STEP 2: Understanding the
Special Education Evaluation

The special education evaluation or assessment provides the IEP team information that will be used to determine if your child has one of the 13 types of eligible disabilities defined by IDEA and therefore qualifies them for special education services.

If your child’s primary language is not English, the evaluation may be administered in their native language or through a bilingual specialist or interpreter.

The assessment will measure areas of cognition, academics and language skills along with social, emotional, developmental and medical findings.

A special education evaluation should always include student records, observations, work samples, state and district tests, psychometric tests and interviews. 

IDEA states that a variety of tools, tests and strategies must be used when conducting the special education evaluation.

After the assessment is complete, an eligibility IEP meeting is held. Here, the team discusses the results of the evaluation and determines if your child has met the criteria for special education.


It is up to the IEP team to determine eligibility. The law is specifically written so that each IEP has the ability to qualify a student based on their individual needs. The IEP team must be in agreement regarding eligibility.


1. The IEP team finds that your child qualifies for special education services and YOU AGREE:

In this situation, your school will schedule an IEP meeting. and the program will be written. Special education services cannot begin until the IEP is written and agreed upon. The school district has 30 days after the eligibility meeting to meet and develop the initial program.

2. The IEP team finds that your child does not qualify for special education services and YOU AGREE.

In this situation, your child should be referred to other resources that may assist your them including the student study team, the 504 process, to a school counselor or to other programs and/or services that can assist you in improving your child's performance. These programs are all provided within the general education system.

3. You DISAGREE with the recommendation of the IEP team.

In this situation, the next step is for you to proceed to one of the following resolution steps:

  • Request an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) at the district’s expense.
  • Request further consideration at the district level by meeting with a program specialist or special education administrator.
  • Request that additional testing be performed.
  • Request mediation and exercise your due process rights.

REMEMBER, you can bring anyone you like or feel you need to an IEP meeting.

STEP 3 of the IEP process is determining ELIGIBILITY.

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