Many parents with struggling students assume it will be simple to ask their child’s school to evaluate him or her for IEP eligibility. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan for children with disabilities and learning differences that prevent them or their peers from accessing the curriculum. Parents are often confused and bewildered when schools kick the can down the road, so to speak, and proper evaluation and support for struggling students never seems to materialize. Find below some reasons that schools may attempt to avoid IEP eligibility testing, even when a parent feels strongly that evaluation is warranted.
Money – School systems have budgets just like other businesses do. While federal dollars help pay for special education, if a school system’s special education budget exceeds the federal allowance, then local school systems pay the difference. Schools may hesitate and convince parents to take a “wait and see” approach, not for the benefit of the student but for the benefit of the county budget.
School “report cards” – Public schools receive a “report card” from their state at the end of each year. School admins will work hard to keep certain benchmarks and statistics in a category that is better than the state average. For instance, school admins want their standardized test scores to exceed the state average and their percentage of students receiving special education to be below the state average. Understanding your school’s report card can help you interpret IEP avoidance behavior within your child’s school.
Staffing shortages – While federal regulations state that school personnel are responsible for finding and evaluating students with special needs, staffing shortages can lead to delays in correspondence and willingness to evaluate struggling students.
Difficult administration – This one is harder to accept, but some admins are just not special needs friendly. I’ve seen it first-hand, and it’s not easy for parents in that situation to have a pleasant relationship with those who want to alienate special needs families and ignore federal mandates.
Educational impact – Parents must understand that sometimes a student’s particular struggles or diagnosis may not have educational impact. If school personnel truly do not see a student’s issues affecting schoolwork or behavior, the school can refuse to perform an IEP evaluation.
I believe my child needs an IEP evaluation, but the school is stalling. What do I do?
Make your case!
- Every time you have a conversation and/or meeting with a teacher, counselor, or administrator about your child’s education, immediately follow up with an email summarizing the interaction. This will create a backlog of data to help you prove that IEP evaluation is warranted.
- Document struggles and any poor grades or other difficulties in a timeline. Keep notes with dates and work samples to help you make your case. Ask to see your child’s benchmark scores throughout the year to see if they are below grade level.
- Once you have some data that supports your assertion that your child is a struggling student and may qualify for an IEP, send an email to your child’s teacher and the assistant principal asking for IEP evaluation. Use this template to help you document struggles and avoid any delay tactics from the school.
- Focus on the goal, not the “noise” from the school. Treat this situation like you are in a business setting. You are in the business of helping your child access a free and appropriate education. Let everything you do and say be about that goal, and as much as possible, avoid emotional emails and statements.
With a little prep work and planning, your child can get the IEP evaluation he or she needs to be successful. Need more help? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.