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Students enrolled in private/nonpublic schools may be evaluated pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Act 89 law and/or the IDEA’s Equitable Participation provisions. Is there a difference between the two types of evaluations?
Yes. As described in more detail throughout this Q&A, the purpose of an Act 89 evaluation and an IDEA Equitable Participation evaluation is different. An Act 89 evaluation identifies a student’s strengths and weaknesses and is used to assist the private/nonpublic school in educating the student. An IDEA Equitable Participation evaluation determines whether a student is eligible for IDEA services and requires a two part analysis: 1) the identification of an IDEA disability, and 2) a determination that the student requires specially designed instruction.
What is the purpose of the Act 89 psychologist?
The type and scope of psychological services under Act 89 is determined by each Intermediate Unit (IU). The Act 89 evaluation identifies strengths and needs of students in private/nonpublic schools. Act 89 evaluations occur at the request of the nonpublic school and with parent consent. Evaluations may include reports on students’ academic ability, academic achievement, social/emotional development, and behavior. The Act 89 evaluation, however, does not determine a student’s eligibility for IDEA services.
May Act 89 funds be used to have an Act 89 psychologist do a psycho-educational evaluation?
Yes, Act 89 funds may be used for psycho-educational evaluations as determined by each IU. The results of the Act 89 evaluation may be used to assist in the determination of eligibility for special education services.
Are there any restrictions on responsibilities or duties regarding the use of psychologists funded under Act 89?
The definition in 24 P.S. 9-922.1-A(b) lists some of the services that may be provided under Act 89. Act 89 does not detail any restrictions on a psychologist’s responsibilities or duties. Specific restrictions and responsibilities are determined by each IU.
May Act 89 funded psychologists complete special education evaluations that determine eligibility under IDEA?
The Act 89 psychological report does not meet the requirements of the IDEA and may not be used in isolation to determine eligibility under IDEA; however, the results from the Act 89 psychological report may be considered as part of the data reviewed during an initial evaluation for special education.
When a Prior Written Notice for Initial Evaluation and Request for Consent, formerly Permission to Evaluate (“PTE”) is issued following an Act 89 funded evaluation, and an IDEA evaluation includes a review of the Act 89 report, may the Act 89 psychologist fulfill the role of a psychologist on the IDEA evaluation team or is a differently funded psychologist required?
The involvement of a licensed school psychologist in the determination of eligibility for special education services is required by the state special education regulations for specific disability categories (22 Pa. Code §14.123(a)). Each IU determines procedures and process for involvement of the Act 89 psychologist in the special education eligibility evaluation process. The purpose of a special education evaluation is not solely for a diagnosis; the evaluation for special education eligibility requires a determination that the child has a disability in one of the IDEA categories and that the child needs specially designed instruction.
Why would the IU conduct an Act 89 evaluation instead of a special education evaluation under the IDEA?
Each IU determines the procedures and process for Act 89 services including the psychological evaluations available to private/nonpublic schools. Act 89 evaluations can provide information to private/nonpublic schools to help the private/nonpublic school plan programs and services to meet the needs of the students within the
private/nonpublic school setting. If the purpose of an evaluation is to determine special education eligibility, however, parent consent and specific procedural safeguard notices are required under IDEA that are not required under Act 89.
Does a student require an IDEA evaluation if speech services are requested under the IDEA’s Equitable Participation provisions?
Yes, there are no partial evaluations under IDEA.
If an IU has a psychologist complete an IDEA evaluation, what is the funding stream?
IDEA does not allow the use of Equitable Participation funds to pay for any evaluations. Each IU must determine how to pay for IDEA evaluations of private/nonpublic school students.
Can exchange students attending private/nonpublic schools go to the school district of residence to get a special education evaluation?
The parent/guardian (host family) may request an evaluation from the IU or from district of residence.