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Ideally, the evaluator should not have any financial stake in your child’s proposed tutoring. Otherwise, the school district could argue that the evaluator is skewing the scores in order to make money from potential tutoring. While a good tutor will DO pre testing to check the level of the child’s ability, it should not be the only evidence. If the tutor and the independent evaluator both come to the same conclusions using different measures, your case for intervention for your child becomes stronger. Two experts are better than one.
Another consideration in choosing an evaluator:
Is he or she free from bias?
Does this evaluator work for a school district either as a regular or contract employee?
If so, this person would not be a good choice. as this could result in a conflict of interest. Do not be afraid to ask for a “curriculum vitea” also known as CV. The CV is a resume showing the coursework and work experience of the evaluator. Evaluations are expensive and could end up as evidence in a court case. You want the very best person for the job.
Make sure the evaluator is willing to come to the IEP meeting and testify in a due process hearing if needed! Not all experts will. To my dismay I had a speech therapist who wrote and awesome report but refused to come and testify. Her logic was that the “report speaks for itself”. Unfortunately in due process, a judge wants to see for himself, how “credible” a witness is before he decides to take the expert seriously. The judge may also have questions about the report material and the evaluator needs to be available to give those answers.
Ideally, it would be great to get references about an evaluator. Unfortunately, since the client list is confidential, you cannot get this information from evaluator. However, there are other ways to get references.
- Try attending conferences or workshops about your Childs disability. A great example of this is the International Dyslexia Association Annual (IDA) Conference. Many of the workshops are presented by the top experts in the field. You can meet and get excellent materials to understand what your child needs. It’s a great way to find an evaluator or tutor! After the conference, many of the power point presentations are available for downloading on the IDA website. You can also call the local branch of the IDA and ask for the names of evaluators in your area. I have found great evaluators this way. Many of the best tutors and teachers attend this conference and it is a great time to network
- Call or visit your local Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center. There are PTI’s in every state and they are funded by the government. The PTI may offer workshops, parent mentors and resources where you can find a good evaluator ot tutor by word of mouth.
- Talk to your chosen tutor or tutoring center. Most of the tutors have probably worked with evaluators in the past with other children and know who the best evaluators are. If you have an evaluator, ask them who are the most effective tutors.
- Peruse your states orders and decisions data base of due process hearings. If your state does not have one, look at another state. Look at the cases to see what evaluators and tutors have testified in past due process hearings.
- Call or check the websites of special education schools in your area that exclusively serve students like your child. Sometimes they will even have a list of evaluators and tutors on line. Most special education schools require a child have a recent evaluation by an expert to determine if they can serve the Child’s needs before they will admit the child. The staff at these school can be experts at picking experts. Pick up the phone and ask!
- Look at websites for special education attorneys. Some offer lists of professional services for therapists, tutors, evaluators etc. A great example is Wrightslaw. They offer a state by state guide at Yellowpages for kids.com. Sometimes non profit special education law organizations will offer a short free consultation for parents to discuss their child’s case. These organizations may also know who are the best local evaluators or tutors. Experienced attorneys frequently may have favored experts who are smart and testify well. They may be willing to share these opinions with parents.
Coming next: Getting an independent evaluation. Pay out of pocket or should the school pay?