Special Education Timelines
When it comes to the IEP process, evaluation through implementation, there are many state and federal time frames that can be confusing and overwhelming when added to an already stressful situation. It is the school district’s legal and ethical responsibility to uphold these requirements. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for both school personnel and parents to be unaware of those requirements. As a parent or advocate, it is crucial that you become knowledgeable about these time frames, which allow the IEP process to be expedited quickly. Otherwise, your child may languish in the system waiting for the necessary steps to be undertaken.
Permission to Evaluate (PTE): Whether a parent requests an initial evaluation orally or in writing, the school must provide the PTE form to the parent within 10 calendar days of the request. It is highly recommended that all communication with the school district be conducted in writing, via letters or E-mail to create documentation of your communication efforts.
Initial Evaluation: After the parent signs the PTE, the school has 60 calendar days (minus summer months) to complete the evaluation and issue an evaluation report (ER).
Evaluation Report (ER): The school district must provide the parent(s) with the ER at least 10 days before the IEP meeting. Parents can waive this requirement in writing. Even if you don’t believe that you have the background skills or knowledge, it is still helpful to review the evaluation report ahead of time. This gives you an opportunity to put your questions in writing or consult an advocate or physician.
IEP Meeting Invitation: It is the school districts responsibilty to ensure one, or both, parents attend the IEP meeting. IDEA states that the meeting must be held at a mutually agreeable time and place, and parents must be notified early enough to ensure they have an opportunity to attend. Generally 7-10 days written notice is considered sufficient.
IEP Meeting: If the child is found to be eligible for special education services, a Team (which includes, at minimum, the child’s parents, a special education teacher, an administrator, and, in most cases, a regular education teacher) must meet to develop the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) within 30 calendar days. The IEP is the written document that is the “contract” between the parents and the school. It lists the child’s goals and the services the school will provide to the child to help meet those goals.
IEP Implementation: The school district must initiate all services listed in the IEP within 10 school days. IEP’s must be in effect at the beginning of each school year.
Extended School Year (ESY) Determination: For children with a severe disability, the IEP Team must meet by February 28th of each school year to determine a child’s need for Extended School Year (ESY) services over the summer months or at other times when school would not usually be in session. Children with severe disabilities includes; children with autism, serious emotional disturbance, severe mental retardation, and severe multiple disabilities. For children with less severe disabilities, the IEP Team must make a determination about a child’s eligibility for ESY services each year in a “timely manner.” Encourage your school to make this determination by February 28th by being proactive and initiating the conversation. It is important to note that the February 28th timeframe is not a cut off for eligibility of services. If you meet after that date, ESY can still be added to the IEP.
IEP Review: The child’s IEP Team must review the IEP at least annually. The IEP can be reviewed more often than once a year, and any IEP Team member (which includes the parents) can request a meeting at any time.
Reevaluation: Children who are eligible for special education services must be reevaluated at least once every three (3) years, or sooner if necessary. Reevaluations can be a review of records, so parents should always ask the school if they intend to complete a full reevaluation. If the school district opts to complete a review of records, parents may request a full reevaluation in writing, citing the reasons for the request. School Districts can ask parents to waive the three-year reevaluation, but parents should think very carefully before doing so. Children with mental retardation must be reevaluated at least once every two (2) years. Again, the Reevaluation Report (RR) should be provided to the parent at least 10 days prior to the IEP meeting.
For more detailed information please consult these excellent resources listed below. Those resources were consulted for the creation of this document.
- Education Law Center’s “The Right to Special Education in Pennsylvania”
- Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) Special Education Timelines
- Individualized Education Program (IEP) (ANNOTATED)
- Extended School Year Services
- U.S. Dept. of Education (DOE) 2015 Guidance Letter – Is It Ok to say Dyslexia
- Understood.org – U.S. Department of Education Encourages Schools to Use the Terms “Dyslexia,” “Dysgraphia” and “Dyscalculia” in IEPs