An independent educational evaluation is an option for parents who disagree with the results of a psychoeducational evaluation conducted by school personnel, usually a school psychologist. The parents may believe their child was misdiagnosed or the evaluation did not cover all areas of suspected disability. The process is initiated when the parents request an IEE in writing. The IEE is performed by a qualified evaluator who is not employed by the school system. David Breiger, PhD, Kristen Bishop, PhD and G. Andrew H. Benjamin, JD, PhD, ABPP state in their book Educational Evaluations of Children With Special Needs: Clinical and Forensic Considerations that most reports include the following twelve sections: 1. Identifying Information, 2. Confidentiality Statement, 3. Referral Information, 4. Background/History, 5. Assessment Tools/Procedures, 6. Behavioral Observations, 7. Significant Findings, 8. Impressions, 9. Recommendations, 10. Statement Regarding Feedback, 11. Signature, and 12. Score Summary.
IEEs may be paid for by the school district or privately by the parents. If the school district determines an IEE is needed, or should be conducted for any reason, in most situations the school district pays for the evaluation. If, however, the school district believes the evaluation was appropriate, a due process hearing is conducted, and the burden of proof is on the school district to show the evaluation was sufficient. The results of an IEE obtained at public expense must be provided to the school district. If a parent-initiated IEE is shared with the school district, the school must consider the results even though it may not accept the findings or recommendations. Educational decisions for students must be made in accordance with the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The purpose of an IEE is to provide additional information/evidence to support a different diagnosis or to pursue different types of accommodations and/or interventions. An IEE is not limited to evaluating only a child’s academic or cognitive skills but may include the evaluation of any skill related to the child’s educational needs. Evaluations of neurological functioning, adapted physical education, sensory needs, behavior, aquatics, even music therapy, are a few examples of the types of IEEs covered under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parents may obtain an IEE for virtually any purpose if it impacts the child’s education.
In amending the IDEA in 2004, Congress noted the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective, in part, by strengthening the role of parents in the educational decision-making process. IEEs are one way parents can act as equal participants in educational decision-making for their child.
In summary, an independent educational evaluation, paid for at public expense or privately, is a way for families to dispute a school district’s psychoeducational evaluation results, gather additional information, and be more active participants in the educational decision-making for their child. It is always in the child’s best interest for the parents and school personnel to work together.
Breiger, D., Bishop, K. & Benjamin, G. (2014). Educational Evaluations of Children With Special Needs: Clinical and Forensic Considerations. American Psychological Association.
Polices Governing Services for Children with Disabilities; amended March 2021. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), State Board of Education, Exceptional Children Division.
Steedman, W. (2016). Independent Educational Evaluations: What? Why? How? Who Pays?