Evaluation and ARD Specialist: Their Role in the Special Education Evaluation

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Evaluation and ARD Specialists (EAS) serve many roles in the identification, development, and support of students in special education. As teachers work with students who are struggling, it is sometimes difficult to understand how each of these roles impacts the timelines and decisions of identifying students with a disability.

The Referral
The purpose of the referral process is to review the accumulated data to determine that this data supports a suspected disability. Not having sufficient data can lead to an inappropriate evaluation due to the underlying concerns not being directly related to the disability which is suspected. As a result, the evaluation will likely lead to a DNQ (Does Not Qualify), and in turn, prolong the identification process and results in a higher DNQ rate for the campus. Robust data collection and review will support a high-quality evaluation which will lead to determining appropriate eligibility and need for services. If the completed evaluation results in a disability, the ARD Committee can then develop appropriate goals for services based on the student’s individual needs.

Initial Consent
Ideally, the Evaluation and ARD Specialist, Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP), and/or the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) have provided input at the referral meeting regarding the student’s data. Once the referral meeting is held and the committee has agreed to testing for a particular suspected disability, the Evaluation Team Lead, typically the EAS, is required to provide INFORMED CONSENT to the parent. This involves explaining the evaluation process and the rights of the parent/student during the process, as well as obtaining signed consent for the evaluation.

The Evaluation Process
Each section of the evaluation will be summarized in a Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE) and considered in the determination of eligibility. For example, when considering the eligibility of a Specific Learning Disability, there are numerous exclusionary factors. These can include absences, educational opportunity, Limited English Proficiency, and behavior. Exclusionary factors must be considered as they are critical in identifying a disability.

The Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE)

Reason For referral: The reason for referral links back to informed consent. Data must support the need for special education evaluation. Parents must understand the reason the referral was made, and the reason should be clear to future readers. Language Dominance/Functioning: Language impacts every area of our entire life – academic, social, and behavioral – and can often be overlooked as the primary concern in a student’s success. If a student is moving through the language acquisition stages or possibly has a receptive/expressive language delay, this impacts how they take in the instruction in the classroom, their output, their ability to communicate their feelings, and their social skills
Sociological: Family and life experiences shape students and impacts how they interact and respond to others. The importance of understanding a student’s home and life history is critical in understanding why they may process information differently. It can impact overall relationships with teachers, which impacts their response to educational tasks. Physical: The review of the physical and health history assists with explaining and possibly opening doors to new areas of concern. Physical and health history can change the entire direction of the evaluation.
Cognitive Processing: This is the IQ testing that is administered. With the cognitive assessments, we are able to see HOW the student processes their environment. The overall IQ is not just how “smart” or “not smart” someone is, rather it shows which areas of cognitive processing are the strongest and how individuals use those areas to support processing information in the classroom. Adaptive Behavior: Understanding the support of these skills includes day to day life skills. These skills are used to drive how we support a student as they move through these skills to become more independent in all life settings. These skills thread through communication, daily living, executive functioning, and motor skills.
Academic: The academic assessments show what academic skills the student has and is working on developing. This is where having a true understanding of the data and classroom performance comes in handy. This is also where there is a review of the educational history to see if there is a pattern of deficits and how academic history has played out over the years. Emotional Behavioral: For eligibilities that are behavior driven-such as Autism or Emotional Disturbance, the LSSP will complete an extensive evaluation that addresses behaviors across settings. These evaluations are more extensive due to the observations, interviews, and interpretations of rating scales completed by multiple sources.
Impact on Education: This statement should be completed by all evaluators to outline how the disability impacts the student in the educational setting. Each evaluator should outline what the disability means for the student and how he/she can best be supported. Eligibility Criteria and Recommendations: At the conclusion of the evaluation report, the eligibility criteria from TEA will be outlined, and it will be determined if the student has met the criteria for the suspected disability. Recommendations are made to support the student in the educational setting for the ARD Committee to review.

The evaluation process is a job taken seriously by evaluators throughout our district. While assessment staff understand the importance of identification and services needed for struggling students, it is the job of these evaluators to be efficient, detailed, and purposeful in providing a legally defensible report that is student-focused in order to appropriately address their needs and to allow them to have access to and make progress in the curriculum.




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