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  • Richard J. Murphy

Educational Assessments for Arizona students with disabilities

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Yesterday Governor Ducey announced his “Arizona: Open for Learning” plan. This plan will help schools make data-based decisions on when and how to reopen for in-person learning instead of relying on a specific, arbitrary date. We will know more on August 7, 2020 when criteria is due to be submitted.

But one feature of the plan affects students with disabilities in particular. One part of the plan states: “Schools will continue to be required to provide 180 days of instruction or equivalent hours, whether a family chooses to do so in person or via distance learning.”

Since the closures from COVID-19 in March, there have not been any “school days” for students. But with Governor Ducey’s plan and July 20, 2020 guidance from the Arizona Department of Education, it is clear that the 2020-2021 school year will include school days from the start – whether the learning is in person or with distance learning.

This is significant because some of the schools’ obligations to students with disabilities, including conducting educational assessments and parent-requested IEP meetings are tied to the passage of “school days.” If there are no school days – such as during summer break or the school closures in the 2019-2020 school year – then the school will not have to start the educational assessment for a student.

As I wrote in a previous post, if a parent requests a school evaluate a student with a confirmed or suspected disability, the school has up to 15 school days to convene a meeting to obtain parental consent to begin the evaluation process.

With the determination that online or in-person instruction will count as “school days”

  • It will be important to get any written requests for an educational assessment or evaluation to the school in writing as soon as possible so that the school will have to begin the process and get the evaluation started.

  • Some school districts delayed evaluations of students with disabilities in the 2019-2020 school year based on the lack of school days.

  • Another way in which schools delayed the evaluation process was by stating that the evaluation could not be completed because an educational assessment requires an in-school observation of the student in the educational setting.

Hopefully, as the school year progresses, schools will be safe for most students to attend in person. If not, school personnel might be able to observe students remotely particularly because Governor Ducey’s plan presupposes some more robust online instruction. Alternatively, the school could use previous observation information from last year to help make its decision on eligibility and/or services.

Regardless of how it is handled, the important takeaway is to make sure the school receives the written request so that the educational assessment for student with disabilities can begin.

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