Referrals and Evaluations
The Referral and Evaluation Process
You have the right to request an educational evaluation if you have concerns about or suspect delays in your child’s development. This evaluation will be done at no direct cost to your family. It is provided through our District.
- What is the purpose of an educational evaluation?
- How is a special education referral requested?
- What happens when a special education referral is made?
- Who performs the evaluation? Are parents involved?
- What happens in an evaluation?
- Where does the evaluation take place?
- How are the results of the evaluation shared with parents?
- What does the evaluation mean?
The purpose of an evaluation is to determine if your child has delays in any areas of development, which would make him or her eligible for special education services based on state criteria. Minnesota law requires that your child show a certain amount of delay in order to qualify for special education services through the school district. Under the age of three, your child may also qualify for services if they have been diagnosed with a physical or mental condition or disorder that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay regardless of whether they have a demonstrated need or delay. If your child qualifies for service, he or she will receive special education services at no direct cost to your family.
If your child is under age three, the evaluation will begin with an ECSE team member. Visiting with you and your child, they will screen all areas of development and will gather developmental and health history. If the primary concerns are in communication, the screening may also include a Speech/Language Pathologist. This team will determine if our District should complete a formal evaluation. If this team decides to go ahead with an evaluation, an Evaluation Plan is written and the school district becomes responsible. Please see the Parental Safeguards for Infant and Toddlers Part C. Every effort is made to meet Federal law, mandating completion of evaluation and meeting with your family within 45 days of referral.
If your child is age three or older and has already participated in Early Childhood Screening through the Minnetonka Public Schools, the referral is made to the ECSE office. An ECSE staff member is assigned to be the evaluation case manager and primary contact for your family. This person contacts your family about developing an Evaluation Plan. The plan is developed with you either at a meeting with representatives of the evaluation team or, if you prefer, over the telephone with the case manager. Please see the Parental Safeguards for Children 3-18 Part B. Once written permission is received from you, or another parent or guardian, the evaluation must be completed within 30 school days.
In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of your child, Minnesota requires that all areas of your child’s development be addressed. A team of ECSE professionals typically completes an initial evaluation. Your child will be seen more than once and, when appropriate, in their natural home or early childhood setting.
An evaluation team may consist of an ECSE teacher, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, school nurse, ECSE family resource facilitator and/or other specialists as appropriate. Health, vision/hearing and developmental information will be obtained by WSEI for children under three and by a member of ECSE team for children three and older. All of these people are trained to work with very young children and their families.
Parents are encouraged to observe during an evaluation if you wish. Parent interviews and checklists are also a critical part of the evaluation. Childcare providers, preschool teachers, and other significant adults in your child's life may be included. The evaluation team will ask you about your child and his/her likes/dislikes and routine. In addition, you will be asked about your concerns, questions, and anything else you would like to share about your child. Parents’ information is very important in the evaluation process and will be included in the evaluation report. You know your child best!
The evaluation team will play and interact with your child. This is the “informal” or observational part of the evaluation. The team gets a lot of information about children by watching them in their natural setting. Under the age of three, this is most often in the home or child care setting; over the age of three this could be at home, childcare or in a preschool setting.
Formal testing using standardized tests is often used to gather information about a child’s present level of development as compared to children of a similar age. Your child will be asked to play or interact with materials in a certain way. Some of the tasks are easy and others are more difficult. Because of the nature of standardized tests, your child is not expected to do or understand every item that is presented. Team members may need more than one session to complete their portion of the evaluation and sometimes two team members will work together.
Results of the evaluation are compiled by the evaluation team and shared at a parent conference. The team will ask for any updates or new information from you, and then share the results of the evaluation. You will be encouraged to ask questions and let the team know whether the results are similar to what you see on a day-to-day basis. The team may present percentages and other numbers pertaining to your child's level of development. These numbers are required for eligibility and provide the baseline for staff to help your child.
The evaluation will tell whether or not your child meets one or more of Minnesota’s eligibility criteria for Special Education services. At the evaluation conference, the team will help you determine whether your child meets these criteria and demonstrates a need for these services. If your child is eligible, options for service delivery will also be discussed. When a decision is reached to provide special education services an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan), an IEP (Individual Education Plan), or an IIIP (Individual Interagency Intervention Plan) is written. All documents are kept in the Minnetonka ECSE Office Special Education files and may be accessed only by you, or Licensed Special Education staff. You have the right to participate in the discussion about the type of services that would best meet your child’s needs or to decline services.
If your child has not shown delays in development, the delays are minimal and your child does not qualify in other ways, the team offers suggestions and recommendations for ways you can continue to enhance your child’s development. These may include resources in the community such as Early Childhood Family Education, preschools, recreation activities, etc. You are encouraged to contact the ECSE staff if concerns arise in the future.
An educational evaluation with children in the birth to kindergarten age range provides a “snapshot” of a child’s development at the present time only; it is not a predictor of the future. Special education services can be provided as long as a child qualifies for them. For some children, services may be short term (one year or less), while others will need some support throughout their preschool and school age years.