Answer: The US Department of Education has emphasized that highly mobile children should have timely and expedited evaluations and eligibility determinations. The Department also has clarified that “once parental consent has been obtained for an initial evaluation to determine if the child needs special education and related services, the school district must not delay the completion of the evaluation because an RTI [Response to Intervention] process is pending. Rather, the school district must adhere to the relevant evaluation time frame described in 34 CFR 300.301, unless extended by mutual written agreement of the school district and the child’s parents.” July 19, 2013 letter from OSERS to State Directors of Special Education.
When students miss school or move frequently, it certainly can impact their achievement in ways that may raise concerns about a possible disability. If a parent (or surrogate parent) requests an evaluation, that evaluation must move forward as quickly as possible, and certainly within regulatory time frames. As part of the special education evaluation and eligibility process, the special education team will determine whether the child’s difficulties are due to a disability or due to other factors such as mobility and attendance.