Category Archives: Learning Disabilities Over-identification

A category which overlaps sli.

Events in the History of School Speech Pathology

We offer a summary perspective on the history of American school speech-language pathology as a component of the broader profession.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

It might seem that school practice is defined naturally by general practice, delineated by the requirements of the certificate of clinical competence as understood in the United States.  One national association, one certificate!  In fact, one can imagine many configurations for professional preparation, organization and certification.  Whereas speech-language pathology in the U. S. falls under a single umbrella organization, school psychology and school nursing are managed by separate organizations.  Psychology is hard to put under one umbrella — I.E., clinical, experimental, industrial, mathematical, educational, academic, etc.  It seems early on school psychologists adopted the idea that the education setting required specialization with respect to learning ability and teaching.  A clinical psychologists would have some skills for school children but would lack many others.

Indeed, speech pathology tried different organizational patterns from its start in 1910.  It was a part of different academic disciplines and influences before it pushed to become independent.  It moved forward through the war years under the influence of many strong personalities and competing visions.   In 1960 the nascent organization moved to Washington, D.C., and thereafter organized as a non-profit group legally distinguishing it from universities charters.  A series of professional managers put their stamps on planning and development.  Primary goals were to keep the organization intact, grow the membership, develop a management system, and control accreditation and certification.

From 1960 to 2000 energy was put into assuring independence academically and professionally.  School speech pathology was not well adapted for the civil rights and federal influences coming into focus in 1960, and therefore stresses were placed on SLPs to acquire far-reaching new skills through continuing education and school inservice.  At the same time the parent organization was investing resources equally  in “medical speech pathology,” as some have called it, and other divisions nurtured under  the organization umbrella.  Adhering to non-profit rules grew in importance and diminished the direct influence of academics.  Resources for public relations, advertising, website management, legal support, human resources, facilities, editors and administrators were shared across departments.   Priorities did not give emphasis to school speech-language pathology though school SLPs amounted to half the membership.  An organization of global design tended to fold all specialities into one institutional system more easily communicated to the professionals and the general public.  On the other hand, it diluted interests in school forecasting, accommodation to change and preservice education.

The dominant organizational philosophy was to view speech-language pathology according to the “medical model” with special emphasis on medical science and instrumentation.  The dominant organizational philosophy was not to view speech-language pathology according to educational principles and practices.  A paradox ensued, namely, the numbers of school practitioners came to be greater than the hospital practitioners when the medical model was central to academic preparation and association priorities.

Beginning 1905

School speech-language pathology began as an organized activity in roughly 1905, when surveys of speech problems in schools established a significant need. Before, individuals studied speech defects in hospitals but “speech correction” within education established educational and service programs within schools.  New york, San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit were among the early schools to sponsor speech corrections services.  The “pull out” service model was developed as an extension of extra help for children with speech defects.  The idea of  one-on-one “lessons” helped define remedial methods we still use today.  Speech correctionists improved letters children could not pronounce.  Most were female.

Speech correction departments were formed at the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, University of Iowa and Wayne State University.  In larger perspective, these early academic and school programs established the profession we now see around the world, in Europe, India, South America, Japan, Canada, South Africa and Australia for example.

Take Over 1931

Speech correction within education was organized and growing nationwide when a small group (n = 25) of midwestern college professsors agreed to capture speech correction to increase membership in their new organization.  They wished to break away from speech and drama departments and have greater status on campus.  Their interests were heavily influenced by medical thinking associated with explanations of stuttering.  They saw  themselves as researchers originating methods in college clinics.  Whereas school speech correction teachers were women, the professors and associated physicians were men.  The professors set up their own standards and practices effectively excluding speech correction teachers from significant status in their organization.  Yet the professors’ organization absorbed speech correction methods, incorporating them into a “speech therapy” framework and creating ambiguity as to what was educational methodology and what was clinical.

A two-tier status system put school practice at the lower level.  This bifurcation has been sustained until now.  It pervades policy formation in ways current leaders do not grasp for lack of historical analysis.  It has made school practice a second priority.

Move to Washington, D. C. 1960

The professors’ organization prior to 1960 was managed by the professors in their various roles as members of the organization.  The University of Iowa, The Ohio State University, and Wayne State Universities provided voluntary locations for the American Speech and Hearing Association.  Professors volunteered to handle treasurer duties.  In 1960 ASHA moved to Washington, D.C. renting a modest space for association headquarters.   A full-time executive director was hired.   There was no change in the status of school speech-langauge pathology.  Training remained the same with coursework taken in education to allow speech graduates to practice in the school setting.  The medical model was solidly in place, and implicitly reinforced neglect educational speech-language pathology.

Old stone dwelling near stream

Master’s Degree Required 1965

To become a certified speech pathologist, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association increased academic requirements to include graduate education.  However, with the growth of credit hours available, no increase in school SLP preparation was defined and implemented.  The medical model curriculum was sustained but on a larger scale. School preparation continued to be accomplished through elective coursework in colleges of education, a pattern of academic preparation carried over from the 1930s.

Language Counter Position 1968

Activist mounted an independent movement to bring language assessment and intervention into the field.  There was resistance from the medical model establishment whose advocates traced back to the founders’ vision for the field.  For schools the language movement brought into practice cognitive-linguistic models having greater value in educational settings.  The speech therapy tradition was closer to the non-cognitive positions of physical therapy in schools.  Cognitive-linguistic models set the stage for interfacing with reading and academic programs.  In the face of overwhelming evidence, academic programs added language work to the curriculum and the name of the profession was changed to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  Director Spahr upon his retirement noted  that the Association had been fortunate to have language brought into the field.  Nonetheless, educational speech-language pathology did not receive the attention it required to avoid stunted development.  It stayed in its second-rate position.

Non-Profit Status (date unknown)

The Association became a non-profit organization and that move was a game-changer.  One can compare the change of status to formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, establishing authority over college sports competition but sharing authority with universities whose interests were not always the same.  The NCAA came to be challenged by the courts over anti-trust issues.  Universities had their own legal status and responsibilities to state constitutions.  ASHA likewise became a legal entity as well as a professional organization.  Much money and energy was put into creating a successful non-profit organization apart from professional affairs.  This organizational challenge did not favor fundamental changes such as shifting the mission to provide greater support for school SLPs.  Support continued to be folded into the overall mission with shared resources.

School Office 1970

ASHA established a school office and publication to highlight school issues.  School SLPs gained some recognition but the office organizational structure remained static in relation to the overall growth in the numbers of school SLPs.  It did not evolve to become a major division of ASHA.  The staffing level (doctoral vs. master’s) was inconsistent and the voice of the school office was advisory only.  It shared resources with smaller programs contributing less financially to the overall budget.

IDEA Breakdown 1975

While focus continued on organizational improvements and medical model thinking for academic training, civil rights issues brought on changes in American education for handicapped persons.  The SLP role was changed by state and federal mandates but the certification curriculum did not prepare SLPs for this new role and content demands.

Continuing Education 1980

Rapid change in schools tied to the inclusion of disadvantaged children, and rapid change in the scope of speech-language pathology theory and intervention, produced rapid growth in school scope of practice.  IDEA required consultation and collaboration, with cognitive-linguistic programming tied to progress in the general curriculum.  Assessment changed radically to include assessing impact on academic improvement.  Though the academic credits in speech-language pathology doubled in 1965, only through general language courses added in the 1970s were the content deficiencies of school practice addressed.  Somehow feedback to the academic centers to update their programs was a non-factor.  Hence, the field turned to continuing education programming to address fast-moving school content.  Only a few strident voices spoke to the growing imbalance between preservice and inservice demands.  Rather than to address the substance of the scope of practice issue, it  was allowed to play out as a workload issue, to be resolved through required continuing education.

Directions

Dr. Jean Blosser has adopted an outlook favorable to school reform along the lines of our historical sketch here.  Her work has been updated in a 5th edition of  an important book:

“Nearly 55% of ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists work in school settings. The numbers are even higher when non-ASHA certified pathologists are considered. There are only a few resources that address service delivery, as opposed to assessment or treatment of specific communication disorders. School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology is designed to provide both new and experienced practitioners with solutions and strategies for the challenges they face in the complex and ever-changing world of school-based delivery.

Most books for school-based speech-language pathologists focus on different types of intervention and diagnoses. School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology focuses on service delivery, program design, and how to organize and manage an effective program. Additionally, this resource covers meeting state and national standards, following federal mandates, and how to relate to and communicate with colleagues and parents.

The organization, questions at the end of each chapter, real-life examples, collaborative strategies, research foundation, and usable forms all make this book very practical for university students, existing school-based practitioners, and program administrators.”

School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology Organization and Service Delivery

Fifth Edition, 464 pages, Illustrated (B/W), Softcover, 7 x 10″ N/A , ISBN10: 1-59756-403-6, ISBN13: 978-1-59756-403-8,  11.14.2011

Jean Blosser, EdD, CCC-SLP

Money and Organization

What Dr. Blosser does not address is the hidden issue of what responsibility professional organizations play in advocating the right public policies to foster appropriate school practices, particularly the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  There is a blank spot in most accounts of what clinicians should to do in schools, where policy formation comes in.

Clearly, school practice is at the heart of American SLP practice.  It should receive more funding and mission support within ASHA, counteracting biases favoring the medical viewpoint.  There  must also be a recasting of  the university curriculum to support the fancy trends Dr. Blosser identifies, such as collaboration.  “Be professional and get out there and do wonderful things.”  The “wonderful things” should be grounded in ASHA policy and preservice preparation.  Awareness of federal trends is not enough.

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SLPs Can Lead Over-identification Preschool Prevention Programs

The evolving role of the school speech-language pathologists affords opportunities for true national school leadership with respect to early intervention to prevent academic shortfalls and over-identification. In taking this proper role a stronger position should result as to caseload management, innovation and professional growth.

Overview

Early intervention is a long-held ideal but leadership and implementation lag.   Researchers publish but applications to educational assessment and intervention are limited.  There are published guidelines for school practice but they do not adequately describe leadership, and relate practices to IDEA 2004.   No other specialty is as well positioned or as well prepared as school SLPs.  However, conditioning leads them to believe they are “service providers” who should be open to “collaboration” and a passive service role.

Need

The national need is great to prevent school failure, especially for minority children.  In our post,  “Prevention of Over-identification: 112th Congress,” we reported on proposed legislation aimed partly at reducing educational patterns of disproportionality:

S.541 — Achievement Through Prevention Act (Introduced in Senate – IS)

S 541 IS

112th CONGRESS, 1st SessionS. 541

To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and schools to increase implementation of schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports and early intervening services in order to improve student academic achievement, reduce overidentification of individuals with disabilities, and reduce disciplinary problems in schools, and to improve coordination with similar activities and services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Act pinpoints the need to put early intervention at the center of prevention programming which include Response to Intervention.  RTI has been implemented nationally with most efforts attached to elementary school performance and reading.  ASHA guidelines indicate prevention an SLP responsibility, though they do not embrace issues of over-identification and disproportionality.

Evidence-Basis

Unstable state funding of preschool programs has impaired progress in the design and implementation of early intervention programs in American schools, in spite of the fact educators agree on the absolute desirability of such programs.  In a prior post, The Heinz Solution, we reported the following:

Joe Smydo, writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (October 23, 2009), reported on a major study of the effects of pre-kindergarten classes on the early education of poor and developmentally-delayed children vulnerable for special education placement. The study lasted three years and involved 10,000 children. Results indicated a boost in the development of social and academic skills. The children improved in math, literacy and social skills. The study was supported by The Heinz Endowments.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

Pre-K programs are sometimes dropped by school administrators but the study showed:

1. “Pre-K Counts classes benefited children of various racial and ethnic groups.

2. Classes rated high-quality had more dramatic effects on children than those judged to be of lower quality.

3. Despite poverty and other disadvantages, 80 percent of children in the study demonstrated skills necessary for success in kindergarten — well above what would have been expected without the program.

4. While the participating school districts traditionally placed 18 percent of high-risk children in special-education programs in kindergarten, only about 2 percent of Pre-K Counts children required those services.

5. The children in the study ranged in age from 3 to 6 and attended classes for four to 24 months. Those who spent more time in the classes had larger gains than peers who attended for shorter periods.”

SLPs should be able to reduce their caseloads through leadership of preschool prevention programs.  RTI program reports also indicate reductions in special education placement.  Yes, collaboration is one skill component of SLI participation but without a knowledge base of the IDEA issues and applications it is merely an attitude about cooperation with others.

Wait to Fail

With reference to the post, New School Phonology: Wait to Fail!, the issue of wait to fail was pinpointed in connection with the correct assessment of phonology and articulation:

“The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2001) found American schools follow a pattern members called wait to fail.

“Finding 2: The current system uses an antiquated model that waits for a child to fail, instead of a model based on prevention and intervention. Too little emphasis is put on prevention, early and accurate identification of learning and behavior problems and aggressive intervention using research-based approaches. This means students with disabilities do not get help early when that help can be most effective. Special education should be for those who do not respond to strong and appropriate instruction and methods provided in general education.”

Prevention

idea.ed.gov (Legacy 2007) provides a summary of what state and local school districts “must” do to monitor incorrect placements in special education. Here is the basic requirement:

“The State must have in effect, consistent with the purposes of 34 CFR Part 300 and with section 618(d) of the Act, policies and procedures designed to prevent the inappropriate overidentification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of children as children with disabilities, including children with disabilities with a particular impairment described in 34 CFR 300.8 of the IDEA regulations.[34 CFR 300.173] [20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(24)]“

School SLPs should play a pivotal role in the prevention of over-identification.  Right now, they hardly know what it is.  ASHA’s online policies and guidelines ignore the topic of over-identification as an issue and a critical component of prevention.  One cannot have a respectable prevention policy without addressing forthrightly and publicly the IDEA requirement for SLPs to prevent over-identification and disproportionality.  The proper policy outlook should be a gateway to caseload management and job satisfaction.

Mis-identification

We take the view that school SLPs can reduce the mis-identification of learning disability cases through  their roles as early education specialists.  “Many phonology children should be categorized by SLPs as learning disabled rather than SLI.  Say a five-year old boy has 5 or more articulation errors and falls two standard deviations below the mean on an articulation test.  This is an LD child if placement in special education is required. SLPs are prepared as well as any school employees to place children in the SLD category at the preschool level of linguistic learning and academic prediction.

The problem of phonological delay and disability will limit and predict subsequent language and reading performances before teachers and psychologists can detect problems. There is a good body of research showing “artic cases” morph into language and learning problems later, as well as social and academic success problems later. Fooling around with them as “artic cases” and then dismissing them after sounds are corrected is to abandon these children just as they are entering a critical stage of great academic need.” (New School Phonology: Wait to Fail)

Comment

School speech-language pathologists are educated to be willing service providers.  They need continuing education in leadership and access to a clinical doctorate with an emphasis in education so they can take on the role they should be taking on, that of designing and leading prevention programs.  Health-care professionals are all in the “misery industry.” They benefit from the sickness of their clients and not from their health. As we point out above, prevention is a gateway to professional wisdom, opportunity and effective policy.

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.”

16. Reducing LD

One factor in overidentification of LD children is the rush to place dictated partly by the 60 day time line to process referrals (cf. 3 Reducing LD). It creates a false sense of urgency without regard for the long-term consequences of misplacement. When a team takes time to investigate the child’s learning experiences in the classroom, the teacher’s referral is put in context. Native American children process formal learning differently from other groups of children.

Therefore, it makes sense to gather classroom data “observed in the learning environment.” Such data ethnographically can be useful to exclude minority children from learning disability placement. Consider the regulations (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“The public agency must ensure that the child is observed in the child’s learning environment (including the regular classroom setting) to document the child’s academic performance and behavior in the areas of difficulty.

The group described in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(1), in determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, must decide to:

Use information from an observation in routine classroom instruction and monitoring of the child’s performance that was done before the child was referred for an evaluation; or

Have at least one member of the group described in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(1) conduct an observation of the child’s academic performance in the regular classroom after the child has been referred for an evaluation and parental consent, consistent with 34 CFR 300.300(a), is obtained.”

There is too much reliance on child performance data taken completely out of context.

15. Reducing LD

In the updated IDEA regulations classroom teacher referrals receive scrutiny as to the contribution of instruction to disability (cf. Teacher referrals). The construct of “appropriate instruction” is introduced (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“To ensure that underachievement in a child suspected of having a specific learning disability is not due to lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math, the group must consider, as part of the evaluation described in 34 CFR 300.304 through 300.306:”

“Data that demonstrate that prior to, or as a part of, the referral process, the child was provided appropriate instruction in regular education settings, delivered by qualified personnel;

and

Data-based documentation of repeated assessments of achievement at reasonable intervals, reflecting formal assessment of student progress during instruction, which was provided to the child’s parents.”

MUST means obligation! The learning disability eligibility group MUST collect data on “appropriate instruction” according to the two-prong approach.

The eligibility group members must vouch for the report in writing, including certification of “appropriate instruction.” A remedial reading specialist could write a statement of disagreement if he or she does not believe that there was sufficient proof of “appropriate instruction.” Through this procedure needless LD placements can be questioned.

Here the regulation:

“Each group member must certify in writing whether the report reflects the member’s conclusion. If it does not reflect the member’s conclusion, the group member must submit a separate statement presenting the member’s conclusions. [34 CFR 300.311] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]”

14. Reducing LD

In adding criteria for the proper placement of learning disabled children IDEA regulations place heavy responsibility on the eligibility group (IEP team, MET) to evaluate educational theory and practice at the graduate level of university education. Consider this (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“The group described in 34 CFR 300.306 may determine that a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10), if…

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, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments, consistent with 34 CFR 300.304 and 300.305;”

What’s more, the group must have a sense of exclusionary criteria, representing vast areas of knowledge. The pattern of evidence justifying placement cannot be primarily the result of:

A visual, hearing, or motor disability;

Mental retardation;

Emotional disturbance;

Cultural factors;

Environmental or economic disadvantage; or

Limited English proficiency.”

13. Reducing LD

Current regulations add criteria for sorting out specific learning disability. The eligibility group can place a child under the following circumstances (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“The child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards in ONE OR MORE [emphasis added] of the following areas, when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or State-approved grade–level standards:

◦ Oral expression.
◦ Listening comprehension.
◦ Written expression.
◦ Basic reading skills.
◦ Reading fluency skills.
◦ Reading comprehension.
◦ Mathematics calculation.
◦ Mathematics problem solving.”

The door swings wide open to creative applications to reduce the number of children who are placed incorrectly in special education as learning disabled pupils. For example, the speech-language pathologist and the remedial reading specialist can collaborate in a general education preschool prevention program. Through objective evaluations they can prevent referral of at-risk children to special education. They can dwell on early literacy support.

In case a preschool child must be qualified for special education, the speech-language pathologist and the reading specialist can verify learning disability using one or more of the “areas” listed above. The child does not have to “wait to fail” according to norm-referenced testing. A child with early moderate delays of phonology and language will begin to fail in literacy as the early grades unfold.

12. Reducing LD

School psychologists, speech-language pathologists and remedial reading teachers must assume greater responsibility for reducing the LD placement rate. Objective information is still desperately needed to support placement decisions. Related services specialists should not be passive but emphasize a thoughtful approach to data collection that protects at-risk children who might be incorrectly labeled “learning disabled.”

Here are the relevant regulations (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy):

“The determination of whether a child suspected of having a specific learning disability is a child with a disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8, must be made by the child’s parents and a team of qualified professionals, which must include:

The child’s regular teacher; or if the child does not have a regular teacher, a regular classroom teacher qualified to teach a child of his or her age; or for a child of less than school age, an individual qualified by the State educational agency (SEA) to teach a child of his or her age; and

At least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or remedial reading teacher.
[34 CFR 300.308] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]”

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?

10. Reducing LD

The eligibility group must be familiar with federal and state eligibility criteria for learning disability, including changes (IDEA 2004 regulations, Education Legacy). It must interpret changes in the discrepancy standard and the reasons for making them. The wording is nuanced:

“Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10);”

It does not say the school psychologist must stop giving a standard psychometric battery of tests. It says that the group should consider a variety of findings including PATTERNS of test performance revealed by psychometric testing. It places more responsibility on the group to integrate and interpret different kinds of information in support of placement decisions.

It may be that local school eligibility groups in the past have too often deferred automatically to the findings of the school psychologist without considering a range of observations.