Info on IEEs

What is an IEE?

It is important for parents to understand that “Independent Educational Evaluation” is a term that was created by educators, and is not one used in the “real world” by neuropsychologists and other doctors.  It has no meaning outside of the insular world of special education.

Licensed clinical psychologists and clinical neuropsychologists conduct psychological and neuropsychological assessments (such assessments usually also include the evaluation of academic achievement/educational functioning).

The reason that the term “IEE” is used in special education is because the majority of licensed educational “psychologists” and school “psychologists” are educators, not psychologists.  Thus, they have to be careful about calling what they do “psychological” because in some states it is illegal for anyone to use this term unless they are licensed as a bonafide psychologist.

By definition, an IEE is a 3rd-party payor evaluation whereby a school district or SELPA is the payor.  Therefore, the school district/SELPA becomes the client (even though parents are rarely informed of this).  What has evolved from this incestuous situation is a “revolving door” between the school district/SELPA and the educational psychometrists who earn their living mainly from doing IEE testing in alleged “private practice.”

These licensed educational “psychologists” (who are not actually psychologists but are basically school “psychologists” — that is, they are, at at most, psychometrists), are “cherry-picked” by the school district.  Consequently, parents end up with “testing” that is near-identical to that which they found lacking from their school district.  Thus, the useless, taxpayer-paid circle is complete.

Because they are being paid (reinforced) to make the process unsavory — while the rest of us are expected to engage in it gratis — the vicious cycle of special ed corruption will continue unabated unless concerned parents complain to their state representatives about these issues.  The ever-growing and massively-overpaid maze of “special ed administrators” have forgotten who pays them and whom they are supposed to serve (not only parents and children — but all taxpayers).

Further, it is almost impossible for a parent to navigate through this corrupt maze without an attorney (one reason for this is that some of what many sped administrators are doing re IEEs is illegal).  To add insult to injury, the parent/taxpayer pays out-of-pocket for an attorney, while educrats take the money for “their” attorneys out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Some special ed administrators (and even whole districts) are nice people, of course, but too few unfortunately.  Ultimately, “biting the hand that feeds” by treating taxpayers as enemies will not end well for special ed.  In the meantime, however, innocent children continue to suffer the consequences.

Can you perform an independent educational evaluation? Why might I need a private assessment?

My qualifications meet and far exceed those of district school “psychologists.”

The sources of confusion around an educational evaluation are myriad.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Although your school’s assessment may be sufficient in some cases, in many cases it is not.  Why?  It is rare to find a licensed psychologist working in the educational system and therefore, your child will most likely merely be “tested” by special educators.  However, unless you ask for a neuropsychological evaluation, what you get in an “IEE” is basically “more of the same.”

Qualification (or not) for special education does not constitute a diagnosis.

A huge source of confusion is the fact that the categories of disability in special education and the criteria used to identity those categories often bear little resemblance to the criteria that doctors use (e.g. DSM-V; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which contains the diagnostic criteria for all accepted mental disorders, including those that may qualify for special education) to diagnose.  Most licensed psychologists, pediatricians, and other doctors have little understanding of special education categories, while school personnel have little understanding of clinical diagnoses.

See also “Choosing a Provider

I have experience working within the special education system at the state, county, and district level, and am available for consultation and advocacy work with parents, and for independent assessments. I am an expert in both the psychiatric diagnoses of childhood disorders, as well as the educational classifications of these diagnoses.  However, I rarely take cases whereby the school district is my client because IEEs are just a re-hash of what the school psychometrist already did and thus provide no information on the neuropsychological underpinnings of the problem.

If you decide that my services are appropriate for your needs, the next step is face-to-face consultation.  I will review previous assessment results (if any) and consult with you about possible next steps, including delineation of assessment options.

Can you perform an independent educational evaluation that is also a neuropsychological assessment? 

Here we go further into the sticky wicket of the Alice in Wonderland world of special education.  I am not a lawyer so please do consult an attorney on any of these issues.  Please remember that lawyers and special educators made up the SPED law and real experts in childhood disabilities like myself had no say in it.

That said, from what I can glean about this issue, your school district does not have to pay for a neuropsychological evaluation but rather it is only required to pay for an IEE (typically just a repeat of the things already done by your district).

My comprehensive neuropsychological assessments are far more in-depth than anything done in the schools or by LEPs doing so-called IEEs.  This is due to the fact that they are not qualified to administer and interpret neuropsychological assessments.  SPED testing and IEEs are very simplistic.  They amount to trying to assess heart functioning by taking a photo of the person’s chest with a cell phone.

My evaluations are, on average, at least 4 times more information-rich and take far more time than anything they do (not only because I am able to assess so many more areas due to my expert training, but also because I never let a computer program “write” a report for me).  So, it is my understanding that you would need to specifically ask your district for a neuropsychological evaluation performed by a qualified doctor and not just an IEE.  

I disagree with the evaluation performed by my child’s school. Can I get an independent evaluation from a qualified person who doesn’t work for the school?

Yes.   You can seek an independent evaluation at public expense if:

(1) You feel that your child has been wrongly classified or inappropriately placed, or

(2) You believe the IEP is not a quality plan because the school district has made its decision based on an inaccurate or incomplete evaluation of your child.

The independent evaluation can be used to obtain appropriate educational services for your child.  Even though there is nothing that indicates that parents must formally notify the school district of their intent to obtain an independent evaluation at district expense, attorneys usually recommend that they do so. The district has two options once they have been notified: to reimburse you for the evaluation or go to a hearing to prove that the district’s evaluation is appropriate.  If the district elects to go to a hearing, and the hearing officer determines that the school’s evaluation is appropriate, you still have a right to the independent evaluation, but not at public expense. Regardless of who pays, the local agency must consider the results of an independent evaluation in any decision regarding the provision of a free appropriate public education to your child, even if the district has not assessed your child in that particular area.  The results may also be presented as evidence at a due process hearing.

Do I need permission from the school district to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) for my child?

No, you do not need permission from your school district to proceed with an IEE. There seems to be a lot of confusion among special education personnel about this issue; the law is clear. The school district is only required to provide parents with names of qualified evaluators if you should desire their list. A school district’s list of qualified examiners is by no means complete. The tendency is to include practitioners who are the least expensive (i.e. licensed educational psychologists or LEPs) and not necessarily those who may be the most qualified (i.e. Licensed Psychologists whose training is with children).  You may also want to ask the practitioner whether they currently work in the K-12 educational system, or if much of their work is contracted through the public school system, as many people view this as a conflict of interest.

The Director of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) clarified the law regarding IEEs in a letter to one of the California Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendents (Alice Parker). This letter clarifies that parents have the right to choose their own private evaluator and that that evaluator does not have to be one on the district’s list (given the examiner meets agency criteria).  You can view this letter here.

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Further Reading:   Advice for IEP MeetingsMisc. SPED Questions
Special education questions 
What is the difference between a Psychologist, a Neuropsychologist, a Licensed Educational “Psychologist,” and a School “Psychologist?”
The What & Why of Psychological Assessment
Neuropsychology questions
 What Is Psychotherapy?

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