Sitka School District Criteria for Specific Learning Disability
As of January 2013
Criteria for Learning Disability Eligibility
The Sitka School District adheres to the Alaska State Special Education Handbook dated January 2013. A severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability is no longer required for eligibility for special education under the category of specific learning disability. The current requirements, as described in the state handbook and in state and federal regulations, are provided below:
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
1. Disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written,
2. Limited academic achievement for his/her age and ability levels in one or more areas,
3. LD observation and written report done after referral,
4. Require special facilities, equipment, or methods, and
5. Certified by IEP Team as qualifying for and needing special education services.
The actual regulatory language (4 AAC 52.130) is provided below:
(c) To be eligible for special education and related services as a child with a learning disability, a child must
(1) exhibit a specific learning disability as defined in (A) 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10), - *see below-- and (B) 34 CFR 300.309, adopted by reference in 4 AAC 52.120 – **see below;
(2) require special facilities, equipment, or methods to make the child's education program effective; and
(3) be certified by the group established under 4 AAC 52.125(a) (2) in the manner set out in 34 CFR 300.308, adopted by reference in 4 AAC 52.120, as qualifying for and needing special education services.
*(A) 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10), Specific learning disability.
(i) General. Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. and
(ii) Disorders not included. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
**(B) 34 CFR 300.309, adopted by reference in 4 AAC 52.120:
(a) The group described in Sec. 300.306 may determine that a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in Sec. 300.8(c)(10), if--
(1) The child does not achieve adequately for the child's age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas, when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child's age or State-approved grade-level standards:
(i) Oral expression.
(ii) Listening comprehension.
(iii) Written expression.
(iv) Basic reading skill.
(v) Reading fluency skills.
(vi) Reading comprehension.
(vii) Mathematics calculation.
(viii) Mathematics problem solving.
(2) (i) The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section when using a process based on the child's response to scientific, research-based intervention; or
(2) (ii) 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 Sec. Sec. 300.304 and 300.305; and
(3) The group determines that its findings under paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section are not primarily the result of--
(i) A visual, hearing, or motor disability;
(ii) Mental retardation;
(iii) Emotional disturbance;
(iv) Cultural factors;
(v) Environmental or economic disadvantage; or
(vi) Limited English proficiency.
(b) 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 Sec. Sec. 300.304 through 300.306--
(1) 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
(2) 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.
(c) The public agency must promptly request parental consent to evaluate the child to determine if the child needs special education and related services, and must adhere to the timeframes described in Sec. Sec. 300.301 and 300.303, unless extended by mutual written agreement of the child's parents and a group of qualified professionals, as described in Sec. 300.306(a)(1)--
(1) If, prior to a referral, a child has not made adequate progress after an appropriate period of time when provided instruction, as described in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this section; and
(2) Whenever a child is referred for an evaluation.
The Alaska State Special Education Handbook and Sitka School District also emphasize the following guidance:
There are three specific disqualifiers under 34 CFR § 300.306(b)(1) that prevent teams from finding that a student has any disability (bold added for emphasis):
“A child must not be determined to be a child with a disability under this part--
(1) If the determinant factor for that determination is—
(i) Lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading instruction (as defined in section 1208(3) of the ESEA);
(ii) Lack of appropriate instruction in math; or
(iii)Limited English proficiency[.]”
Note: Teams must be cautious when considering absences as a determinate factor for “lack of appropriate instruction.” The psychological and physical impact of a disability can result in school avoidance, necessitating teams to examine the reasons for excessive absenteeism. Whereas there is no guidance on how to determine reasons for excessive absenteeism, the team should consider relevant information from school files and special education files, as well as information provided by the child, parents, teachers, and other professionals knowledgeable of the child. Denial of special education services due to absences related to a disability may be a violation of IDEA.
The defining focus of special education programs is a disability in an educational setting; a lack of instruction or English proficiency prevents teams from determining if a disability exists in that setting. Special education programs should never be confused with remedial education programs. The district’s immediate job for these ‘disqualified’ students is to provide appropriate reading, math, or English instruction, not to provide inappropriate disability-focused special education.