Saginaw County Process Model of Specific Learning Disability Eligibility Considerations
The Saginaw County model for the identification of Specific Learning Disabilities considers the full and individual evaluation as a process of data collection that includes multiple methods for assessing student performance with input from parents, teachers, instructional specialists, school psychologists, medical personnel and other pertinent parties. The purpose of the evaluation is to surround the student of concern with the best and most comprehensive information possible to make valid and appropriate recommendations as to the student's eligibility for special education and more importantly, educationally relevant recommendations for instructional strategies, supports, and services.
Areas of Consideration:
a. Quality of Instruction. Federal law requires schools to ensure that students were provided with appropriate, evidence-based instruction that is delivered by a qualified teacher. The first step in this process would be to remedy any concerns with quality instruction before a valid evaluation could be completed.
b. Level of Proficiency on State Standards Student progress with learning the Grade and High School Level Content Expectations is a fundamental consideration for instructional planning and for understanding student educational performance levels. Next, the team considers the student's level of proficiency with State standards, as measured by state assessments and/or district benchmarking assessments.
c. Rate/Level of Progress Data representing repeated measures of student performance provided to parents at regular intervals are required to determine the probability of a specific learning disability. Repeated measures of student rate/level of progress may include progress monitoring data, benchmark assessments, classroom assessments, or other measures that occur at reasonable intervals, such as every 4-8 weeks.
d. Response to Intervention Academic interventions, whether formalized in school procedures or through teacher efforts to provide supplementary instruction, must be documented with attention to the fidelity of the efforts to impact student achievement.
e. Exclusionary Factors Before making attributions of a disability within the student, the team must consider all other factors that could explain the performance patterns and lack of student response to instruction. The team must consider the student's progress in the context of his/her opportunity, past experiences, sensory, health, language, culture, and developmental challenges.
f. Diagnostic Achievement Testing The comprehensive evaluation of the student must include normative measures to advance the understanding of why the student continues to have difficulty. The student must also be tested with an individually administered standardized achievement test to validate the samples of classroom assessment data with normative data.
g. Cognitive Testing Before applying a categorical label to a student, the study of abilities must include testing of intelligence skills to identify patterns of strength and weakness that may further clarify understanding of the student's learning difficulties.
h. Matching of the Data to Specific Learning Disabilities The test data are then analyzed relative to the research-based clinical profiles of learning disabilities to determine if there is a match with existing models of learning disabilities. The team considers the relationships between areas of strength and areas of deficit as they relate to the most current understanding of specific learning disabilities.
i. Back to Quality Instructional Practice The assessment must then lead to the development of educationally relevant recommendations for the student, whether determined eligible as a student with a specific learning disability or not. The evaluation must lead to appropriate recommendations as to the best plan for instruction. Recommendations should not be limited to special education supports and programs but may include such recommendations as classroom accommodations or continued participation in response to intervention targeted small group instruction.