Navigating the Evaluation Process in Six Steps

One day you are bringing your new born home from the hospital for the first time and the next day he/she is headed out the door for their first day of kindergarten.  Obviously this is an exaggeration, but the point is kids grow up fast!   Building an academic foundation is key to developing successful life long learners.  However, not every child learns the same way.  Building your child’s academic foundation can be painfully difficult if your child has diverse learning needs. Without the appropriate help, your child could fall critically behind and face significant challenges in their adult years as a result. You might ask yourself, “How would I know if my child has diverse learning needs and may possibly benefit from special education services?

Answer these questions for yourself.

  • Is your child consistently receiving failing grades on homework assignments and tests?
  • Do you constantly get calls from your child’s school about his or her behavior?
  • Did you receive a note from your child’s teacher requesting that your child be evaluated for special education services?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to have your child evaluated to see if he/she could benefit from special education services or a 504 plan.  Addressing your child’s challenges early in his/her academic career can provide them with life long tools to navigate future challenges such as employment, college and adult life in the community.

If you do suspect your child need special education services request an evaluation.  Below are  6 steps parents can take to acquire an evaluation of their child.

Step 1: Request an Evaluation

Parents should write a letter to the school district requesting that their child be evaluated for special education services.  It helps to include principals and case managers when submitting the letter so that everyone is on the same page.

Step 2: District Decides to Proceed

Within 14 school days the school district will decide whether or not  to proceed with an evaluation for the child in question. Either way, parents should receive a letter stating that the school district will evaluate the child or the school district will not evaluate the child with an explanation regarding their decision.

Step 3: Parents Consent to Evaluate

Before any evaluation can get underway, parents must consent to the evaluation.  In many cases consent can be given in the Request for Evaluation letter in ( see step one.)  However, school districts may have their own forms for parents to complete, so check to make sure.

Step 4: Evaluation Takes Places

School Districts have 60 school days to complete the evaluation and hold a conference with the parents to share the findings of the evaluation.  Please note: 60 school days begin once consent to evaluate has been given to the school district to proceed.

Step 5: Eligibility Conference is Held

Once the evaluation is complete, a meeting is held to discuss whether an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is appropriate for the student based on the findings of the evaluation.  If an IEP is appropriate for the student then the IEP team and the parents develop an IEP for the student.

Step 6: Parents Consent to Placement

Parents must provide written formal consent to placement before special education services can begin.  Services will begin 10 days after parents provide their consent, unless the parents specify they want their child placed sooner.

Information in this blog post is taken from the “Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in IllinoisChapter Three “Evaluation and Referral” written by the Illinois State Board of Education Special Education and Support Services (June 2009)


Additional Resources 

Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois

Chapter Three “Evaluation and Referral” of Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Education in Illinois

“Evaluating Children for Disabilities”

“Requesting an Independent Evaluation”

Family Resource Center on Disabilities is the region one parent training and information center for Illinois. We provide special education training, support, and information  parents of children with disabilities. Visit or call  (312)-939-3513.