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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Triennial evaluations

The previous regulations required a school district to conduct an evaluation of each child served under the Act every three years to determine, among other things, whether the child was still eligible for special education. The previous regulations also permitted the evaluation team to dispense with additional tests to determine the child's continued eligibility if the team concluded that this information was not needed and the parents provided consent. Section 300.303(b)(2) permits districts to dispense with the triennial evaluation when the child's parents and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. The impact of this change depends on the following factors: the number of children eligible for a reevaluation, the cost of the evaluation, and the extent to which districts and parents agree to waive reevaluations.

Published estimates of the cost of multidisciplinary evaluations range from $500 to $2,500, but these estimates may overestimate potential savings because testing is a significant factor in the cost of evaluations, and districts are already permitted to dispense with additional testing when extant data are sufficient for reevaluation. The extent to which States and districts eliminated unnecessary testing during triennial evaluations under the previous regulations is unclear, but program officers estimate that additional testing or observation by a school psychologist is not needed for as many as half of the approximately 1.7 million children eligible for triennial evaluations each year. In the estimated 850,000 cases in which additional testing is not needed, review of the extant data may still be warranted to determine if a child still needs special education and related services under the Act or to assess whether any additions or modifications to the special education and related services being provided are needed to help the child meet the child's IEP goals. Even if additions or modifications to special education and related services are not likely, parents may not want to dispense with the triennial evaluation if they believe further information could be gained from the extant data or they want to compare their child's progress against his or her previous assessments. If parents and the district agree that a reevaluation is not needed in 15 percent, or 127,500, of these cases and a reevaluation using only extant data would have cost $150, the final regulations could save $19.125 million.

These savings will be partially offset by increased administrative costs associated with obtaining consent from parents to dispense with reevaluation. To estimate the cost of obtaining parental consent, the Department assumes that schools could use a standard pre-printed document that would take approximately 15 minutes of administrative personnel time to fill out and send to parents. In addition, we estimate that an average of 2.5 additional written notices or telephone calls would be needed to obtain consent, requiring 15 minutes of administrative personnel time per additional contact. At an average hourly compensation of $25, the cost to public agencies of obtaining parental consent would be $2.8 million, resulting in estimated net savings to public agencies from the final regulations of $16.3 million.