17. Reducing LD

There is a degree of magical thinking inherent in the 2006 regulations to identify learning disabled children. The idea that the underlying arguments evolved by Congress over the last 35 years to reduce overidentification will be grasped clearly and enthusiastically by local eligibility groups. Somehow they will see the light and the opportunity to do the right thing.

No, the issue should come through loud and clear, that the reason for a carefully constructed set of revised regulations for the identification of learning disability is to produce a direct result. It remains to be seen whether subsequent high-level national reports will document the reduction of learning disability placements. Right now, the issue is muted by indirection, and we ask eligibility groups to do too much when they are faced with so many observations for making quick decisions (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“5. Specify documentation required for the eligibility determination.

For a child suspected of having a specific learning disability, the documentation of the determination of eligibility, as required in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(2), must contain a statement of:

Whether the child has a specific learning disability;

The basis for making the determination, including an assurance that the determination has been made in accordance with 34 CFR 300.306(c)(1);

The relevant behavior, if any, noted during the observation of the child and the relationship of that behavior to the child’s academic functioning;

The educationally relevant medical findings, if any;

Whether the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(1); and the child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(i); or the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade level standards or intellectual development consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(i); or the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards or intellectual development consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(ii);

The determination of the group concerning the effects of a visual, hearing, or motor disability; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency on the child’s achievement level; and

If the child has participated in a process that assesses the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention:

The instructional strategies used and the student-centered data collected; and

The documentation that the child’s parents were notified about:

(1) the State’s policies regarding the amount and nature of student performance data that would be collected and the general education services that would be provided;

(2) strategies for increasing the child’s rate of learning; and

(3) the parents’ right to request an evaluation.”

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