11. Reducing LD

We are five years past IDEA 2004 authorization. The ordinary expectation is that special education departments across the U. S. are using the new regulations to reduce incorrect learning disability placements. IEP teams (or eligibility groups) have been scrambling to adjust their understandings and procedures under the guidance of special education administrators.

The expectation is that special education departments are collaborating more with general education administrators to implement more programs to support at-risk children before they are appropriately referred for special education. Consider this (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“In addition, the criteria adopted by the State: Must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; and

May permit the use of other alternative research-base
procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10).”

So after an RTI cycle the eligibility group would have to receive and interpret learning performance scores provided by general education, and weigh them insightfully and appropriately along with a range of other data they must collect.

The American Psychological Association in September of 2005 issued a thoughtful letter in support of the the learning disability regulatory process:

“Yet, additional research on RtI across subject areas (with particular attention to areas other than reading), over time (to ensure retention of improvements), across grades, and across populations (including limited or non-English speakers) is critically needed, and should be supported, to ensure the RtI processes and associated classification decisions are reliable, valid, and unbiased when implemented in our nation’s schools. Particular care should be taken to ensure that adequate training and technical support are provided to those involved in RtI implementation and decision-making to help ensure RtI fidelity and consistency, to ensure that those who implement RtI processes are appropriately trained and qualified, and to ensure that RtI does not result in inappropriate over-identification of ethnic minority students.”

The recommendation of “adequate training and technical support” is critically important. How are teams/groups going to know how to process the new data? How will special education coordinate cooperative use of information? Will special education directors receive extra training for the new mission?

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