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Special Education » Screening and Evaluation

Screening and Evaluation

Punxsutawney Area School District uses the following procedures for allocating; identifying and evaluating specified needs of school-aged students requiring special programs or services. These procedures, as required by law, are as follows:

As identified in §14.121.Child find of Chapter 14 Special Education Services and Programs State Regulations, each school district is required to adopt and use a public outreach awareness system to locate and identify children thought to be eligible for special education within the school district’s jurisdiction. It also requires awareness activities to inform the public of its early intervention and special education services and programs and the manner in which to request services and programs. Written information is published in the Punxsutawney Area School District handbook and is also available on our website.

Punxsutawney Area School District routinely conducts screenings of our student’s hearing in Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 7, 11; visual screenings in Grades K-12; and speech and language screenings in Grades K-12. Our classroom teachers routinely assess gross motor and fine motor skills. Results of these screenings are noted within the student’s school record. School records are always open and available to parents and only to school officials who have legitimate need-to-know information about the student. 

Information from these records is only released to other persons or agencies with appropriate authorization including signed permission by parents/guardians. Parents with concerns regarding their child may contact the building principals to request a screening or evaluation. Requests must be submitted through a written request and forms are available through the school building offices.

After the necessary evaluations are completed, an Evaluation Report or Gifted Written Report will be completed. This will be done with parent involvement and includes specific recommendations for the types of interventions needed to meet a child’s specific needs. Parents are invited to participate in a meeting where the results of the evaluation will be reviewed. An Individualized Education Program or Gifted Individualized Education Program will be created to address the specialized services that are needed for those students that are deemed eligible and in need for special education services through the evaluation process.

Punxsutawney Area School District provides annual public notification through various forms such as newspapers and the school district website to notify parents throughout the school district of child identification activities and the procedures followed to ensure confidentiality of information pertaining to students with disabilities or eligible young children.

For more information regarding these procedures, contact: Mrs. Kate Shaffer, Director of Special Education (814-938-5151, Ext. 6520)


Child with an Exceptionality

A child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with IDEA §§ 3000.304 through 300.311 as having an intellectual disability, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf, blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

For children from 3 years to Kindergarten entrance, the Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) operates the preschool early intervention program. OCDEL provides early intervention services through MAWAs (Mutually Agreed Upon Written Arrangements) typically with Intermediate Units or school districts. Legislative and regulatory guidance is provided through IDEA Part B, Pennsylvania’s Act 212, the Early Intervention Services System Act of 1990, Chapter 14, Chapter 16, and the Basic Education Circulars related to early intervention. Regional services and programs are available through Riverview Intermediate Unit #6 including support services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, parent education/supports and other family-centered services assist in child development and may be included in a family’s early intervention program.


Definitions of Disability Terms

Autism: a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

Deaf-blindness: concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

Deafness: a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Developmental delay: a child who is less than the age of beginners (Kindergarten) and at least 3 years of age is considered to have a developmental delay when one of the following exists: the child’s score, on a developmental assessment device, on an assessment instrument which yields a score in months, indicates that the child is delayed by 25% of the child’s chronological age in one or more developmental areas; and/or the child is delayed in one or more of the developmental areas, as documented by test performance of 1.5 standard deviations below the mean on standardized tests.

Emotional disturbance: a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance: an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; and/or a tendency to develop physical systems or fears associated with personal or school problems. Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance as previously explained.

Hearing impairment: an impairment in hearing whether permanent or fluctuating that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.

Intellectually disabled: significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Multiple disabilities: concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness or intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities do not include deaf-blindness.

Orthopedic impairment: a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

Other health impairments: having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that is due to chronic or acute health problems such as: asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia and Tourette syndrome and adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Specific learning disability: a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as: perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Disorders not included include: learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Speech or language impairment: a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. 

Traumatic brain injury: an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability of psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as: cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visual impairments including blindness: an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

Gifted:  This term includes a person who has an IQ of 130 or higher when multiple criteria as set forth in Chapter 16.  Determination of gifted ability will not be based on IQ score alone.  Deficits in memory or processing speed, as indicated by testing, cannot be the sole basis upon which a student is determined to be ineligible for gifted special education.  A person with an IQ score lower than 130 may be admitted to gifted programs when other educational criteria in the profile of the person strongly indicate gifted ability.  Multiple criteria indicating gifted ability include:  a year or more above grade achievement level for the normal age group in one or more subjects as measured by Nationally normed and validated achievement tests able to accurately reflect gifted performance; an observed or measured rate of acquisition/retention of new academic content or skills that reflect gifted ability; demonstrated achievement, performance or expertise in one or more academic areas as evidenced by excellence of products, portfolio or research, as well as criterion-referenced team judgment; early and measured use of high level thinking skills, academic creativity, leadership skills, intense academic interest areas, communication skills, foreign language aptitude, or technology expertise; documented, observed, validated or assessed evidence that intervening factors such as English as a second language, disabilities defined in 34 CFR 300.8 (relating to child with a disability), gender or race bias, or socio/cultural deprivation are masking gifted abilities. 


Additional Information Links

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) – a lawsuit resulting in mandated changes in some special educational services. As part of the court settlement, PDE is requiring all school districts to share the Notice of Proposed Settlement (Notice) to the parents of students receiving special education services. Parents may access the Notice on the following websites:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) - IDEIA 2004 maintains the basic principles of the law - a free appropriate public education for all students with disabilities, in the least restrictive environment - however, there are many changes and modifications to the IEP process and other aspects of the identification and evaluation of students with disabilities.

Information from the records is released only upon written permission of parents. Parents with concerns regarding their student may contact building principals at any time to request a screening or evaluation of their child. Communication with parents and exceptional students shall be in English or the native language of the parents.

Screening information will be used by an Instructional Support Team within the student’s school to meet his or her specific needs or to document the need for further evaluation. At schools where Instructional Support is not available, the psychologist and teachers will determine if further intervention is needed. If it is determined that a child needs additional services, the Instructional Support Team will make adjustments relative to such things as the child’s learning, behavior, physical, and speech strengths and weaknesses in keeping with traditional classroom experiences. If a student does not make progress, parents will be asked to give written permission for a multidisciplinary team evaluation.

After the evaluation is completed, a Comprehensive Evaluation Report will be compiled with parent input and include specific recommendations for the types of intervention necessary to accommodate the child’s specific needs. Parents are then invited to participate in a meeting where the results of the multidisciplinary evaluation are discussed. An Individualized Education Program (I.E.P.) will be developed for specialized services for the student.

The IEP Team with the parent(s) will consist of at least two of the following district staff: the building principal, the special education teacher, the regular education teacher(s), other teachers or specialists as needed and other administrative staff.

Parents are an integral part of the I.E.P. team and are encouraged to be physically present at the I.E.P. meeting. The district will make every effort to insure parent participation. The district will notify the parent in writing, make documented phone calls, and make home visits, if necessary, to make parents aware of the I.E.P. conference and the need for parental participation. Following the preparation of the I.E.P., parents are then presented a Notice of Recommended Assignment (NORA) with which they may agree or disagree. If the parents agree, the program is implemented. If parents disagree with the program being recommended, the issue may be taken to a pre-hearing conference, mediation or a due process hearing.

NOTE: Parent means that person who is the natural or adoptive parent, guardian, or person with whom the child lives, such as a grandparent.

A parent may request that the district initiate a screening or evaluation of a child’s educational needs at any time by contacting the building principal or Director of Special Education. Information about Early Intervention, parent rights, mediation or Due Process Procedures, specific Special Educational Services and programs offered by the district, and from the district’s Educational Records Policy is available upon request from:

Kate Shaffer, Director of Special Education

Punxsutawney Area School District

500 North Findley St.

Punxsutawney, PA 15767

814-938-5151, Ext. 6520



Independent Educational Evaluations


According to Part 300 of the Federal Regulations 300.502 parents may obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the school district’s expense if they disagree with the evaluation completed the by school district.  An Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the Punxsutawney Area School District.  A request for an IEE must be made in writing to the Director of Special Education within one year of the date on the District’s evaluation or reevaluation report.  Although not required, it is encouraged for the parent to indicate in the request what was inappropriate in the district completed evaluation.


In the context of an IEE, evaluation means the procedures to determine whether a child is a child with an educational disability and in need of Special Education or specially designed instruction and related services.


The Punxsutawney Area School District will grant requests for IEEs at District expense only in extraordinary circumstances.  The District will notify the parents, in writing utilizing the Notice of Recommended Educational Placement, of its approval or disapproval of the request.  Failure to comply with the criteria listed in this procedure will result in a denial of the parent’s request for an IEE at District expense.


According to Part 300 of the Federal Regulations 300.502(c)(I) Parent Initiated Evaluations:

If the parent obtains an IEE at private expense, the results of the evaluation must be considered by the District if it meets the District criteria, in any decision made with respect to the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).


General Provisions

The parents of a child with a disability have the right to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) of their child.  An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the student’s school district.


Upon approval of a parent’s written request for an independent evaluation, the District will provide the parent information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained and the District’s criteria applicable to independent educational evaluations. 


The criteria under which the independent evaluation is obtained must be the same as the criteria the District uses in conducting an evaluation and should not encompass diagnostic procedures used outside the educational model.


The following criteria for an IEE are required:

  1. If the independent evaluation is at public expense, it must be conducted within the State of Pennsylvania.
  2. An evaluation of a child for Autism, Emotional Disturbance, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Other Health Impairments, Specific Learning Disability, or Traumatic Brain Injury much be done by a school psychologist certified in the State of Pennsylvania. An evaluation for other disabilities (i.e. speech and language impairment) must be done by a person licensed or certified to conduct and interpret assessments of the area(s) of concern.  The credentials and/or licenses of the evaluator must be submitted to the District with the IEE.
  3. The IEE, at public expense, cannot exceed $500 without prior approval by the Punxsutawney Area School District.
  4. The evaluator and the Punxsutawney Area School District must have written permission to communicate and share information.
  5. The evaluator must release the results of the evaluation directly to the District in the form of an original, signed, typewritten report.
  6. The District requires IEEs include a two forty-five personal observations of the student in the relevant school environment by the person administering the evaluation and must include input from appropriate school staff. The District will assist in obtaining information provided by the evaluator if requested.
  7. The report shall include a statement of all standard and scaled scores obtained, a description of the student’s behavior during the evaluation, a description of the student’s behavior observed in the school, an analysis of the results, and specific educational recommendations.
  8. Tests and similar evaluation materials shall be:
    1. Selected and administer in a manner free from racial or cultural bias.
    2. Administered in the native language or mode of communication of the child, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.
    3. Selected and administered so the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude, achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure, rather than the student’s impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, unless those skills are the factors that the test purports to measure.
    4. Validated for the specific purpose for which they are used in a manner generally accepted within the profession.
    5. Administered in accordance with the instructions or testing protocols provided by the publisher of the test or materials and in accordance with sound professional practice.
    6. Selected and administered to assess the specific areas of educational need to ability and not merely single standard scores or quotients.

After the IEE is released to the Punxsutawney Area School District, the IEE will be considered as a potential source of additional information that the public agency and parent could consider in determining whether the educational or related services needs of the child warrant a reevaluation, but it would not be considered a reevaluation in accordance with Evaluation Procedures (§ 300.304) Notice (§ 300.304(a)).