Massachusetts Special Education Evaluation Timelines
The law regarding timelines for special education evaluations can be confusing. State law can vary from the federal IDEA requirement, and parents also need to be aware of whether the law refers to “days” or “school days.” The term “days” refers to calendar days, which includes weekends, holidays and vacations; the term “school days” refers to days in which school is in session.
Federal law states that evaluations must be conducted within 60 days of receipt of parental consent for the evaluation, but defers to state timelines if such timelines exist (34 C.F.R. 300.301(c)). Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have implemented their own specific timelines. The remainder of this article will be specific to Massachusetts law; I will post a separate article specific to New Hampshire law.
“Within 45 school working days after receipt of a parent’s written consent to an initial evaluation or reevaluation, the school district shall: provide an evaluation; convene a Team meeting to review the evaluation data, determine whether the student requires special education and, if required, develop an IEP in accordance with state and federal laws; … The evaluation assessments shall be completed within 30 school working days after receipt of parental consent for evaluation. Summaries of such assessments shall be completed so as to ensure their availability to parents at least two days prior to the Team meeting.” 603 C.M.R. 28.05(1).
In other words, in Massachusetts, once a parent provides consent, the school district has 30 school days to complete the evaluation. The entire process, including conducting the evaluation and convening the Team meeting to discuss the results, must be complete within 45 school days of parental consent. Furthermore, a summary of the evaluations must be provided to the parents at least 2 days prior to the Team meeting.
We can look at an example to better understand these timelines. Let’s assume that a parent provided consent for an evaluation on 09/12/11. Counting ahead 30 school days, including a day off for Columbus Day, brings us to 10/25/11, which in this example is the deadline for conducting the evaluation. Counting ahead 45 school days from 09/12/11, including days off for Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day, brings us to 11/16/11, which is the deadline for conducting the Team meeting and drafting the IEP.
But what happens if consent is provided at the end of the school year, and there is not enough time under the law as listed above to complete the evaluation and conduct the Team meeting? In Massachusetts, parents may still be in luck. Massachusetts has added the following protection:
“If consent is received within 30 to 45 school working days before the end of the school year, the school district shall ensure that a Team meeting is scheduled so as to allow for the provision of a proposed IEP or written notice of the finding that the student is not eligible no later than 14 days after the end of the school year.” 603 C.M.R. 28.05(1).
Again, let’s look at an example to better understand this law. Assume that the school year ends on Friday, June 22, 2012. 45 school days prior to June 22, 2012 brings us to April 12, 2012. 30 school days prior to June 22, 2012 brings us to May 10, 2012. Thus, we have three time frames to consider:
- Consent provided prior to April 12, 2012: the school district will be expected to complete the evaluation, Team meeting, and draft IEP before the end of the school year on June 22.
- Consent provided after May 10, 2012: the school district will not be required to complete the evaluation prior to the end of the school year, because there are fewer than 30 school days remaining.
- Consent provided between April 12, 2012 and May 10, 2012: the school district will be required to complete the evaluation prior to and of the school year. If the 45 day rule would go beyond June 22, then the school district will be required to convene the Team meeting no later than 14 calendar days following the end of the school year.