At what point should a team consider referring a student for special education services? What data would they need?

Question: At what point should a team consider referring a student for special education services? What data would they need?

Answer: Well the answer to that question really depends a lot on how the state has crafted its policy and guidelines around special education eligibility. And so I’ll talk using the example of Idaho’s SLD [Specific Learning Disability] policy. In our state, we’ve crafted a policy that relies on what we call ‘A Preponderance of Evidence’ model; where we’re trying to make sure that before we make a high stakes decision like referring a child for a comprehensive evaluation, we have done everything possible within that multi-tiered system framework or RTI framework to ensure that the child has had access to appropriate and effective instruction. And so one of the things we want to collect, for example, is the child’s progress and performance relative to grade level performance standards and we also want some indication as to the general effectiveness of classroom instruction. We also want to then figure out what has been offered in terms of intervention services and also look at both the individual impact, so has the student made progress in that intervention, is the intervention an adequate and appropriate fit to their learning needs, and how are other children who are receiving that intervention performing? And the rationale for doing that is to ensure again that we’ve done everything possible to provide an optimal learning environment for the student because that referral for evaluation, again, it’s a high stakes decision, both for the child, their family, as well as the school. The other really helpful component of the ‘Preponderance of Evidence’ model is that it’s not meant to be an obstacle that a school has to get through before they can hurry up and get the evaluation done. But rather it helps to inform the child’s learning needs so by the time we get to an evaluation that is what is recommended for the child. We already have a lot of information about the child’s performance within the general classroom, their response to generally effective instruction, their response to evidence-based interventions, [and] some more qualitative information from observing the child and looking over classroom work samples as to what their presenting needs might look like. And all of that will really help focus the evaluation so that the team can figure out what the child’s learning needs are during that process. 

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention