Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) 101
What’s an IEE and when can a family request one?
As a parent, you have the right to request an IEE anytime you are in disagreement with the district’s assessment (so long as it is within the two-year statute of limitations). Dr. Pelangka explains, “Parents have the right to request an IEE any time the district has completed an assessment and parents are in disagreement. [For example,] if they don’t believe it was thorough enough, they believe the results are invalid, or they believe the district failed to assess in all areas of need.”
The right to request an independent assessment applies to any area of assessment, not just psychoeducational evaluations. You can seek an independent assessment if you disagree with the district’s more specialized evaluations in areas such as assistive technology, speech, occupational or physical therapy, and functional behavioral assessments. (Just remember that if the assessment you disagree with is more than a year old, it is likely the district will offer to retest your child themselves prior to funding an IEE.) In sum, you can request an independent assessment anytime you are in disagreement with the district’s completed assessment and/or if you believe the district failed to assess in a suspected area of need.
Who conducts IEEs?
What kinds of tests are typically done in an IEE?
What kinds of things can a parent expect to learn from an IEE?
Should kids who went through a comprehensive evaluation when they received a diagnosis in elementary school get retested in middle or high school?
It depends on the child and their parents’ concerns. Because adolescence leads to a lot of changes in childrens’ lives and development, it can sometimes be a good idea to retest students in middle or high school. Dr. Wilson says, “Often when there's a milestone, like transitioning to middle school or high school, then there might be a need. If there's a non-response to an intervention, that may be another reason to take another look at what's happening to see if there's something that was missed, particularly if the first assessment wasn't a full, comprehensive evaluation.”
In sum, there are a lot of things going on with adolescence. Not only are teenagers dealing with an increased demand for executive functioning, but they’re also at greater risk for mental health issues, which can impact their learning process. Dr. Wilson breaks it down for us in this clip:
How do you request an IEE?
The first step is to submit a written letter to the district stating that you disagree with the district’s assessment of your child and are seeking an independent assessment. Although neither California nor the IDEA provides a specific time period within which the district must respond, they should reply without unnecessary delay.
Here’s a sample letter showing how to request an IEE. Keep in mind that it’s best to be brief and to the point; you do not need to explain why you’re requesting the assessment. Once you request it, the district has two choices: it can either 1) fund the independent assessment or 2) file a due process complaint to defend their assessment and show that it was appropriate. If the district chooses to move to due process, they have the burden of proving that their assessment was sufficient.
If the district approves an IEE, it will work with you on the logistics for obtaining one. This includes providing information about the applicable criteria and a list of qualified assessors in your area. You are not required to choose an assessor from the district’s list, but you do have to make sure that the assessor you choose meets the same qualifications the district is required to meet for the assessment. Once you choose your assessor, the district will establish a contract with the assessor and their evaluation can begin.
What questions should I ask a potential evaluator to make sure they’re a good fit to assess my child?
Dr. Wilson recommends that families ask the following questions when deciding whether a particular clinician is right for their child:
- What is your area of expertise? Do you see kids in your practice who are similar to my child?
- What is your approach? What does an assessment with you look like? Do you interview parents and teachers so that you have the context to better understand my child’s rating forms?
- What is the scope of your assessment?
- What can I expect from you at the end of the process, and what does the end product look like?
Dr. Pelangka recommends that parents also ask:
- Will you be able to observe my child in their academic setting?
- Will you be attending the IEP meeting to review your results and provide input to the IEP?
- Are you willing to testify in a Due Process hearing if necessary to support your evaluation results?
Dr. Wilson adds that the post-evaluation process is essential to helping families interpret the results of the IEE. Not only should families get a written report from their evaluator, but they should also meet to go over the findings. When Dr. Wilson meets with families, she also makes recommendations about how the school can best support students and how parents can support their kids at home. She says, “We’re going to talk about not only what the areas of struggle are but also the areas of strength because we want kids to be able to utilize those strengths to support areas of weakness.”
What if I want a less common evaluation and the district won’t fund it?
What happens after an IEE is complete?
After the IEE has been submitted to the district, the IEP team will meet to discuss the results. The assessor you chose 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.
If you agree with most but not all of the IEP team’s decisions about how to implement the assessor’s recommendations, you can sign the IEP and note that your consent is only partial. This way, the portions of the IEP you agree with can be implemented, and you can work to resolve the area(s) of dispute through further conversation with the IEP team. Read more about what to do when you disagree with your IEP in our article, How to Review Your IEP Before Signing.