Special Education Assessments
How long will it take the school district to complete my child's special education assessment?
In California, the special education assessment process includes three steps and typically takes 90 calendar days or less. The process is “typically” 90 days or less because there is an exception: when a school district is out of session for 5 consecutive school days or longer, such as winter break, the timeline is “tolled” (or simply put, the process is temporarily paused) and the assessment process may take longer than 90 days.
The first step is the assessment plan. The school district must provide a proposed assessment plan to parents within 15 days upon receipt of written referral for special education services. School districts are not required to take the full 15 days to provide the assessment plan, but they can take up to 15 days should they choose to do so. Additionally, if a referral for assessment is made 10 days or less prior to the end of the regular year, the school district must provide parents with an assessment plan within 10 days after school commences the following school year.
The assessment plan is typically a standardized form that details the areas of suspected disability in which the school district is proposing to access and type of professional who will conduct the assessment. For example, an assessment plan will note that a school psychologist will conduct a proposed psychoeducational assessment. Common assessment areas include:
- Intellectual development
- Speech and language development
- Motor development
- Adaptive physical education
- Assistive technology
The second step is parental review of the school district's proposed assessment plan. Parents have 15 days to review, consider, negotiate the proposed assessment plan. During this time, parents should review the assessment plan to ensure that all areas of concern will be assessed. For example, parents who are concerned about their child's speech and language development, they will likely want to make sure the school district has proposed conducting a speech and language assessment by a speech and language pathologist. School districts cannot assess until they receive parental consent to the assessments, so it is important to consent to the assessment plan as quickly as possible.
Lastly, once parents have consented to the assessment plan and returned it to the school district, the school district has 60 days to complete the assessment(s) and hold an IEP meeting—unless, of course, the timeline is tolled due to school being out of session for 5 days or more.
Prior to the IEP meeting, the school district will send written notification to parents. This is generally referred to as a “notice of meeting.” The notice of meeting will propose a date for the IEP meeting and detail who will attend the meeting for the school district. If parents want to bring someone with them, they should add the person's name to the notice of meeting and return it to the school district.
During the IEP meeting, the school district's staff will present and discuss the assessment(s). Generally, school district's do not provide the assessments before the IEP meeting. But it's usually a good idea to ask the school district staff if they can provide the assessment(s) reports a few days before the meeting so there's time to read and understand the report. These reports are typically dense and filled with unfamiliar terms so having ample time to decipher the reports before the meeting is ideal.
It is not uncommon for the IEP process to take more than one meeting. So, don't be surprised if it takes two or three meetings to complete the IEP process and get an official offer from the school district.
Experience in Special Education Assessment Cases
If you have questions about special education assessments, call a skilled special education attorney in San Diego, who has experience in these types of cases and who will give the personal and zealous representation you deserve.