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District, Independent & Private Evaluations: What's the difference?

By Hillary D. Freeman, Esq.

Once a student has been deemed eligible for Special Education and Related Services under the IDEA, school districts are required to evaluate your child at a minimum of every three years free of charge to the parents. The district may evaluate your child more often than that upon request or if deemed necessary, but they are required to do so at least every three years.

Evaluations are helpful to determine whether your child continues to be eligible for special education and also to assess your child's progress in his or her program. In order to determine what evaluations should be administered to your child, the district shall convene an "Evaluation Planning" meeting with the parents to review the student's profile. Depending on the student's individualized needs, the team will then decide how to properly measure the student's deficits. Some examples of evaluations include but are not limited to the following:

  • Psychological Evaluation
  • Educational/Learning Evaluation
  • Social History
  • Neuropsychological Evaluation
  • Auditory Processing Evaluation
  • Neurological Evaluation
  • Psychiatric Evaluation
  • Occupational or Physical Therapy Evaluation
  • Speech/Language Evaluation
  • Evaluation for an Augmentative Communication Device

If the district personnel administer the evaluation themselves or hire a specialist of their choosing to do so, this is called a "district" evaluation. The district has 60 days from the date parental consent is provided to complete the evaluations.

If the parents disagree with the results of the district's evaluation, they may request an evaluation to be administered by someone (of their choosing) who does not work for the district free of charge. This is called an "independent" evaluation. The parents may send a written request to the child study team for an independent evaluation, to which the district must respond within 10 days. If the district rejects this request, they must file a Petition for Mediation and Due Process to justify their position.

Lastly, the parents have the right to (or have their insurance company) pay a specialist to administer an evaluation of their child. This is called a "private" evaluation. It is important to note that if the parents choose to pay for a private evaluation, the district must permit the specialist to observe the student in their educational program if it is part of the evaluation. While not required, it is often recommended that the parents share the results of the private evaluation with the district so that the district can consider the report and recommendations in developing your child's IEP.

Freeman Law Offices, LLC is available to assist you in this process. Please call (609) 454-5609 or send us an email using the "Contact Us" form on our website.

Freeman Law Offices, LLC - New Jersey & Pennsylvania Special Needs Attorney
Freeman Law Offices, LLC - New Jersey Special Needs Attorney
Located at 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 101 Princeton, NJ 08540. View Map
Phone: (609) 454-6661 | Local Phone: (609) 454-5609.
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