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Evaluations and Eligibility

Young student with noise cancelling headphones working with a teacher.

Evaluations and Eligibility

A student must be evaluated for special education and determined eligible in order to receive special education programs and services.

A multidisciplinary evaluation team (MET) evaluates students for suspected disabilities. The MET includes specialists with knowledge of the suspected disabilities. The Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) outline the specialists needed for each suspected disability.


Child Find

Guidance specific to child find requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE).

Independent Educational Evaluation

An independent educational evaluation (IEE) is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the district responsible for the education of the student. This document provides an overview of the federal and state requirements for conducting an IEE.

Guidance for Timeline for Initial Evaluations

Districts must have in effect policies and procedures to ensure all children with disabilities are identified, located, and evaluated. A Parent of a child or a public agency may request an initial evaluation when a student is suspected of having a disability.

Initial Evaluation Procedure for Special Education Programs and Services

This document provides a visual for the procedure for initial evaluations to determine eligibility for special education programs and services.

Special Education Reevaluation Process

A student's special education needs may change throughout the course of their educational career, and the reevaluation process is developed to assess these evolving needs.

Tools and Resources for Addressing English Language Learners With Disabilities

Chapter 6 of the English Learner Toolkit, from the U.S. Department of Education, is intended to help state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) meet their obligations to English Learners (ELs) for child find and conducting comprehensive evaluations to determine eligibility.


Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Specific Learning Disability

The criteria describe the state-approved options districts can use to evaluate a student for a specific learning disability.

Eligibility and Social Maladjustment Clarification

When considering eligibility for a student who has challenging behaviors, questions often arise regarding the presence of a social maladjustment or characteristics of a social maladjustment. Multidisciplinary evaluation teams are encouraged to utilize the IDEA and the MARSE requirements for emotional impairment. Once emotional impairment criteria are met, evidence of social maladjustment cannot be used as a rule out for purposes of determining eligibility and the need for special education programs and services.

Michigan Mandatory Special Education (MMSE) 

Michigan requires special education services for eligible children and students from birth through age 25. Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires special education services for eligible students ages 3 through 21. Part C of the IDEA requires early intervention services for eligible infants and toddlers from birth to age 3.

Infants and toddlers from birth to age 3 may be eligible for services under only the IDEA Part C (called Early On® in Michigan) or under both the IDEA Part C and the Michigan Mandatory Special Education mandate. Early On is administered through the Office of Great Start.

Two toddler girls playing in classroom setting

Determination of Eligibility for MMSE

Overview and Guidance

In Michigan, Early On® early intervention services for infants and toddlers, birth to age three, with a significant developmental delay and/or a disability, are governed by the regulations of Part C of IDEA (34 CFR part 303) and the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE).

The series of MMSE guidance documents are intended to provide clarity for the determination of eligibility of infants and toddlers for MMSE. Guidance for use of specific categories of eligibility under MARSE is provided for practitioners, administrators, and compliance personnel.

Procedural Requirements

MARSE R 340.1862 requires:

  1. Evaluations conducted to determine eligibility for Michigan special education services shall meet the requirements of 34 CFR part 303 and R 340.1705 to R 340.1717.
  2. Determination of eligibility for Michigan special education services, for a child birth to 3 with a disability shall follow all time lines and requirements pursuant to 34 CFR part 303.

Accordingly, the Michigan State Plan for Part C requires the following for every determination of eligibility, regardless of the type of suspected developmental delay or eligibility category:

  • Administering an evaluation instrument or instruments that include all developmental domains, i.e., cognitive, physical, communication, social or emotional and adaptive development.
  • Taking each child’s history (including a parent interview).
  • Identifying each child’s level of functioning, or child assessment, in each of the statutorily-established developmental areas.
  • Gathering information from other sources such as family members, other caregivers, medical providers, social workers, and educators, if necessary, to understand the scope of the child’s unique strengths and needs.
  • Reviewing medical, educational, or other records.

Evaluation Team Members

According to MARSE R 340.1701b(b), evaluations to determine eligibility for special education must be conducted by a multidisciplinary evaluation team of at least two people. The expertise required of each team member is defined in MARSE and differs according to the needs of each eligibility category.

For example:

  • Speech and Language Impairment: The team shall include a teacher of students with speech and language impairment under R 340.1796 or a speech-language pathologist qualified under R 340.1792.
  • Early Childhood Developmental Delay: Team members should be selected based on the child’s suspected areas of disability.

Parent Involvement

Particularly for infants and toddlers, parents play an essential role in the assessment, planning and service delivery related to their child’s developmental progress and eligibility determination. Written and dated parental consent must be obtained before conducting the initial evaluation and assessment of a child and any subsequent reevaluation or ongoing assessment.

Practitioners are required to provide prior written notice to parents at a reasonable time before proposing or refusing to initiate or change the eligibility, evaluation or placement of a child or the provision of services to the child and the child’s family.

Parent/family support and engagement are crucial to the achievement of desired outcomes.