How do students qualify for Special Education?

With a focus on related ELL issues
94-142 – The law that brought special
education services to all students.
Special education grew RAPIDLY until 2004,
and is currently declining.
Response To Intervention might be primary
cause for peak/decline.
Services versus Place…
Language and/or Culture versus Disability
Poverty versus Disability
Delay versus Disability
Combination of the above???
The important question, can the presenting
problem be better explained via __________.
A little about the laws (sorry).
Then, about the categories in a way that
hopefully simplifies things.
(3) Each school district must ensure that:
(a) Assessments and other evaluation materials used to
assess a student:
not to be
discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis;
(i) Are selected and administered so as
(ii) Are provided and administered in the student's
native language or other mode of communication and in
the form most likely to yield accurate
information on what the student knows and can do
academically, developmentally, and functionally unless it is
clearly not feasible to so provide or administer;
“It is no doubt apparent at this point that
assessment of culturally and linguistically
diverse individuals is far more complicated
than it may seem on the surface and certainly
involves a great deal more than the
misguided search for the “right” test.”
Assessing Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse Students, page 167. Emphasis added.
(2)(a) A student must not be determined
services if the determinant factor is:
to be eligible for special education
(i) Lack of appropriate instruction in reading, based upon the state's grade level standards;
(ii) Lack of appropriate instruction in math; or
(iii) Limited English proficiency; and
(b) If the student does not otherwise meet the eligibility criteria including presence of a
disability, adverse educational impact and need for specially designed instruction.
(3) In interpreting evaluation data for the purpose of determining eligibility for special
education services, each school district must:
(a) Draw upon information from a variety of sources , including aptitude and
achievement tests, parent input, and teacher recommendations, as well as information about
the student's physical condition, social or cultural background, and adaptive behavior; and
(b) Ensure that information obtained from all of these sources is documented and carefully
Areas of Eligibility (the categories)
Intellectual disability, a hearing impairment (including
deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual
impairment (including blindness), an emotional
behavioral disability, an orthopedic impairment,
autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health
impairment, a specific learning disability, deafblindness, multiple disabilities, or for students, three
through eight, a developmental delay and who,
because of the disability and adverse educational
impact, has unique needs that cannot be addressed
exclusively through education in general education
classes with or without individual accommodations,
and needs special education and related services.
1) Disability – The characteristics of one of the
categories has been met.
2) Adverse Impact- The noted disability is
adversely impacting the student’s access to their
education (e.g., reading skills too low to
independently read classroom materials with
3) Need for Specially Designed Instruction – WAC
01175- (c) Specially designed instruction means
adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an
eligible student, the content, methodology, or
delivery of instruction…
Only two of the categories require meeting a
defined numerical criteria (SLD and DD), with
a third hinting at numbers (ID).
By numbers, we are talking about IQ score
versus academic scores for SLD and standard
deviations below the mean for DD.
Some categories are less “judgment”
Meaning, the adverse impact of the disability
and the need for specially designed instruction
are much easier for all to understand.
Hearing Impairment-Deafness
Visual Impairment-Blindness
Orthopedic Impairment (some caution here)
Traumatic Brain Injury
Multiple Disabilities (Normally not a problem
Sometimes the people’s eyes create problems
for their perceptions.
Examples (student with walker and 4.0
student with CP)
Intellectual Disability (some cautions)
Emotional Behavioral Disability
Other Health Impaired (OHI)
Early on in the ID category, over identification
was not uncommon for ELL students. That
has been decreasing.
Since the early 1990’s the identification of
students with ADD and ADHD has grown
rapidly, and if identified for special education
services they tend to be placed into the OHI
Intellectual Disability was formally known as
Mental Retardation, and, …..
For Intellectual Disability, there are
limitations regarding the cultural sensitivity
of the tests and language can be a challenge
to accurate testing.
For Emotional Behavioral Disability, some of
our students are coming from trauma and are
faced with the inability to clearly express
their needs.
For Other Health Impaired, it can be difficult
for parents to navigate our system to
document their children’s needs.
Communication Disorder
Developmental Delay
Some staff members are transitioning from
the medical model to the school
model….Which can impact CD qualifications.
For the DD category, there are struggles
understanding developmental norms and
there is always the “We just want to help…”
For Communication Disorder, it can be difficult to
separate language development/acquisition from
language delay (no numerical line for
qualification). Also, sometimes folks forget to
take into account characteristics of previous
language(s). (e.g, Vietnamese sounds/Spanish
word order – girl very nice).
The are some issues regarding students being
qualified for articulation therapy for sounds not
made in their native/primary language.
For Developmental Delay, many students can
qualify who are simply adjusting or learning
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
It is critical to note that approximately 4250% of all students in special education are
served under the category of SLD.
SLD is the hardest category to accurately
identify ELL students for special education
SLD is the category most often used and
overrepresented by ELL students.
SLD numbers may have dropped due to the
proliferation of Response to Intervention (RTI)—a
method of providing targeted assistance to
young children who have difficulty learning—and
other early-reading interventions (see Response
to Intervention). Lastly, the identification of SLDs,
though strictly outlined in policy, appears more
subjective and prone to human error than the
identification of most other disabilities; thus, SLD
identification is perhaps more affected by related
changes in policy, budget, personnel, etc.
Source --- Fordham Institute Article on Trends
The methodology used to qualify students
The lack of training on language development
The lack of universal screening and
interventions for struggling learners or the
lack of correctly targeted interventions
The Discrepancy Model is the historical model
for qualification under Specific Learning
The Discrepancy Model uses the gap between
IQ and achievement to determine whether or
not a student is eligible.
In other words, an IQ significantly above
academic achievement indicates eligibility for
special education services as a student with a
Specific Learning Disability. OSPI has a table
for these numbers.
Before PL 94-142, there were 6-8 disorders
that were all wrapped up under the SLD label.
Although most categories have been stable in
growth rates from the 1970’s, SLD tripled
from the 1970’s through the 1990’s and has
been on a steady decline since just after
Interesting note, The decline in SLD numbers
does correlate to the increase in RTI model
100 is the average
About 67% of people are from 85-115
Intellectual Disability is often seen as under
Gifted is often seen as over 130
228 - 242: Highest measured IQ
2.5 % of
the population IQ’s 130+
150 – 160: Highly gifted
130 and above: Gifted
Average Range
ca. 67 % of
100: Average
97.5 % of
The population IQ’s 40-130
70 and below: Intellectual disability
40 - 50: Lowest measurable IQ
1) Disability – The numbers can usually be
met to say yes for ELL students under SLD.
2) Adverse Impact – The team will almost
always say yes.
3) Need for Specially Designed Instruction –
However, this all left out (ignored???) the
laws about ruling out 1) language, 2) Culture,
3) Instruction
The question is not whether or not the
student needs help, but instead…
What is the correct intervention and is the
presenting problem representing a disability,
delay, difference, and/or language
SLD is the largest category with the most
disproportionality and this conflicts with the
Tests “(i) Are selected and administered so as
not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural
basis;”, but there aren’t any tests that solve
this dilema..
Tests, “Are provided and administered in the
student's native language….” but this
frequently does not work….
(2)(a) A student must not be determined to be
eligible for special education services if the
determinant factor is:
(i) Lack of appropriate instruction in
reading, based upon the state's grade level
But, the student needs help….
“(iii) Limited English proficiency; and”
But the student needs help….
The qualification of ELL students, or any
students, as a student in need of special
education services, when the answer to the
presenting problem is a different intervention
(Difference/Delay versus Disability).
Early intervention (Dr. Carnine testifying
to senate):
Moving to a response to intervention model
can dramatically reduce the long-term failure
that is often associated with the IQachievement discrepancy formula. 70 to 90
percent of the most at risk children in
Kindergarten through 2nd grade can be
brought to the average range with effective
Intense Intervention, Dr. Torgeson out of
“Within 1 year following the intervention, 40%
of the children were found to be no longer in
need of special education services.”
This was only 8 weeks of intervention at 2
hours per day and the children were, “with
severe reading disabilities…”
A strong pre-referral process that
takes into account the most critical data and
focuses on targeting interventions correctly.
Parent Training and Parent Engagement.
 Thank
You, Steve