Special Education - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) : E. Understanding Special Education Evaluations

Why does my child need an evaluation?

Your child cannot get special education until he has been tested. Ohio calls the special education evaluation a multi-factored evaluation, or MFE. Many people help do the evaluation. The school psychologist is usually in charge.

Evaluations have many different parts. Someone will look at your child’s school records. This includes grade and discipline reports. Someone might talk to you and your child’s teachers. Your child will take tests that show what she can and cannot do.

All this information is put together into a report. The report is important. It is used to decide if your child will get special education. The report is often long and hard to read. Get a copy of the report as soon as possible.

The purpose of the evaluation is to decide whether your child needs special education. Look for statements in the report that your child needs extra help at school to learn. Look for statements about the kind of help that your child needs. If you cannot find this information in the report, ask the school psychologist.

The school will plan a meeting to talk about the evaluation report. If you have questions about the report, ask them at the meeting. Do not be afraid to ask questions. It is your job to know what your child can and cannot do. If you do not understand the evaluation, you have not done your job.

Sections of the Evaluation Report

The most common IQ test is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children -III, or WISC-III. There are two kinds of scores on the IQ test: IQ scores and subtest scores.

  • IQ - Two scores usually make up the IQ score. One is a verbal IQ. It shows how well your child can learn information in a classroom. The other is a performance IQ. It shows how well your child solves problems and thinks abstractly. These two scores make up the full scale IQ.

A full scale IQ that is between 90 and 110 is average. When there are more than 20 points between the verbal and performance IQ, the subtest scores are more important than the full scale IQ.

  • Subtest - The WISC-III usually has 10 subtests. The average score on these tests is 10. A score of 13 or above shows an area of strength. A score of 7 or below shows an area of weakness.

You need to know how these strengths and weaknesses affect your child at school and what the teacher can do to help your child learn. Look for this information in the report. If you cannot find it, ask the school psychologist at the meeting.

If your child’s IQ is under 70, your child will almost always be eligible for special education.

What are achievement tests?

The most common achievement tests are the Woodcock Johnson (WJ), the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). The achievement test has scores for different subjects like reading, writing, and math. Look for the standard score (SS), age equivalent (AE), and grade equivalent (GE) for each subject.

  • SS - The WIAT and WJ have an average standard score of 100. The WRAT has an average standard score of 10. Compare each subject’s standard score to your child’s full scale IQ score. This is harder with the WRAT because the average score is 10 instead of 100. Ask the school psychologist to explain any scores that you do not understand.

If the standard score is 20 or more points below your child’s full scale IQ score, your child struggles with that subject. It may be a sign that your child needs special education. Your child might at least need extra help in that subject.

  • GE AE - Evaluations do not always have age and grade equivalents. Most children do not learn at their exact age or grade level. If your child’s AE or GE score is substantially different from your child’s actual age or grade, your child likely struggles in that subject. This might also be a sign that your child needs special education. Your child might at least need help in that subject.

What other tests are available to help determine if my child has a disability?

Always test your child’s hearing and vision. Tell the school if your child has a hearing aid or wears glasses. The evaluation must test for all problems that affect your child at school. Tell the school what problems you see your child having. Include trouble speaking to or understanding others. Include trouble making friends. Include behavior problems and possible mental health problems.

Who makes the decision of eligibility?

Remember that the reason for the evaluation is to decide whether your child will get special education. The school will plan a meeting to talk about the evaluation report.  At the end of the meeting, a team of people will decide whether your child needs special education. You are a member of that team. The school psychologist, your child’s teachers, and your child’s principal are usually members of the team too.

You do not have to agree with the team’s decision. If you do not, write down your reason. Make sure your reason is part of the evaluation report.

If you and the school agree that your child needs special education, your child will get an individualized education program, or IEP. If it is your child’s first evaluation, the school must get your permission before they can write an IEP. You give permission by signing the evaluation report. Do not sign the report if you do not agree with it.

If you do not agree with the school’s evaluation, you can ask them to pay for an independent evaluation. This is when someone who does not work for the school tests your child. You can also contact any one of the following organizations:


See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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