What is the Arizona IEP Timeline? | IEPs and Special Education
What is a typical 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 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.
IEP Process Timeline
The IEP (Individualized Education Program) process timeline consists of several key steps to ensure appropriate support is provided to students with special needs. Upon referral for evaluation, assessments are conducted within 60 calendar days. Within 30 days of assessment completion, an IEP meeting is convened to discuss eligibility for special education services. If the child qualifies, parents must provide consent for the implementation of the IEP. Services commence promptly following consent. The IEP team reviews the student’s progress and adjusts the plan accordingly at least annually, though meetings can be held more frequently if necessary. This structured timeline facilitates a collaborative approach to tailoring education plans to suit each child’s unique needs, fostering their academic success and personal growth.
Considerations That Affect the School’s Response Timeline
So, this is important. After the initial request, it is 15 school days to respond.
Now, a couple of things to note when discussing eligibility for an IEP or special education qualification. An evaluation or an assessment may need to occur. And those are two separate things.
How Many Days Does a School Have to Complete the IEP Evaluation?
When a student is referred for an IEP evaluation, schools have a specific timeline to adhere to in order to ensure timely support for the student’s needs. Typically, the school has 60 calendar days from the date of parental consent to complete the IEP evaluation process. This timeframe may vary slightly depending on state regulations and school breaks. Once the evaluation is complete and the student is found eligible for special education services, the IEP team, which includes the parents or guardians, must convene within 30 days to develop an appropriate Individualized Education Program. By adhering to these deadlines, schools can provide prompt and effective support to students with special needs, enhancing their educational experience and promoting their overall well-being.
How Long Does a School Have to Respond to an Evaluation Request?
Upon receiving a written request for a student evaluation, schools are required to respond within a specified timeframe. In most cases, the school has 15 calendar days to respond to the evaluation request, although this may vary depending on state regulations. It’s important to note that “school days” usually exclude weekends, holidays, and extended breaks. Once the school responds, they must obtain parental consent before proceeding with the evaluation process. By adhering to these guidelines, schools can ensure a timely response to evaluation requests, enabling them to identify and support students with special needs more effectively and efficiently.
IEP Eligibility Assessment
An evaluation is to collect data for it to be assessed. Sometimes there’s already enough data from the school. It might mean grades, teacher, or parent observations. It could be the student’s primary health provider and behavioral health if they have any of those services.
Those providers can also provide data because they’ve already assessed the student. Therefore, the evaluation has already happened. If this is something different and the data cannot give a clear picture, 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 they already have on the student to see if they need an additional evaluation. “Do we already have the data we need to assess the student?” Or if they have the data, and the student really doesn’t qualify or doesn’t need to have any additional evaluations—the process stops there.
So, as we had discussed, that 15-day mark, 15 school days. 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 needs to occur, the school 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 necessary assessments and evaluations to look at the data, meet, and decide on eligibility.
Now, the school does have one sort of continuance of 30 days. So, they are allowed an additional 30 days. It only happens if it’s in the student’s best interest and the parent or guardian and the school have agreed. At most, you have 15 days to initiate the process.
After 15 days, they will inform you 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 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)?
IEP is a legally binding document codified in state and federal statutes. 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. Say 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, in which a parent or guardian is included.
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. They might be academic, behavioral, or emotional. They may be short-term, and they may be long-term. It varies and 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 and where they are achieving their level at the moment. Again, this might be academic, emotional, or behavioral, and we need to know where the student is currently. So, we have the goal, where they are, and how they will get there. It is the progress monitoring of the goals.
Student’s Accommodation | Special Education Services Provision
So, how will they 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? It might be special education being pulled out. It could be in the classroom, additional services, or therapy coming to the school.
Again, there are so many things, and it’s very fact sensitive, but overall, what sort of accommodation will this student 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, meaning the school and all staff 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.
Also, on an annual review, there’ll be a statement of how the student is doing. Have they reached those goals and feel 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 or is carried over depending on how the assessment goes. So, those are the main components of an IEP.
IEP Components in Arizona
To summarize, you have goals for the future and progress monitoring—so, how often will you 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 will the school handle in the regular classroom and outside of the classroom?
Will they bring in other help, such as therapy or other accommodations? And also where the student started—so their initial assessment. Then at an annual report, you’ll see how they’ve made progress, the plan, and if they need reassessment.
When Must an Arizona School Respond to an Evaluation Request?
How long does a school in Arizona have to respond to an evaluation request regarding an IEP? First, we’ll start 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, and the school has 15 school days—it 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 assessment is to collect data to assess the student’s needs. Sometimes an evaluation isn’t required because there’s already enough data to determine 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 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 if the student is getting an evaluation.
Are they deciding already? Or do they already have enough data, and they’ll determine 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 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 violates 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 have the right to have legal counsel. So, you can have an attorney with you if that’s what you decide.
If you decide you’d like to go on your own, these are just some tips you would not likely want to say in the IEP meeting. So, the first one is that parents often want to discuss what’s best for their child, and they’ll use the 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. You must communicate to the group, and the school district, that your child needs these things. It’s not what’s best for them; they need to learn. And they’re granted by federal statutes. That’s why you’re here in the IEP meeting to start 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. That means that after you sign it, it’s lawfully binding; therefore, it’s a little bit more challenging to go back and change.
Sometimes, parents 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.
It is crucial 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 they haven’t included something, or you don’t like how something is worded or the goals, speak up and make sure you let them know 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.
Parents Have the Right to Speak Up and Ask Questions
Another thing not to say is, “let’s just wait and see how my student does.”
That language. As I just talked about, an IEP is a legally binding document. It’s very difficult. Not impossible, but it isn’t easy 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 what you don’t say. I believe parents are nervous about asking for something. Again, speaking about evaluations, speak up if you don’t agree with the evaluation or the assessments.
The school absolutely must provide these things. Suppose you disagree with the school employees, maybe the psychologist the school employs. In that case, you 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, 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 are Team-Based Early Intervention Services that Arizona can give to children with disabilities? The Department of Economic Services, the DES office here in Arizona, outlines these types of services. Even though this is a state agency and state service, federal law requires it.
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 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.
They would decide if the child qualified for services. An additional party can do an evaluation, 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 just goes on from there. Still, suppose they find that your child does have a disability and there’s no specific category of disability, anything that impairs them. Then, you would go forward with this Team-Based Early Intervention Services.
Parental Participation Rights
And so again, we would talk about an evaluation. The school would assess the child and provide services 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. 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 one cannot share them with other parties without your consent.
Dispute Resolution Process | Parents May File a Complaint
If you disagree with any of those services, there is a dispute resolution process. So, if maybe the state isn’t complying promptly, or you disagree with the evaluations, and they’re not getting another evaluator, or you disagree with what services the state will provide, you can file a complaint. And after that, it would go to mediation if it’s not settled. Then you’re even actually granted a due process hearing with an administrative law judge. So, you have a lot of say in this matter, and you can hold the DES office accountable.
Team-Based Early Intervention in Arizona
Again, these Team-based Early Intervention Services are for children ages birth through two years old with a qualifying disability. The services range and they’re tailored to meet your family’s needs.
Maybe someone is coming into the home, or you may be going and taking your child somewhere for services. They will monitor these things. There will be records. And if you feel like they’re not meeting your child’s needs or a new need 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 laws 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 disability benefits from free and appropriate public school education. That provides special education, including any services needed to meet individual student needs. The purpose is to integrate students with disabilities into society and not 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 advocating 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.
Arizona Student Questions?
IEPs, School Discipline, Hearings and more!