By: Nancy Roosa, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
As an independent group practice, not allied with any one school district, medical or advocacy group, neuropsychologists at NESCA are often called upon to perform independent evaluations for parents who are seeking an unbiased expert opinion related to their child’s developmental and educational needs. In some cases, this is the first evaluation a family is seeking for their child. In others, the family is in disagreement with the progression or conclusions of a school-based evaluation process. In Massachusetts, parents may seek private evaluation of their child at their own expense at any time and their educational team must meet to consider the results and recommendations of that evaluation. State and federal laws also provide parents with a procedure for requesting that a school district fund an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) if they believe that the school’s evaluation is not adequate or comprehensive enough. It is often helpful for parents who are interested in this important resource to consult with an educational advocate to see if they have a legitimate reason to request public funding for an IEE.
Unfortunately, in the past, the ability of families to access a publicly funded IEE has been limited by the low rates that school districts were required to pay to the independent evaluator, as set by state regulations. The maximum allowable rates were, until recently, $74.94 per hour with an allowed range of 8-12 hours, for a total of $899.28. Very few practicing evaluators are able or willing to accept less than $900 to perform what, by definition, needs to be a comprehensive evaluation in the context of what is often a complex situation centering on a disagreement between a family and a school district. These rates had not been raised since 2007, more than ten years ago. Thus, even when a school district agreed to fund an IEE, the school and family often had trouble finding an expert evaluator willing and able to perform it for the state rate.
This situation has changed, thanks in large part to the committed lobbying efforts of our friends at Mass Advocates for Children (MAC), a group of dedicated lawyers, advocates, parents and others who work tirelessly to ensure that all children in the state have equal access to educational and life opportunities. They focus particularly on those children who have disabilities, are low income and/or are racially, culturally, or linguistically diverse. Thanks to MAC’s leadership in lobbying for this new change, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) passed new regulations, effective April 1, 2018, which allow a maximum rate of $88.43 per hour, and the range of hours has increased to 9-20, bringing the maximum total rate to $1,768.60. In addition, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals will be able to order a higher rate in extraordinary cases. Further, in the rare instances that parents prevail at a hearing and have paid expert fees, the parents would have the right to be reimbursed for these fees by the school district. This means more families, particularly those of limited means, should be able to access IEEs if they are needed.
We thank our friends at MAC for their dedicated work on this and other efforts that benefit the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth. MAC also gives grateful credit to the Ed Law Project and other advocates, parents, and psychologists who helped advocate for this bill, as well as Lead Sponsors of the bill: State Senator Barbara L’Italien and State Representative Jim O’Day.
Please visit the MAC website to appreciate the scope of their many efforts. https://massadvocates.org/
For more information about the Independent Educational Evaluation process in MA, check out these resources:
- Educational Laws and Regulations: Referral and Evaluation
- Administrative Advisory SPED 2004-1: Independent Educational Evaluations
- Bill’s Blog: Ensuring that Independent Education Evaluations are Credible and Persuasive
NESCA is proud to continue to provide evaluations funded both privately and publicly. While our rates are higher than the state’s standard rate, we are thankful that this increased funding is available to defray costs for families in need.
About the Author:
Dr. Roosa has been engaged in providing neuropsychological evaluations for children since 1997. She enjoys working with a range of children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders, as well as children with attentional issues, executive function deficits, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, or other social, emotional or behavioral problems. Her evaluations are particularly appropriate for children with complex profiles and those whose presentations do not fit neatly into any one diagnostic box. As part of this process, Dr. Roosa is frequently engaged in school visits, IEP Team Meetings, home observations and phone consultations with collateral providers. Dr. Roosa has also consulted with several area schools, either about individual children or about programmatic concerns. She speaks to parent or school groups, upon request.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email email@example.com or call 617-658-9800.