IDENTIFICATION OF SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITIES - Regulations

3. Add criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability.

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 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:
    • Oral expression.
    • Listening comprehension.
    • Written expression.
    • Basic reading skills.
    • Reading fluency skills.
    • Reading comprehension.
    • Mathematics calculation.
    • Mathematics problem solving.
  • 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 34 CFR 300.309(a)(1) when using a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; 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, 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; and the group determines that its findings under 34 CFR 300.309(a)(1) and (2) are not primarily the result of:
    • A visual, hearing, or motor disability;
    • Mental retardation;
    • Emotional disturbance;
    • Cultural factors;
    • Environmental or economic disadvantage; or
    • Limited English proficiency.
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.
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 34 CFR 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 34 CFR 300.306(a)(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 34 CFR 300.309(b)(1) and (b)(2); and
  • Whenever a child is referred for an evaluation.
[34 CFR 300.309] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]

Dialogue Starter - Cross-stakeholder

Reaction Questions

  1. What data does your district currently use to measure achievement if the student has met State-approved grade level standards? Are data gathered in one or multiple content areas? How much data do you consider sufficient?


  2. What data does your district currently use to determine the existence of a specific learning disability? How much data do you consider sufficient?


  3. How is “sufficient progress” determined? Does it mean more than passing the state assessment? Is “sufficient progress” a consistent measure or does it vary with the intervention or assessment being used?


  4. In your opinion, how is a pattern of strengths and weaknesses determined? What data are used in this decision process?


  5. In your opinion, what formal standardized assessments are relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability? What informal assessments are relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability?


  6. What information do parents presently receive regarding grade level standards and what is expected to demonstrate mastery? What data do parents presently receive explaining their child’s demonstrated level of mastery?


  7. What information do parents presently receive regarding the appropriate instruction of their child by qualified personnel?


  8. What does “repeated assessments of achievement” mean? Teacher-made tests, curriculum-based measures, standardized assessments? How often should assessments be repeated?


  9. When schools use a standardized curriculum to teach reading, how do we determine that a student has been provided appropriate reading instruction?


  10. From your stakeholder perspective, what are your understandings about RTI? What do you think should be the determination point of moving from discrepancies in achievement in relation to grade level standards to referral for special education?


  11. What do you believe is the evidence needed to determine a student has a specific learning disability? What evidence is needed to identify students who are twice exceptional, specifically those that are SLD and gifted?


  12. Who needs to understand the shift from a discrepancy model for identification to a response to intervention model?


Application Questions

  1. What training will be provided so that all stakeholders understand the new special education identification procedures?
    • What procedure does the district have in place, or can put in place, to determine and address professional knowledge and skill development needs for all stakeholders, including parents/families, related to academic and/or behavioral interventions?
    • What are the implications for higher education institutions who prepare new teachers?


  2. What procedures does the district have in place to address professional development needs for all stakeholders, including parents/families, related to academic and/or behavioral interventions?


  3. What are the implications for higher education institutions who prepare new teachers?


  4. Do you know what process, methods, and measures are in place that can be used by the district/school to identify students’ academic and/or behavioral needs prior to referral?
    • Is there a need to create a new set of processes and/or procedures?
    • If so, what might be involved in creating a functional process?


  5. What can the district/school do to ensure parent/family involvement in both RTI procedures and eligibility decisions about their child?


  6. How might the district monitor the fidelity of implementation of core curriculum instruction? How might the district monitor the fidelity of implementation of interventions?

    These questions were developed by the following stakeholders working together:
    Role: Policymaker
    Location: Arizona

    Role: Special Education Administrator
    Location: California

    Role: Educational Consultant
    Location: Florida

    Role: General Education Administrator
    Location: Illinois

    Role: Family Member
    Location: Indiana

    Role: Higher Education
    Location: Indiana

    Role: Service Provider
    Location: Kentucky

    Role: Related Service Provider
    Location: Maryland *

    Role: Family Member
    Location: North Carolina

    Role: TA Provider
    Location: California