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Any parent who has a child in school will be keen for them to do well.

A school evaluation can be arranged for those concerned about their child’s educational progress. This evaluation is normally made up of specific tests which aim to pinpoint a student’s areas of strength and weakness. It can also be used to pick up on any learning difficulties or disabilities which could be holding a child back.

By doing this, the school can work with the child/parents to implement learning interventions and help them achieve more. It can also highlight what might be holding a pupil back in school and whether they are eligible for special education services.

But what happens if you disagree with your child’s school evaluation? In this case, an independent educational evaluation might be the answer. But what are they exactly?

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IEEs at a glance

Also known as an IEE, parents can request these independent evaluations if they disagree with the outcome of their child’s school evaluation. Other reasons for requesting an IEE could include the following:

  • Concerns over how the evaluation was carried out
  • Worries that the school evaluation was not thorough enough
  • No evidence of a disability was found, and you think this incorrect
  • The diagnosis of a disability is not correct, in your opinion
  • The ability to ask for an independent evaluation of your child’s needs is essential, as it gives you somewhere to turn if you have concerns over their school evaluation

The simple facts are that parents have a right to request an IEE under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). In addition, parents can request that this independent evaluation be paid for by the school and out of public money. This differs from a private evaluation that families have to pay for themselves.

How do independent educational evaluations work?

Although the school might sometimes pay for an IEE at public expense, it broadly covers the same thing as a private IEE. It’s still an evaluation carried out by trained professionals, for example.

There are, however, some key ways in which an IEE at public expense differs – and it’s not just about who pays for it! The evaluator, for example, is chosen from a list of approved professionals who don’t work for the district the school is in.

But what else is there to know about these kinds of tests? One proviso is that IEEs must meet the same standards as the initial school evaluation. This means that the location of the tests and the qualifications of the evaluator have to compare well with the school ones.

If you’re unsure what these details are, your child’s school should be able to tell you. Besides conditions around location and evaluator credentials, schools are not allowed to make other stipulations around IEEs.

What else should you know about an IEE?

Before you request this kind of independent evaluation from the school, it is crucial to find out all you can about it. One thing to note is that families only have a right to one IEE request per school evaluation conducted.

It is also sensible to consider the benefits of asking for an independent educational evaluation from the school. As per the reasons shown earlier for requesting one, there are some essential advantages it can bring.

An independent evaluation, for example, could highlight a disability the school tests missed and ensure your child gets the help they need moving ahead. Or it could find that the disability highlighted in the school evaluation was wrong and avoid them getting help for something that is not an issue.

How might schools respond to your request?

Many parents worry about asking for an independent evaluation of their child’s needs after a school has done its testing. They often stress that the school will be unhappy about their findings being questioned or worry about their child getting a black mark by their name moving forward.

This is not something to lose any sleep over, though. Any good school will be more than happy to arrange an IEE if parents feel one is necessary, as it will ensure their pupils get the proper support. But what might happen when you submit your request?

The school may often agree to your request and pay for the independent educational evaluation. Some schools, however, may insist their evaluation is correct and push back. It’s key to note that the school can’t refuse your request. If they feel one is not needed, they have to schedule a due process hearing to outline why their findings are correct.

How do due process hearings work?

In this hearing, it’s up to the school to show why their findings are correct and why their evaluation was suitable for your child. If they don’t do this successfully, they will be ordered to pay for an IEE. Before making any decision, the school may ask why you’re not happy with their findings.

If you’re not comfortable doing this, there is no legal requirement. If you choose to back up why you want an independent evaluation publicly, it’s wise to be fully prepared beforehand. This usually involves speaking with your attorney before the hearing and preparing any relevant facts/figures. If the school is ordered to provide an IEE, the IDEA act states that schools can’t delay the payment or scheduling of it unduly.

How might schools make use of results from IEEs?

Schools must carefully consider the outcome of any IEE to ensure it gives free appropriate public education to the child. Although the school might not agree with the outcome of an independent educational evaluation, its results must go on your child’s school record.

The independent evaluation findings can also be helpful as evidence in subsequent hearings for due process. If the IEE results align with the initial school evaluation and you request another hearing when possible, this is worth knowing.

Independent educational evaluations can be useful

If you disagree with the outcome of your child’s school evaluation, feel it was not thorough enough, or worry that it didn’t pick up on a disability, requesting an IEE is an excellent option to consider. All parents have the right to ask for one, and the school will fund it at public expense in many cases. If you need to know more about these types of evaluations, the above information should help.