  • 28. Can the school district limit the length of an in school observation conducted by an independent evaluator as part of an IEE at public expense?
    Answer:

    It depends. OSEP has provided guidance that if a school district has a policy limiting the length of observations conducted by independent evaluators, this policy would also have to apply to district personnel and independent evaluators hired by the school district in order to be consistent with the IDEA.

    Letter to Mamas 42 IDELR 10 (OSEP 2004)

    Letter to Savit 64 IDELR 250 (OSEP 2014)

  • 29. Once the IEE report is completed, who receives the report?
    Answer: The parent and the school district should receive a copy of the report at the same time. A PPT must be scheduled to review and consider the IEE report.  
     
    Note: The school district may condition its payment to the evaluator or its reimbursement to the parent upon receipt of the IEE report.

    IEE Process Flow Chart
     
  • 30. Can a parent request another IEE at public expense if he or she is not in agreement with the IEE recommendations and/or findings?
    Answer: No.  A parent has the right to one IEE at public expense for each evaluation that the school district obtains with which he or she has a disagreement.

    34 CFR § 300.502(b)(5)
     
  • 31. Is the independent evaluator required to present the IEE at public expense at a PPT meeting?
    Answer: No.  The independent evaluator is not required to present the IEE at public expense at a PPT meeting. An independent evaluator may be invited to a PPT meeting, although it is not required, as long as the school district is able to include a participant who can interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation results.

    34 CFR § 300.502(c)(1)
     
  • 32. Is the PPT required to implement the recommendations in an IEE at public expense?
    Answer: No. The PPT must review and consider the results of the IEE at public expense.

    34 CFR § 300.502(c)(1)
     
  • 33. Who can I contact for assistance with my questions about IEEs at public expense?
    Answer: You may contact the BSE: 860-713-6910. Parents may also contact the CPAC: 1-860-739-3089 or cpac@cpacinc.org.