Functional Assessment and IEP Relevance

Part b of Regulation 532 (see Appendix 6-A) is new and significant. First, a clear emphasis is placed on functional and developmental information gathered from a variety of sources, including parents. The functional requirement implies greater emphasis on gathering information in the natural setting that is directly relevant to the problem behavior and to interventions addressing the problem behavior. The requirement that the evaluation procedures address progress in the general education curriculum further solidifies the emphasis on natural setting and interventions. Although the term “functional” has varied meanings (see Tilly et al., 2000), all of the meanings in the literature have important implications for the implementation of the law.

Practitioners are challenged to develop and tailor assessment procedures to more clearly reflect the problem behavior in the classroom, other school, and home settings. Behavior assessment and curriculum-based measurement methodologies typically provide information from the natural setting that is directly relevant to problem definition, special education need, and the design and evaluation of interventions. This section of the regulations, along with other sections discussed shortly, push the field toward problem-solving approaches featuring behavioral and curriculum-based assessment with less emphasis on standardized tests (Reschly, 1988b; Reschly and Tilly, 1999; Reschly and Ysseldyke, 1995; Tilly et al., 1999). These approaches have the advantages of being more acceptable to critics of special education and more closely related to ensuring effective programs.

The three new regulations at the end of this section, 532 (h), (i), and (j), are directed toward ensuring that the assessment procedures are closely related to the development of the special education program. Emphasis is placed on identifying all of the child’s special education needs, assessment of the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors and, most important, the collection of “relevant information that directly assists persons in determining the educational needs of the child.” Clearly, IDEA 1997 places significant emphasis on determining educational needs, not just disability classification and eligibility determination.

Determination of Eligibility

Several new regulations stress the procedures by which children may be diagnosed as having a disability. First, according to 34 CFR 300.534, the diagnosis has to be made by a “group of qualified professionals and the parent of the child.” Second, the school or other public agency must share with parents an evaluation report and the documentation regarding eligibil-

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