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Frank Yee Feb. 23, 2016

Independent Education Evaluations (“IEE”)

So, you’ve learned that your child has a learning disability, for example, dyslexia. You go out and read Sally Shaywitz’s book, Overcoming Dyslexia, and you see the following reading tests should be utilized to assess children suspected of having dyslexia:

  • The Woodcock-Johnson III

  • The Woodcock Reading Mastery Test, Revised/Normative Update

You also see Dr. Shaywitz recommends the following tests to evaluate phonologic skills and reading readiness (with applicable ages/grades):

  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing in Reading (CTOPP) (PRO-ED, Inc.), age five through adult

  • Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization Test (LAC) (PRO-ED, Inc.), kindergarten through sixth grade

  • Rosner Test of Auditory Analysis (Walker & Company), kindergarten through sixth grade

  • Test of Phonological Awareness (TOPA-2) (PRO-ED, Inc.), kindergarten through third grade

  • The Phonological Awareness Test (PAT2) (LinguiSystems), age five through nine

  • Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation (available from “A test for assessing phonemic awareness in young children”, by H. K. Yopp, in The Reading Teacher 49 [1995]: 20–29), kindergarten through first grade

Then, having learned that you have a right to review the evaluation results for your child at least two days before the next scheduled meeting, you email your school district to obtain the results. Unfortunately, when you receive them, you find that none of the above tests were administered. You decide to contact someone such as Robert L. Kemper, Ph.D. of Psycholinguistics Associates, Inc. or the Nancy Duggan and the folks at Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts and discover the evaluations done by your school district were inadequate. So what do you do?

First, be sure not to write on the evaluations. For that matter, as a general rule, never write on any original documents provided to you by your school. If you have a way to scan them (I strongly recommend you buy a scanner!!!), scan them onto your home computer, save them in a folder for that academic year (e.g., the “2015-2016 IEP” folder) and be sure to name the file something you will easily recognize (e.g., “05202015 School Evaluations”). If you do not have a scanner, always photocopy the originals and place them and the photocopies in a plastic “sleeve” or “sheet protector” and then insert them in your three-ring-binder for that academic year. Organization is extremely important!!!

Second, determine who you want to do the evaluation. In that regard, begin by reading this article by Dr. Jadis Blurton, Founder and Clinical Director of Therapy Associates, Hong Kong. Next, contact your child’s primary care physician and seek a referral. There are many fine hospitals such as Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital and doctors in private practice to choose from in Massachusetts. However, please note that many doctors do not like to testify in court or at hearings before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (the “BSEA” is an administrative body in Massachusetts that, among other functions, hears disputes between families and school districts over special education services). So, I encourage you to ask in advance before­ you arrange a consultation. Additionally, once you have the doctor’s name, review the BSEA’s decisions and rulings and query the doctor’s name. Doing so will not only show you whether a doctor has testified, it will also show you how his/her testimony has been received in the past by hearing officers.

Finally, read 34 CFR 300.502, 603 CMR 28.04(5) and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71B, Section 3 (or at least the section that relates to independent evaluations).

Key Highlights about the Law

  • Federal and state law provide parents with a procedure for obtaining public funding of an independent evaluation if they disagree with the school district’s evaluation.

  • If a parent requests an independent evaluation at public expense, the school district must either pay for it or, within five days, request a determination from the BSEA that the school district’s evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate.

  • Under MA law, if a student is eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch, or is a state ward, or the family’s income is equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, the school district must pay the entire cost of the independent evaluation. The right to this publicly funded independent evaluation applies for up to 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees.

  • If a parent requests an independent evaluation, the school district may ask for the parent’s reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation. However, the school district agency may not require a parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay either providing the independent evaluation at public expense or filing a due process complaint to request a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation.

  • A parent may always obtain an independent evaluation at their own expense.

  • Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent evaluation, the Team must reconvene and consider the independent evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.