Alan v Hopkinton Public Schools – BSEA # 05-6127
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
In re: Alan1 v Hopkinton Public Schools
BSEA # 05-6127
This decision is rendered pursuant to M.G.L. Chapters 30A and 71B; 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq .; 29 U.S.C. § 794; and the regulations promulgated under each of these statutes.
A hearing in the above-entitled matter was held on September 20, 2005 at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals in Malden, MA.
Those in attendance were:
Trudy Sack Director of Special Education, Hopkinton Public Schools
Frances Coutinho Team Chairperson, Hopkinton Public Schools
Nicole Henderson School Psychologist, Hopkinton Public Schools
Mary Joann Reedy Attorney for Hopkinton Public Schools
Raymond Oliver Hearing Officer, Bureau of Special Education Appeals
The evidence consisted of Hopkinton Public Schools’ Exhibits labeled S-1 through S-4; and approximately 1¼ hours of oral testimony.
It is noted that the Hearing Officer informed Father of his right to representation, his right to submit exhibits and his right to call witnesses at this hearing. Father chose to represent Alan’s position without an attorney or advocate. Father chose to introduce no exhibits and to call no witnesses. The Hearing Officer informed Father that although he was acting as Alan’s representative at this hearing, as Alan’s Parent he could also testify on Alan’s behalf as to the basis of Parents’ position. Father declined to testify.
STATEMENT/HISTORY OF THE CASE
Alan is a 9 year old, 4 th grade regular education student who resides in Hopkinton, MA and attends the Hopkinton Public Schools (Hopkinton).
In late May 2005 towards the end of Alan’s 3 rd grade year, Mother requested that Alan be evaluated. On June 1, 2005 Mother met with Ms. Coutinho, Hopkinton Team Chairperson, for a Parent Interview regarding the reasons for referral for an evaluation and Parental concerns. As a result on June 1, 2005, via an evaluation consent form, Hopkinton proposed the following school evaluations of Alan: Psychological Assessment; Teacher Assessment; Educational Assessment; Developmental History; Class Observation; Speech-Language Assessment; and Occupational Therapy Assessment. In addition to the above evaluation consent form, Mother also received a Parents’ Rights Brochure on June 1, 2005.
On June 16, 2005 Mother accepted the proposed evaluations but requested a neuropsychological evaluation instead of the psychological evaluation. On June 17, 2005 Hopkinton Director of Special Education, Dr. Sack, denied Parents’ request for a publicly funded neuropsychological evaluation and on June 20, 2005 requested a hearing before the BSEA. An initial date was scheduled for July 13, 2005. Hopkinton’s attorney requested a postponement which was granted. A pre-hearing conference call was scheduled for and took place on July 18, 2005. The hearing was scheduled for and took place on September 20, 2005.
(See testimony, Coutinho; Sack; S-1, 2.)
ISSUE IN DISPUTE
Whether Hopkinton acted appropriately in denying Parents’ request for a neuropsychological evaluation instead of a psychological evaluation.
STATEMENT OF POSITIONS
Hopkinton’s position is that its proposed evaluations are comprehensive and appropriate to provide sufficient information to determine Alan’s eligibility/ineligibility for special education services and, if necessary, to develop an appropriate Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Parents’ position is that Alan requires a neuropsychological evaluation instead of a psychological evaluation.
PROFILE OF STUDENT
Alan is a 9 year old regular education student in the 4 th grade. He has always been a regular education student. Alan received a team evaluation in 1 st grade, followed by an independent evaluation received in early 2 nd grade. Alan was found not to be in need of special education at that time, as well a being ineligible for a 504 plan. (Testimony, Coutinho; S-2.)
Parents’ areas of concern which led to their current request for an evaluation include:
written expression i.e., the quality and quantity of written output; spelling; focus/ attentional issues; motivation; cognitive ability and learning style; possible learning disability; and tactile issues. Alan’s 3 rd grade teacher, Mr. Keane, also had concerns regarding Alan’s written language expression and production; spelling; grammatical skills; maintaining focus/attention; and motivation. (Testimony, Cautinho, S-2, 3.)
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
The parties are in substantial agreement regarding the areas of possible weakness displayed by Alan. The parties are also in substantial agreement regarding the evaluations Hopkinton proposed to perform. The sole issue in dispute is whether Alan should receive a psychological evaluation or a neuropsychological evaluation.
Based upon the oral testimony and written exhibits introduced into evidence and a review of the applicable law, I conclude that Hopkinton acted appropriately in denying Parents’ request for a neuropsychological evaluation instead of a psychological evaluation.
My analysis follows.
A psychological evaluation can encompass a wide range of assessment tools to evaluate intelligence, cognitive processing, memory, attentional/focus issues, emotional issues and behavioral issues, depending on the reasons for referral. Given Parental and teacher concerns for referral in Alan’s situation, Hopkinton’s psychological evaluation would include at least the following testing instruments:
1. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-4 th edition (WISC-IV) to assess Alan’s
intelligence, cognitive/learning style, verbal processing, visual processing, reasoning, memory, and processing speed;
2. Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities-3 rd edition (WJ-III-Cognitive) to assess
cognitive skills, executive functioning skills and attentional skills;
3. The Behavioral Assessment System for Childeren-2 nd edition (BASC-II) to assess
Alan’s attention/focus, hyperactivity, and social skills; and
4. The Children’s Memory Scale (CMS) to assess verbal memory, visual memory and their
impact upon Alan’s ability to learn .
Based upon the results of the above tests additional testing may be done. The psychological evaluation would be performed by Dr. Dannewitz who has a Ph. D. in School and Child Clinical Psychology; who is a licensed school psychologist and licensed psychologist in Massachusetts; and who has been a school psychologist for over 25 years. (See testimony, Henderson; Cautinho; S-4.)
On the educational evaluation Hopkinton would perform the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achivement-3 rd edition ( WJ-III-Achievement) and based upon that test perhaps other testing to assess Alan’s reading, spelling, written language and math skills. The speech-language evaluation would consist of at least the Clinical Evaluation of Language Functioning-4 th edition ( CELF-IV) which assesses both receptive and expressive language functioning; the Expressive One Word Picture Vocabulary Test (EOWPVT) which assesses expressive language; the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) which assesses receptive language; and the Phonemic Awareness Test (PAT). The occupational therapy evaluation would consist of both formal and informal measures to assess visual-motor integration, gross motor skills, and fine motor skills to determine any impact of these areas on Alan’s written language issues. (Testimony, Coutinho; S-2.)
I find that Hopkinton’s proposed psychological evaluation, combined with the various other evaluations proposed by Hopkinton, provides a thorough and comprehensive team evaluation of Alan. All of Parents’ expressed areas of concern and Alan’s teacher’s areas of concern are addressed by Hopkinton’s proposed assessments both via the psychological evaluation and also by the combination of evaluations-psychological, educational, speech-language and occupational. (See testimony, Henderson; Cautinho; Sack.) The WISC-IV, WJ-III-Cognitive, WJ-III-Achievement, CELF-IV, PPVT, EOWPVT etc. are all well established, normed, highly reliable and validated test instruments. The combination of these multi-faceted test instruments should provide an accurate and comprehensive picture of Alan’s current level of functioning across all areas evaluated.
Hopkinton witnesses testified that Hopkinton performs neuropsychological evaluations if, after a team evaluation, there is conflicting information, insufficient information, unanswered questions, or in very complicated cases. (See testimony, Coutinho; Henderson; Sack.) I also note Dr. Sack’s testimony that during the 2003-2004 school year there was one parental request and four school requests for a neuropsychological evaluation and all were granted. For the 2004-2005 school year there were four parental requests and two school requests for a neuropsychological evaluation. Two out of four parental requests and both school requests were granted. (Testimony, Sack.) I find Hopkinton’s position to be rational and consistent.
Parents submitted no written documentation or oral testimony to support their position that Alan should receive a neuropsychological evaluation instead of a psychological evaluation. Therefore, Hopkinton’s testimonial and documentary evidence stands unrebutted. Alan is currently a regular education student. Hopkinton’s proposed evaluation, including a psychological evaluation, is comprehensive and thorough. Based upon the results of its team evaluations Hopkinton may do additional testing. Parents may request an independent evaluation after the team evaluation. However, I find no basis to conclude that Hopkinton should perform a neuropsychological evaluation instead of a psychological evaluation as part of the initial team process.
By the Hearing Officer
Dated:October 25, 2005
Alan is pseudonym chosed by the the Hearing Officer to protect the privacy of the Student in publicly available documents.