Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs)

Published on April 28, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

One of the most important safeguards which exists in the IDEA for parents of children with disabilities is the right to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).

While special education administrators hate it when I point it out, district personnel have a vested interest in the outcome of testing.

If the testing indicates that a child needs expensive services, a person who works for the school district may be uncomfortable making that recommendation.  Or, if an evaluation is being done to assess a child’s progress, and the person who is administering the testing happens also to be the service provider (this happens a lot with related services like Speech, Physical and Occupational Therapy) it isn’t too hard to see the inherent tension in a professional evaluating what is, in essence, their own performance.

So how does a parent obtain an IEE?  Well, if you disagree with the school district’s testing of your child, you have a right to ask them to pay for an evaluation by a professional not employed by the school system.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  It should be, but it’s not.  Disputes surrounding IEEs are extremely common.  In fact, I would say that about half of the parents who contact me because they are looking for a special education lawyer in Connecticut do so because they want an IEE, even if they don’t know that specific term.

Parents, if you become familiar with no other aspect of the IDEA, become familiar with IEEs!

In my experience, there is nothing more important in securing an appropriate special education program for a child than having proper evaluations.  Nothing.  It is essential that evaluations accurately reflect your child’s needs, because if they don’t, you and the special education team will be developing your child’s program based on faulty information.

Your child will eventually go to another classroom or school, but evaluations became part of their educational records and will follow them throughout their schooling.

You can ask for an IEE in virtually any area of assessment.  If your school does an Occupational Therapy evaluation with which you disagree, you can ask for an Independent OT evaluation.  Same goes for Speech and Language, psychological, Augmentative Communication, Assistive Technology, and psychiatric evaluations as well.  You can disagree with some of the school’s testing or all of it, you can ask for one IEE or several.

Just remember that your school district should have the opportunity to do the testing first.

Once you have requested the IEE, your school system has two choices:  1) agree to the IEE and pay for it; or 2) disagree, at which point they MUST initiate a Due Process Hearing defending their decision.  Those are their legal options; and yet, very few school districts seem to know it.

As a result, what usually happens when a district refuses an IEE is that they either fail to commence a Due Process Hearing as required by law within a reasonable period of time, or they never do it.  The result can be years of inappropriate programming as IEP after IEP is founded on inaccurate or incomplete information.

I wish I could say that all goes well when districts DO agree to fund the IEE, but I can’t.  Unfortunately, even then I am still seeing the IDEA routiniely violated, as districts tell parents that they will pay for the IEE, provided that the parents select  the school district’s chosen evaluator or from a list of their evaluators.

Having the school district select the evaluator who performs an IEE undermines the very purpose of having one.

The Parents get to select the individual or agency who completes the IEE, provided that the evaluator meets district criteria in terms of licensing, certification, and things of that ilk.  For an excellent legal analysis of the law surrounding IEEs, feel free to read one of my favorite cases of my own:  http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Hearing_Decisions/2005/05_293.pdf.  The language regarding IEEs begins at page 21, although the whole Decision is informative.

Do keep in mind, though, while you have the right to insist on who does the evaluation, it doesn’t mean you should.  It can be a good idea to mutually agree with your district about who will perform an outside evaluation.  The upside of this that your school is more likely to actually listen to the results of the testing if they had some input as to the evaluator.  The risk is that the school will suggest an individual who gets most of their referrals from school districts in general, or your district in particular.

Therefore, if you choose to compromise as to who does the outside evaluation, remember that “independent” does not necessarily mean “unbiased,” and you should check with as many parents and parent organizations in your area as possible about any evaluator before you agree to them.  Even then, document clearly that you have agreed to forego your right to an IEE in favor of a mutually agreeable evaluation, just in case the results are questionable.

6 Responses to Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs)

  1. sherri
    April 29th, 2009 | 10:57 am

    We have recently been through this, there is another gaping loophole in this policy.

    Once the child is tested with the school, from a professional point of view you can not have the child retested after sat about a year because the child had already performed the tests…and it would “skew” the results. Meaning, the child might remember the questions ect…

    So what is a parent to do?

    We have a 13yr old (now) who is heading for another school….unprepared. Due to all you have said above.

    We have someone we have used for 6yrs with the school…but now we are being refused.

    It is an endless cycle.

  2. Jennifer Laviano
    April 29th, 2009 | 11:31 am

    I appreciate this comment and it’s a good question. Yes, many assessments have a protocol that doesn’t allow them to be repeated more than once a year (sometimes longer) due to a potential “practice effect” for the student. However, most good outside evaluators can find other assessment tools to use to test the same area of concern. Just make sure you share with the IEE evaluator the tests done by the school so that the results of the IEE are valid.

  3. micki
    August 5th, 2009 | 3:55 pm

    This is the area of most abuse by districts where I am in NY. NYS has found a number of districts have broken the law, yet there is no accountability – the districts do not have any fines, punishment, etc for breaking the law.

  4. AD
    July 8th, 2011 | 12:45 pm

    Jennifer, very well said. Your blog is a very useful resource for parents. One variation that I think was not addressed above. How about when a district has failed to do any testing for 4,5, maybe 6 years. If a parents want to force the district’s hand to pay for a private eval because she disagrees with the district’s decision not to test, how much success have your clients had with that argument in your experience.

  5. Jennifer Laviano
    July 11th, 2011 | 4:34 pm

    Thank you, Adam. Check out OSEP’s Letter to Gray from October 1988, it covers a similar situation. To cover the situation where it is, in part, the failure to test or to test comprehensively, I typically will say that the parents disagree with the assessments that do exist, including a disagreement as to whether they are comprehensive or updated. Although, as you know, parents are not required to give a reason for their disagreemnt or IEE request, sometimes it helps to provide one anyway. Hope this helps!

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