An Independent Educational Evaluation is one of the most important rights families have in the IDEA. Plainly stated, an IEE is any evaluation of a skill related to the child's education by a qualified individual who is not employed by the school. It is often the only way some families have of being able to obtain an independent look at their child's functioning and current program by an outside evaluator at district expense. However, there are very specific rules and guidance around obtaining one. The state recently provided guidance for parents and schools on IEE policy.
Anytime a school does educational testing on a student (initial evaluations, triennial re-evaluations, or intermittent evaluations) the right to request an IEE at district expense is triggered. This should only be used if the parent of a child with a disability disagrees with the district's testing! When a parent requests an IEE, the district must without unnecessary delay either, agree and provide the parent with some names of evaluators (though parents are NOT under any obligation to use a district endorsed evaluator) or file for due process to prove that their evaluations were appropriate.
"It just doesn't sound like my child!"
Most often, this is what I hear from parents who have requested an IEE. Everyone who attends a PPT has a specific expertise and the parent is the expert on their own child.
Does the school have to accept what the IEE says about my child?
The short answer is NO. Regardless of who pays for an independent evaluator to assess your child, the district is only required to CONSIDER the evaluation and any recommendations made.
When a parent requests an IEE, the school must, without undue delay, either grant the request or file for due process.
If the district says YES, do I need to use their evaluator?
The simple answer is NO, you don't need to use an evaluator from the district's list. The important thing about this process is that the evaluator is independent of the school system. An ethical evaluator will never skew results or give false opinions because that is what you or the school want. However, some very important aspects of any IEE will be the questions that are asked of the evaluator, the specificity of the recommendations, and the evaluator's ability to defend their opinions. Most importantly, you need to be comfortable with whom ever you use!!
It's very scary to get a letter from the district reading:
"This matter has already been referred to
legal counsel to prepare the due process hearing request, and we are ready to file. However, if you notify me in writing
that you are withdrawing your request for an IEE, I will note that for the file and the due process hearing will not be
This decision is yours and you need to be comfortable with it.
See more about Due Process and Mediation below!
Every standardized evaluation a school district does is norm referenced and follows a Normal Distribution Curve or the Bell Curve. Like the image above, this means that the majority of people will fall within the average range while others will be above average or below average.
The different tests that schools chose can be very confusing. Often there are very valid and important reasons why one test is chosen over another. Understanding what the evaluations are testing for can really help you understand the results.
Does the school district's testing sound like your child? Do you think there is more going on than what they found or didn't find? In some cases, you can ask the district to fund an evaluation of your child with an evaluator of your choice.
A Due Process Hearing is a formal adjudicatory hearing before an impartial Hearing Officer which is guaranteed under federal and state special education law. There is a hearing officer (like a judge) and the rules of evidence apply. The district is always represented by an attorney and you can and should be represented as well.
Mediation is a dispute resolution alternative that Congress added to the IDEA in 2004. It is voluntary and both sides need to agree to attempt to resolve their issues in this way. Everything that is discussed in a mediation is confidential. If an agreement is reached, the confidential mediation agreement is a legally binding contract enforceable in court. If an agreement is not reached, nothing that was disclosed during mediation can be used against either party going forward.