IEP Assessments 101

Nov. 10, 2020Updated Oct. 7, 2022
A thorough assessment of your child is the key to creating a strong IEP that accurately reflects their goals, strengths, and areas of need. The more complex a child’s needs are, the greater the need for a high-quality assessment, and the more individualized the IEP.

How are students assessed for an IEP?

Reviewing an IEP assessment

How to look for areas of need

When you review an assessment, you should take note of any areas of relative weakness. Often, tests are broken down into subtest scores, which are averaged together for an overall score. Sometimes, a child will have a low score in one subtest, but will test in the average range in other subtests, so the low score can get lost in the overall average. Even if the overall score may be acceptable, you can request a goal specifically to work on the area(s) of weakness.

How to think about areas of strength

Although we tend to focus on areas of weakness, obtaining accurate areas of strength from assessments is possibly even more important. Areas of strength can show a child’s potential and help the parent argue for more ambitious goals.

Sometimes, districts will dismiss relative areas of strength as “splinter skills,” or abilities in a specific area that do not generalize into other areas. In this instance, even if the child cannot generalize their skill to other areas, they can still have an area of strength to help build self-confidence, make connections with others who also have that skill, and be recognized and celebrated for that skill.

Tips from Dr. Sarah Pelangka

Dr. Pelangka recommends that you use at least two different colored highlighters as you go through the assessments: use one color for strengths and one color for areas of need. Learn more here:

What to do when you disagree with the school’s assessment

You know your child best. If the district performs an assessment of your child and you feel it does not accurately reflect their strengths and needs, it’s probably not a thorough assessment. If you disagree with the results, you have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation, or IEE, at public expense. You can read more about IEEs and how to request one in our article Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) 101.



How are students assessed for an IEP?

Reviewing an IEP assessment

What to do when you disagree with the school’s assessment

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Related Parent Questions

If I disagree with the school assessment for an IEP, can I get a second opinion?
If you disagree with the school’s assessment, you may request an Independent Educational Evaluation. In California, it is recommended that districts respond within 10–15 calendar days after receiving a request for an IEE.
When would my child need a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)?
A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) can be conducted when the IEP team determines it would be appropriate for the child, or when a change in placement is being sought due to behaviors. Learn when the school district must be legally responsible for funding an FBA.
What happens after I request an independent assessment?
After the independent assessment is completed, the IEP team will meet to discuss the results. The assessor should attend the meeting to explain their findings and answer questions. The IEP team will then discuss how best to incorporate their recommendations into the child’s IEP.

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