What is the Arizona IEP Timeline? | IEPs and Special Education
What is a normal IEP timeline in Arizona? Specifically, from when the parent or guardian initiates the process to the completion of the IEP. A couple of things to note are if a parent or guardian lets the school know, in writing, that they would like for their child to be assessed to see if they’re eligible for an IEP or special education. They let the school know in writing, that’s important. When that happens and the school receives that written request from a parent or guardian, they have 15 school days.
Considerations That Affect the School’s Response Timeline
So, this is important. After the initial request, it’s 15 school days to respond. Now, a couple of things to note when we’re talking about eligibility for an IEP or for special education qualification. An evaluation may need to occur or an assessment. And those are two separate things.
IEP Eligibility Assessment
An evaluation is to collect data for it to be assessed. Sometimes there’s already enough data from the school. This might mean grades, teacher, or parent observations, it could be the student’s primary health provider, also behavioral health if they have any of those types of services. Those types of providers can also provide data because they’ve already assessed the student. Therefore, the evaluation has already happened. Now, if this is something different that the data could not give a clear picture, then an additional evaluation would need to happen.
School’s Conclusion Based on the Student’s Evaluation Result
And all of this would be decided by the school. They would look at the data that they already have on the student to see, do they need an additional evaluation? Do we already have the data that we need to assess the student? Or they have the data, and the student just really doesn’t qualify or doesn’t need to have any additional evaluations. The process stops there.
So, that 15-day mark, 15 school days, as we had talked about. The school district and the special education team will then let you know if an evaluation is needed, if they already have all the data, or if they have the data and the student doesn’t qualify. Other topics of interest include:
What If Additional Evaluation is Needed?
At that time, parents or guardians will be notified. If they decide that an evaluation does need to occur, the school then has 60 calendar days. Now, we’re switching. We started with 15 school days, and now we’re 60 calendar days. They have 60 calendar days to collect all the assessments that they need, evaluations to look at the data, to meet, and then decide on eligibility. Now, the school does have one sort of continuance of 30 days. So, they are allowed an additional 30 days. This only happens if it’s in the best interest of the student and both the parent or guardian and the school have agreed to this. At most, you have 15 days to initiate the process.
After the 15 days, they will let you know if an additional evaluation needs to occur. The school then has 60 calendar days and possibly an additional 30. At the end of that, that’s 90 calendar days, the school will then have to decide with their team to decide if your child is eligible for an IEP or special education.
How Do I Get an IEP For My Child in Arizona?
As a parent or guardian, you can request an IEP evaluation for your child if you think they might need special education services. You can make this request to the school district in which your child attends school. The school district must evaluate whether your child is eligible for special education services.
If the school district determines that your child is eligible for special education services, they will develop an IEP for your child. The IEP is a document that outlines the special education services that your child will receive.
What are the Components of an IEP in Arizona?
What are the components of an IEP in Arizona? First, an IEP stands for an Individualized Education Plan.
What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?
This is a legally binding document that is codified in state and federal statutes. What this means is if a student is eligible for special education or other education or modifications within the school, they are legally granted those and not discriminated against. Let’s talk about this. So, a parent has requested an IEP, the student has been evaluated and assessed, and they are eligible for an IEP. You sit down for the IEP meeting which a parent or guardian is included in.
Individualized Education Plan Components
So, let’s discuss the components of the IEP.
We’ll start first with the goals. There will be goals that the student is expected to hit. This might be academic, behavioral, or emotional, but there are goals for the student. They may be short term and they may be long-term. It really does vary, and it depends on the student’s needs, but there are goals. So, what are we all expecting of the student?
Progress Level Monitoring of the Child’s Goals
Next after the goals, there will be information on where the child is currently, so where they are achieving their level right now? Again, this might be academic, again, it could be emotional, behavioral, all those things, but we need to know where the student is currently at. So, we have the goal, where they are, and then next is how are they going to get there.This is the progress monitoring of the goals.
Student’s Accommodation | Special Education Services Provision
So, how are they going to be assessed, how often, and is there an end or a start date? They’re going to get specific on that. Also, what actual accommodation is the student going to receive? This might be special education being pulled out, it could be in the classroom, it could be additional services, or therapy coming to the school. Again, there are just so many things and it’s very fact sensitive, but overall, what sort of accommodation is this student going to receive? How often? For what duration? And what is it that’s going to be happening?
Frequency of the Student’s Re-evaluation and Assessment
Again, this is important because an IEP is a legally binding document, which means the school and all of the staff there have to abide by this. So, that’s important. What services or accommodation is the student going to receive? Also, how frequently are they going to be monitored and how? We have spoken about that before. Then also on an annual review, there’ll be a statement of how the student is doing. Have they reached those goals? Do they feel like they’re on the right track? Do the goals or services need to be reassessed? And then, every three years, the student will be reevaluated. Then the process starts over or is carried over depending on how the assessment goes. So, those are the main components of an IEP.
IEP Components in Arizona
Just to summarize, you have goals for the future, progress monitoring, so how often are you going to be testing or assessing that student to see if they’re hitting their goals? How are they going to get there? What services or accommodations are going to be handled within the regular classroom and then outside of the classroom? Are they going to be bringing in other help such as therapy or other accommodations? And then also, where the student started, so their initial assessment and then at an annual report, you’ll then see how they’ve made progress and then the plan, and if they need to be reassessed.
When Must an Arizona School Respond to an Evaluation Request?
How long does a school in Az have to respond to an evaluation request regarding an IEP? First, we’ll start it off with the process if a parent or a guardian initiates.
Written Request for an IEP Eligibility Evaluation
Per state regulation and federal laws, the parent or guardian needs to have, in writing, a request to the school that their student be evaluated for eligibility for IEP or special education. Once this starts, this does start the clock. Then the school has 15 school days. This is in calendar days; this is school days. So, if there are any types of vacations, holidays, or weekends, those don’t count.
15 Days School Session
The school must be in school session for that 15 days to accumulate. So, they have 15 days to take this request and decide if more evaluations need to happen, or if they already have all the data they need. It’s important to remember that the purpose of an evaluation is to collect data to assess the student’s needs. Sometimes an evaluation isn’t needed because there’s already enough data to assess eligibility. What might this look like? Student’s grades, attendance, teacher, or parent observations. Healthcare providers may give their reports or opinions, even behavioral health providers also may as well. So, there may not actually even be a need for an evaluation. The school will then let you know if they already have enough information.
School District’s Decision after 15 Days
At the end of that 15 days, you will know, is this student getting an evaluation? Are they deciding already? Or do they already have enough data and they’ll decide eligibility that way? Again, the short answer, it’s very straightforward, is 15 school days. If it’s been more than 15 school days and your school district has still not responded to your letter, you may reach out to the school district and let them know that you have given them notice.
Filing an Administrative Complaint in the Event of No Response
If you still don’t hear anything, you can report them to the State Board of Education and file an administrative complaint against them because this is a violation of the IDEA act. And so, this is federal law, 15 school business days, and if they do not comply or you do not get a response, you can act.
What Should You Not Say in an Arizona IEP Meeting?
What things should a parent or guardian not say in an IEP meeting? First, I want to let you know that if you’re ever concerned about an IEP meeting, you do have the right to have legal counsel with you. So, you can have an attorney there with you if that’s what you decide. If you decide that you’d like to go it on your own, these are just some tips of things that you would not likely want to say in the IEP meeting. So, the first one is that a lot of times parents want to discuss what’s best for their child, and they’ll use those terms. What’s best for my child?
Parents Should Say These Instead
It’s best if you say need. So, instead, you should say, my child needs, and then fill in the blank, if it’s an accommodation, an evaluation, but your child needs these things. It’s important that you get that across to the group, the school district, that your child needs these things. It’s not what’s best for them, they absolutely need them to learn. And they’re granted by federal statutes that’s why you’re here in the IEP meeting to start off with.
Parents Shouldn’t Feel Pressured in Signing an IEP
Second, and this is the most common, I think parents don’t realize that an IEP is a legally binding document that the school must comply with. What that means is after you sign it, it’s legally binding and therefore, it’s a little bit more difficult to go back and change. So, sometimes parents will say, okay, I’ll sign the document today.
I think that’s a mistake. I think it’s important to take time, sleep on it, have counsel, an attorney who specializes in education look it over, and maybe healthcare providers as well. But take your time before you sign it. You shouldn’t feel pressured, and you should never say, okay, I’m going to sign it right now. Read it over. And if you have questions, do your research. This is really, important for your student because the school must adhere to these things. There’s no option. They absolutely must. So, if you have any concerns that something’s not included, or you don’t like how something is worded or the goals, speak up and make sure you let them know that you have concerns. You should absolutely say that. And take your time before you sign it, don’t feel pressured to sign it right there on the spot. You absolutely can take time. Another thing not to say is, let’s just wait and see how my student does.
Parents Have the Right to Speak Up and Ask Questions
That language, like I just talked about, an IEP is a legally binding document. It’s very difficult. Not impossible, but it’s difficult to amend it after it’s signed. So, you don’t want to wait and see. You want to make sure everything is in order when it’s created and signed by you as a parent. Another thing, I think it’s not what you say, but it’s what you don’t say. I think parents are nervous about asking for things. Again, talking about evaluations, if you don’t agree with the evaluation or the assessments, speak up.
The school absolutely must provide these things. If you don’t agree with the school employees, so maybe the psychologist that’s employed by the school, you absolutely have a right to speak up and ask for an independent education evaluation, and the school does have to pay for that and provide that to you. So, just remember. I think the biggest takeaway here is parents and guardians don’t realize how much rights they have.
What is Team Based Early Intervention in Arizona?
What is Team-Based Early Intervention Services that Arizona can give to children with disabilities? These types of services are outlined in the Department of Economic Services, the DES office here in Arizona. Even though this is a state agency and state services, it’s required by federal law.
Arizona Early Intervention Program
So, the Individuals with Disability Education Act, section C states that states must provide provisions for early intervention for children ages birth through age two who have a disability. What does it look like here in the state of Arizona? So, Arizona created what we call the Arizona Early Intervention program.
Team-Based Early Intervention Services
What does this look like for you and for your child? If you feel like your child has a disability or may qualify for a disability, and unlike services under the IEP, what happens is you would have the child evaluated and then they would decide on if they qualified for services. An evaluation can be done by an additional party, but sometimes your healthcare provider may have already made a diagnosis or just observations from you as a parent. Mainly at this age, birth through age two, they’re looking at developmental milestones; are they meeting those? And then it kind of just goes on from there, but if it’s found that your child does have a disability and there’s no specific category of disability, but just anything that impairs them, what would happen then is you would go forward with this Team-Based Early Intervention Services.
Parental Participation Rights
And so again, we would talk about an evaluation. The child would be assessed and then services would be provided to that child through the state. Also, parents need to know that through this process, they have a right to speak up and be involved in all aspects of it. So, first, you as a parent, have to be provided with what services, evaluations, and any records you have to have access to. These records also must be confidential, so they cannot be shared with other parties without your consent.
Dispute Resolution Process | Parents May File a Complaint
The services, if you disagree with any of those, there is a dispute resolution process. So, if maybe the state isn’t complying in a timely manner, or you’re disagreeing with the evaluations, and they’re not getting another evaluator, or you’re disagreeing with what services the state will provide, you can file a complaint. And then after that, if it’s not settled, then it would go to mediation. And then you’re even actually granted a due process hearing with an administrative law judge. So, you do have a lot of say in this matter, and you can really hold the DES office accountable.
Team-Based Early Intervention in Arizona
Again, this Team-based Early Intervention Services are for children ages birth through two years old, who have a qualifying disability. The services range, they’re really tailored to meet the needs of your family. Maybe someone is coming into the home, or you may be going and taking your child somewhere for services, but these things will be monitored. There will be records. And if you feel like they’re not meeting the needs or a new need of your child has surfaced, you can speak up. These teams work together to provide the best outcome for the child.
What is Special Education Law in Arizona?
Special education law originates in the United States constitution. There are also Supreme Court case law and federal statutes, such as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And depending on your state, there might also be state statutes or regulations that address special education and laws within your state. Still, this large body of law mandates that any student ages 3 to 21 with a disability benefits free and appropriate public school education. That provides special education, including any services needed to meet individual student needs. The purpose of this is to integrate students with disabilities into society and not to segregate them in any way.
Do You Need an Arizona IEP Attorney?
Understanding the Arizona IEP process can be complicated. If you’re concerned about your child’s education, you may want to consider hiring an IEP attorney. An IEP attorney can help you navigate the IEP process and ensure that your child’s rights are protected.
At Chelle Law, we understand parents’ challenges when trying to advocate for their child’s education. We can help you understand your rights and options under the law. We will work with you to create an individualized education plan that meets your child’s unique needs.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
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