In this episode of “How to Win at the IEP Table,” I am going to discuss the IEE. The Independent Educational Evaluation can be one of the most powerful advocacy steps a parent can implement, however, without the ability to strongly advocate during the IEP meeting in which the IEE findings are reviewed, the IEE will most likely become irrelevant and be disregarded by the IEP team.

In this article, I will disclose how advocates prevail for their clients by obtaining an IEE and using the findings as evidence to win the supports and services the child needs. I will also present very important information on how school districts mislead parents regarding their rights to obtain an IEE or follow the recommendations and results.

The purpose of an IEE is to obtain the evidence, test scores, goals, accommodations, and service recommendations from a qualified professional. An IEE is defined by federal regulations as “an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency [school district] responsible for the education of the child in question.” 

Although parents may not realize they have the right to request an IEE, IDEA procedural safeguards require districts to inform them of this right prior to the IEP meeting. The problem is that parents seldom read the procedural safeguards and if they do, they may not fully understand the information, particularly when it comes to an IEE. 

When to request an IEE

It is important to understand that the assessment is the foundation in which the IEP is developed to meet the needs of your child. Based on assessment results, the Present Levels of Performance are determined, which drives the goals that are written for your child’s IEP. The goals determine the accommodations and the goals and accommodations drive the determination of the services and placement. 

Therefore, without an accurate, complete, and comprehensive assessment in all areas of your child’s suspected disability, it isn’t possible to develop an IEP that meets the needs of any student. 

Most district assessments are conducted to meet the minimum criteria for an evaluation. Many district assessors don’t assess in all areas, fail to be successful in obtaining accurate test scores or any test scores at all due to the child’s resistance to testing, and cherry-pick scores to ensure the student falls within the “average range” which will result in having the student found ineligible for services. 

Every time a school district conducts an assessment, parents have the right to request an IEE. There are no exceptions to this rule.  Parents have the right to only one IEE each time the district conducts an assessment.  A parent can request an IEE up to two years after the district conducts an assessment. The IEE must be funded by the school district and must ensure that the IEE is at no cost to parents. 

300.502 Independent educational evaluation.

(ii) Public expense means that the public agency either pays for the full cost of the evaluation or ensures that the evaluation is otherwise provided at no cost to the parent, consistent with §300.103.

(5) A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees.

It is important to understand that the school district may go to great lengths to impede your request for an IEE. The district doesn’t like when parents request an IEE because they don’t want to pay for it, and they don’t want parents to obtain evidence that may challenge the district’s assessment findings. 

Parents have the right to choose an IEE provider they feel comfortable with; one who will deliver a diagnostic and comprehensive IEE. However, the district is also obligated to provide parents with a list of IEE providers to choose from. Many parents don’t understand that they are not obligated to choose from the district list and can request anyone they want. The district may try and strong-arm parents to choose from their list because the district has a history with those providers and typically will already hold a current contract with them. Nevertheless, when parents make their IEE provider choice, IDEA requires the district to either “fund the IEE or file for due process.” 

300.502 Independent educational evaluation.

(2) If a parent requests an independent educational evaluation at public expense, the public agency must, without unnecessary delay, either—
(i) File a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate; or
(ii) Ensure that an independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense.

If the IEE provider of parent choice meets the agency criteria as an IEE provider but the district doesn’t currently hold a contract with that provider, they are obligated to present a contract to their school board to have it approved. However, there is a caveat to this and that is the fee cap and mileage restriction. 

Fee Cap and Mileage Restriction

IDEA law allows school districts to impose a “fee cap and mileage restriction” which they use to deny the parents’ choice for the IEE provider. Many districts impose a policy that the IEE provider must be within a 50-mile range of the district location. The law also allows districts to impose a fee cap on the IEE provider fee. However, the district’s fee cap must be based on the current IEE fee amount in that specific district’s city and state. Sadly, many districts use these two legal loopholes to deny the parents’ right to choose. 

When this happens, parents have the right to write a letter to request a “special circumstance waiver.”  If the parent gives good cause for the district to waive their fee cap and/or the mileage restriction, the district can approve the request for the IEE provider of choice. 

Moreover, if the district denies the parent provider of choice due to the fee cap or mileage restriction, the parent has the right to file a Public Records Request to obtain all IEE contracts in past years, providing evidence that the district approved IEEs outside the district mileage range and/or at a rate higher than the district IEE guidelines.

The district must allow the IEE provider to have the same provisions that the district staff receive when conducting an assessment. The district must allow the IEE provider to observe and have access to the student in order to conduct the IEE and cannot impose any restrictions upon the IEE provider that they do not impose upon their own staff. 

300.502 Independent educational evaluation.

(e) Agency criteria.
(1) If an independent educational evaluation is at public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria that the public agency uses when it initiates an evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with the parent’s right to an independent educational evaluation.
(2) Except for the criteria described in paragraph (e)(1) of this section, a public agency may not impose conditions or timelines related to obtaining an independent educational evaluation at public expense.

The IEE IEP meeting 

When the IEE report is reviewed during an IEP meeting, it is the parents’ responsibility to advocate for the IEP team to agree to incorporate the recommendations into the child’s educational program. Otherwise, the IEP team will simply listen to the report findings, excuse the IEE expert and no changes will be made to your child’s IEP. This is because the law only requires the IEP team to “consider” the IEE; the law does not require the IEP team to adopt any information contained in the IEE findings. This puts the burden upon parents and advocates to argue why the IEP team should agree to adopt the IEE recommendations.

300.502 Independent educational evaluation.

(c) Parent-initiated evaluations. If the parent obtains an independent educational evaluation at public expense or shares with the public agency an evaluation obtained at private expense, the results of the evaluation—
(1) Must be considered by the public agency, if it meets agency criteria, in any decision made with respect to the provision of FAPE to the child.

This means that when the IEE provider reviews the recommended goals, you have the right to ask the IEP team to discuss each goal and request it be adopted into the IEP. When the IEE provider reviews the accommodations, you have the right to ask the IEP team to discuss each accommodation and request it be adopted into the IEP. When the IEE provider reviews the recommendations for services, you have the right to ask the IEP team to discuss each recommendation for services and request they be adopted into the IEP. 

This process will most likely take at least two hours to complete because the IEP team will require time to discuss each goal, accommodation, and service recommendation. A typical district strategy is to impede a parent’s right to advocate by using up all the time on “discussion” so that you will never get through all of the IEE recommendations. When this happens, you have the right to have your IEE provider attend a continuation meeting in order to hold the district to their obligation to “consider” all IEE findings and they must allow you to have another meeting. However, the district will most likely deny to fund the IEE provider’s attendance for a second meeting. But that doesn’t mean that parents don’t have the right to fund the IEE provider fee in order to have them attend a second meeting. 

When the IEE findings are presented, this discussion requires a skilled advocate as well as an IEE provider who is willing to defend their recommendations and disagree with district staff members. That is why it is so important to ensure that your IEE provider of choice is one who is willing to work with you to advocate during the IEP meeting. 

The IEE is the way in which advocates and attorneys win cases to meet the needs of students on an IEP. When parents learn this process and understand how to implement their rights under IDEA in order to obtain an IEE and have the IEP team consider every recommendation during an IEP meeting, with strong advocacy and the knowledge of how to argue why the IEP committee should adopt the recommendations, it is possible for parents to experience a high level of success in winning what their child needs at the IEP table. 

Cheering you on always! 

Valerie Aprahamian

If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.

Here’s what parents are saying about the group:

“Your posts provide such great information! Even as a teacher, I sometimes feel as if my input isn’t documented correctly in the IEP. Every post gives me more ammunition to add to my arsenal!” -FR, Teacher

“I tell parents and grandparents all the time, about her, as a fierce mamma-bear who never gave up. Because it is a story that needs repeating, to empower those who are where she was all those years ago when her daughter was in school. She’s a wealth of information. God bless you, Valerie!” -CA, Parent

Valerie Aprahamian is a special education advocate, IEP strategist, and speaker. She speaks on behalf of parents to protect the rights of neurodiverse children to receive the supports they need in public school.

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