What Does a Child Study Team Evaluation Mean for Your Child?
The request for a school’s child study team to evaluate a child can be a daunting one to receive. For parents, it can bring forth feelings of confusion or difficult memories of how special education was perceived in their past. Does the request imply your child is broken or unintelligent? What does a child study team evaluation mean for your child? Here are several things to keep in mind when considering and going through the child study team process.
Child Study Teams Exist to Help
School district child study teams are designed to be able to create and implement structures for students to be as successful as possible. Every learner is different, and thus each learner comes to school with a unique set of skills and needs. For some students, the differentiated instruction that takes place in most classrooms today is enough to help them learn and grow. For some students, however, there are underlying factors that make that same success more difficult to achieve.
When a student is referred to a child study team for evaluation, it is typically to evaluate if one or more of these factors exist and what, if any, modifications can be made to help the student become as successful as possible. It is not an implication that something is wrong with the student, but rather an attempt to maximize the student’s potential for success. Furthermore, if the child study team opts to offer support services to your child, these services often become legal requirements as a part of an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP (there are other options as well but their names and effects can vary by state). For more on IEPs and how they work, this article from The Special Education Guide provides additional helpful background and details.
Simply put, an IEP creates supports that must be in place for the student in all public educational settings under the penalty of legal action. These plans follow students as they progress through their educational career and are reevaluated and/or revised on a regular basis for effectiveness. An IEP is in no way a reflection on a child’s intelligence or potential for success, but rather a support system to ensure an equal opportunity to achieve success. For example, in my master’s program at Rutgers University, there were two individuals that graduated in my cohort that still were utilizing their IEPs from high school to ensure they received the required modifications they needed to be successful. They both passed the same courses I did and are both very successful teachers in their fields today.
Know the laws in your state
Special education laws are often some of the most intricate and complex to navigate in a state’s educational law code. That being said, most states offer resources and support on their Department of Education Websites to help parents navigate the options and requirements that exist during the evaluation process. The Federal Department of Education website offers links to information for each of the fifty states to help you get started. Become familiar with the steps in the process, the time-table in which the process needs to take place, and the points of contact within your school district’s child study team to ensure deadlines are being adhered to. More than anything else, take the time to know what your child is entitled to in the evaluation and classification process.
What Happens if You Refuse Evaluation?
Simply put, nothing. It is your prerogative as a parent to refuse the evaluation of your child by a child study team. It is also your prerogative to refuse services recommended by a completed evaluation. That being said, consider your reasons for doing so carefully. If you are afraid your child will be labeled or stigmatized by an evaluation or classification, know that special education looks very different today than it did even ten years ago.
Should You Allow Your Child to Be Evaluated?
Each year, approximately 20% of the students I teach enter my classroom with IEPs or comparable modification plans. Apart from some modifications I do silently behind the scenes and an extra support staff member being in the room for some classes, there would be no way of knowing that any of my students fall under the umbrella of a classification for services. Even so, there is no way to even tell which students receive these services. At the same time, without the supports some of these students receive, they would struggle immensely with my course. This inclusion model is one that most districts employ these days to provide students with the best possible environment to learn by balancing support with continued on-level placements in classrooms with their grade-level peers. Before you refuse the opportunity to provide your child with potentially life-changing support in their educational careers, find out exactly what it is that being offered. As an educator, I would recommend going through with a child study team evaluation if it was offered.
For more on the types of educational support accommodations that are available to qualifying students, click here.