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Department of Special Education Services

Services for students with disabilities
from birth through age 21


Identification and Evaluation Process

What is a screening meeting?

At a screening Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting, the IEP team reviews information from the school-based problem-solving team which includes, but is not limited to, existing information (report cards, work samples, state, county, or teacher-made assessments), and information from parents/guardians, and determines if an educational disability is suspected.

If a disability is suspected, the team determines the need for further assessment. The school must obtain parent/guardian consent for the recommended assessments.

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Who can refer my student for a screening?

Parents/guardians or a school staff member may refer a student to the screening IEP team. Prekindergarten students who do not attend a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) school are referred through Child Find, a service that locates, identifies, and refers young students with disabilities, ages 3 to 5, in need of early intervention. Child Find services, which are provided by states, are required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Very young students from birth to age 3 can be referred to the Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program.

If an MCPS student does not progress as expected after implementation of the interventions recommended by the school-based problem solving team, they may be referred in writing to the school’s IEP team.

If an analysis of the data indicates that the student has not made appropriate academic progress and the staff members or parent/guardian has reason to believe that the student may have an educational disability that requires special education, and possibly related services, then a referral may be made by the parent/guardian or staff members, following the school-based problem solving process.

Parents/guardians may refer students enrolled in a private or religious school, or who are being home-schooled, by contacting the Placement and Assessment Unit at 301-279-3181.

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What does an evaluation include?

Evaluation doesn't just mean testing. In conducting an evaluation, the IEP team and individual assessors must use a variety of tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information—including information provided by the parent/guardian—which may assist in determining:

  • if the student has a disability;
  • what the student’s educational needs are;
  • what should be in the student’s IEP, including information related to helping the student be involved in and make progress in the general education classroom or, for prekindergarten students, to participate in a program that matches their developmental needs.

The student must be assessed in all areas of the suspected disability. The determination of whether the student has a disability or the determination of an appropriate education program will not be based upon a single measure or assessment.

Assessments are selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis and are provided and administered in the student’s native language, when possible, or other mode of communication and in the form most likely to yield accurate information on what the student knows and can do academically.

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What is an independent evaluation?

An independent educational evaluation (IEE) is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the student in question. In this case, an IEE would not be conducted by an employee of MCPS or the Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program.

A parent/guardian may request an IEE if they are in disagreement with an assessment conducted by the school system.

An IEE may be an educational, psychological, speech, or other type of assessment used in the diagnosis or assessment of strengths and weaknesses of students with disabilities.

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Can parents pay for a private evaluation?

A private evaluation is an evaluation that is conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school system. Parents/guardians who choose to have a private evaluation completed must pay for the cost of the evaluation unless the school system agrees, or is ordered to pay based on a due process decision. The private evaluation is submitted in writing and reviewed by the IEP team.

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What is an initial evaluation IEP meeting?

Once a screening IEP team suspects that a student may have an educational disability, an evaluation IEP team meeting must be held to confirm the existence of the disability and, if so, determine whether the student requires special education and, possibly, related services.

The referral, screening, evaluation planning, and evaluation meeting where eligibility is determined is considered the complete evaluation process.

The initial evaluation IEP team meeting must be held no later than 60 calendar days from the screening IEP team’s receipt of the parent/guardian authorization for assessments or no later than 90 calendar days from the date of receipt of the initial referral from the parent/guardian or the school-based problem solving team, whichever is sooner. The parent/guardian must receive 10 calendar days' written notice of the evaluation IEP team meeting.

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What is an annual review IEP meeting?

At the annual review IEP meeting, the team, including parents/guardians, makes decisions about special services for the coming year. Decisions are documented on the IEP forms which include information provided to, or by, the parents/guardians, the student’s anticipated needs, and participation of district or state assessments held during the course of the new IEP. Extended School Year (ESY) decisions will be made.

Appropriate staff members will discuss transition planning for students who will turn 14 or 15 during the course of the IEP. Transition plans summarize options for students with disabilities as they exit high school. For a student who will turn 16 or older in the upcoming year, appropriate staff members will also discuss the draft transition plan and its relationship to assessment data, information provided by the parent/guardian, and anticipated postsecondary services.

Staff members will discuss IEP goals and objectives that have been developed and relate them to the assessment data, including information provided by the parent/guardian. Revisions are made by the IEP team to the draft goals and objectives.

Provided that the parent/guardian has had ample time to review the goals and objectives, the IEP team may approve the goals and objectives and complete the decision-making process regarding frequency, location, and duration of services, and placement decisions.

Parents/guardians receive the Procedural Safeguards-Parental Rights Brochure, a required notice that provides important information on a parent/guardian right to be involved in planning their student’s special education. Parents/guardians will also receive the Extended School Year brochure, if that was discussed.

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Can I request an IEP meeting at any time?

Yes, a parent/guardian can request an IEP meeting at any time. However, not all discussions about a student receiving special education services require an IEP team meeting. You may also request a formal parent/guardian conference, or to meet with any of your student’s teachers, related service providers, or building administrators.

IEP team meetings are appropriate when considering new information that may result in revisions to the IEP, to discuss concerns about the student’s current IEP or progress, or other situations that directly impact the IEP.

Parent/guardian conferences are appropriate to request information about your student’s IEP or progress.

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