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Special Education Evaluation Timelines


Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

The “Ottowa Citizen,” a Canadian newspaper, has previously reported that there may be a 4 year wait to receive a special education assessment in that region, and that teachers were specifically being told not to refer students for a special education evaluation. Luckily, in the United States we do not have to wait four, three, or even one year for a student to be evaluated for special education.  Assessment is mandated within specific timelines once a referral for special education is made.

Under the United States Code [20 USC section 1414(a)(1)(C]):
  “Initial evaluation shall consist of procedures-
(I)  to determine whether a child is a child with a disability … within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation, or, if the State establishes a timeframe within which the evaluation must be conducted, within such timeframe; and
(II) to determine the educational needs of such child.” (emphasis added)

The only exceptions to this rule listed are when the child transfers from one educational agency to another, or the parent “repeatedly fails or refuses to produce the child for the evaluation.”

In California, the timelines for special education evaluation are further defined in California Education Code section 56344 which requires an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting within 60 days of “receipt of the parents written consent for assessment.”  Vacation days in excess of 5 days, and/or days between regular school sessions/terms do not count in the 60 day calculation. If a referral for assessment is made less than 30 days prior to the end of a school year, the evaluation must be done and IEP meeting held within 30 days after the new school year starts.

Additionally, the assessment plan must be provided to a parent within 15 days of the date of a referral for special education.  Referral can be made by parent submission of a letter requesting evaluation.  If a referral for special education evaluation is made within 10 days of the conclusion of the school year, the plan must be provided within 10 days of the start of the next school year.  [see California Education Code section 56321].  Vacation days in excess of 5 days and/or between sessions similarly do not count in the timeline calculation for the assessment plan.  On receipt of an assessment plan, a parent has 15 days to return the plan to the district.

So, although there are many grumblings about services, special education, etc. in the states, at least we don’t have to wait 4 years, let alone 4 months to see students receive a special education evaluation.