What is the timeline for an evaluation in Arizona?
The federal regulations are clear that an evaluation must be completed within 60 days of the date the school received informed written consent from the parent or within the timeframe established by the State. [34 C.F.R. § 300.301(c)(1)] Arizona State Board of Education rules clarify that if the evaluation or reevaluation is initiated by the school, it must be conducted within 60 days from the date the school received informed written parental consent. [A.A.C. R7-2-401(E)(3)] If a parent requests an evaluation, the school must, "within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed 15 school days from the date it receives a parent's written request for an evaluation, either begin the evaluation by reviewing existing data, or provide prior written notice refusing to conduct the requested evaluation. The 60-day evaluation period shall commence upon the [school's] receipt of the parent's informed written consent" [Id. at (E)(4)] "and shall conclude with the date of the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) determination of eligibility." [Id. at (E)(3)]
Is a reevaluation required every three years?
Because a student’s educational needs can change over time, the regulations that implement the IDEA require that a student be reevaluated every three years unless the parent and the school agree that such a reevaluation is unnecessary. [34 C.F.R. § 300.303(b)(2)] A reevaluation can occur more frequently, but not more than once a year, unless the parent and the school agree otherwise. [34 C.F.R. § 300.303(b)(1)] This does not mean that a school is required to conduct additional assessments if the IEP team, in conducting its review of existing data, determines that no additional data are needed to determine whether the child continues to have a qualifying disability and continues to need special education and related services; the educational needs of the child; or whether the child has an additional category of disability. Said another way, additional assessments every three years are not necessarily required, but a reevaluation every three years is required. [See 34 C.F.R. § 300.305]
Can an evaluation or reevaluation be delayed due to summer vacation?
No. The 60-day timeframe for an evaluation or reevaluation refers to 60 calendar days and would include school breaks. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D-Evaluation, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placement, Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46659 (August 2006)] “The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) recognizes that conducting evaluation activities during extended breaks, such as the typical school’s summer vacation, can be challenging for school districts, particularly if fewer staff members are available. Nevertheless, the IDEA contemplates that the initial evaluation of a child suspected of having a disability not be unreasonably delayed so that eligible children with disabilities are not denied a FAPE.” [Letter to Reyes, 112 LRP 23105 (OSEP, April 2012)] “The 60-day evaluation period may be extended for an additional 30 days, provided it is in the best interest of the child [not the convenience of the school], and the parent and [school] agree in writing to such an extension. [Nonetheless,] neither the 60-day evaluation period nor any extension shall cause a re-evaluation to exceed the timelines for a re-evaluation within three years of the previous evaluation.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(E)(5)]
If a parent requests in writing for the IEP team to reconvene to review his/her child’s IEP, what is the required timeframe?
According to Arizona State Board of Education rules, a parent or school "may request in writing a review of the IEP and shall identify the basis for requesting [the] review. Such review shall take place within 45 school days of the receipt of the request at a mutually agreed upon date and time. [A.A.C. R7-2-401(G)(7)]
Does a school have a grace period to implement an IEP for a student eligible to receive special education who transfers to that school?
The regulations that implement the IDEA state that if a child with a disability transfers to a new school within the same State during the same school year, the new school (in consultation with the parents) must provide the child a FAPE, which includes services comparable to those described in the child’s IEP from the previous school, until the new school either (1) adopts the child’s IEP from the previous school; or (2) develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP. [34 C.F.R §300.323(e)(1)(2)] There is no mention in the IDEA regulations about establishing an interim IEP, and there is no grace period during which the new school can delay providing services comparable to those required by the student’s transfer IEP. (The same regulation at subsection (f)(1)(2) addresses students who transfer from another state, and the requirement to provide comparable services is the same.)
Although there is no specific IDEA regulation that defines comparable services, the United States Department of Education has opined that, “[w]e do not believe it is necessary to define ‘comparable services’ because the Department [of Education] interprets ‘comparable’ to have the plain meaning of the word, which is ‘similar’ or ‘equivalent.’” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility Determinations, IEP, Educational Placement. Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46681 (August 2006)]
How long does a school have to develop an IEP after a student’s multidisciplinary evaluation team (MET) determines that the student is eligible to receive special education instruction and services?
The regulations that implement the IDEA require a school to convene a student’s IEP team to develop an IEP within 30 calendar days of the date when eligibility was determined. [34 C.F.R. § 300.323(c)(1)] This requirement is “longstanding,” and “experience has demonstrated that the 30-day timeline for conducting a meeting to develop an IEP is a reasonable time to provide both [schools] and parents the opportunity to ensure that required participants can be present at the IEP Team meeting.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility Determinations, IEP, Educational Placement. Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46680 (August 2006)] (Please note that this 30-day timeline applies only to the development of the first IEP after eligibility is determined; schools do not have 30 days past the annual review date of successive IEPs to develop and implement subsequent IEPs or transfer IEPs.)