Answer: No. That is not a correct interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). School attendance patterns are important considerations when determining whether a student has a disability. LEAs cannot find a student eligible for special education “if the determinant factor for such determination is lack of appropriate instruction in reading… [or] lack of instruction in math….” 20 USC §1414(b)(5); 34 CFR §300.306. However, IDEA clearly states that such issues must be considered “upon completion of the administration of assessments and other evaluation measures.” 20 USC §1414(b)(4). They do not relieve the LEA of its statutory obligation to conduct an evaluation.
Therefore, although lack of instruction (absences) may be considered in determining eligibility for special education and related services, it is not a reason to refuse evaluation. The appropriate venue for that consideration is at the eligibility conference, once all assessments and evaluations have been completed.
There also is a letter from the Department of Education that touches on this issue in the context of Response to Intervention. The letter emphasizes that once a parent consents to an evaluation, it must not be delayed.