In a July 18, 2018, letter, TEA informed school districts of the actions they are required to start taking as part of the state corrective action plan Texas submitted to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs in April. TEA submitted the plan in response to a federal monitoring report that required TEA to correct areas of deficiency, including the proper identification of special education students and assuring access to appropriate services at the local level. 

One of the required local actions identified by TEA is for districts to collect and retain referrals/requests for special education evaluations that includes the reason for the request, and whether additional services are needed, along with the timeline for implementation. This action is required in response to OSEP’s requirement for TEA to provide “a plan and timeline by which TEA will ensure that each ISD will (i) identify, locate, and evaluate children enrolled in the ISD who should have been referred for an initial evaluation under the IDEA, (ii) require IEP Teams to consider, on an individual basis, whether additional services are needed for children previously suspected of having a disability who should have been referred for an initial evaluation and were later found eligible for special education and related services under the IDEA, taking into consideration supports and services previously provided to the child.” 

In its letter, TEA stated that although this information will not be collected from school districts until summer 2019, it is notifying school districts now so they can put local measures in place to collect the information throughout the 2018-19 school year. The data required to be collected includes the “total number of requests for evaluation made during the 2018-19 school year by either a parent or a public agency beginning on July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019”; and the “total number of requests made in which the reason for request indicates a claim that the child should have been referred for an initial evaluation prior to the 2018-2019 school year.”

School district staff, including teachers, are among the members of the “public agency” (i.e. school districts) that may initiate referrals for special education evaluations. In fact, TEA rules specifically require district personnel to refer a student for a full individual and initial evaluation “If the student continues to experience difficulty in the general classroom after the provision of interventions”. TEA has also recently clarified that response to intervention (RTI) is not required prior to any special education referrals, that that referral can be made at any time during the RTI process (a child need not advance through each tier of an RTI system before a special education referral is made) and that timely referral for evaluation under the IDEA is made if, after an appropriate amount of time, the student is not making adequate progress.

Additionally, TEA’s Special Education Strategic Plan specifically mentions in the “data collection” section of the plan, referring to Corrective Action 2.c., that “To accommodate desk reviews, TEA will need to collect additional data from LEAs…This could include the following, as allowable in state or federal statute: Parent- and staff-generated requests for special education initial evaluation…”

Accordingly, teachers need to be aware that these new data collection requirements will be occurring, and may be asked to assist in the process.