AN EXAMINATION OF THE ELIGIBILITY PROCESS OF THIRD, FOURTH, AND FIFTH GRADERS IDENTIFIED UNDER THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CATEGORY OF SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITIES
Schwartz, Susan Glembin
McLaughlin, Margaret J
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The category of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) accounts for almost 50% of the students identified for special education services in America (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, 2010). The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which the participating school system's (PSS) Special Education Procedural Guide was utilized by the Case Study Committee (CSC) to determine eligibility under category D-Learning Impaired-Specific Learning Disability (D-LI-SLD). The design of the study was descriptive utilizing structured record reviews. Eligibility Reports were extracted from the electronic special education database EXCENT ONLINETM for 69 students identified as D-LI-SLD within the PSS. The students were receiving special education services during the school year 2009-2010 though they were not necessarily determined eligible during the 2009-2010 school year. The Eligibility Reports were examined according to the criteria of academic achievement and processing deficit. According to the PSS, the academic achievement criterion in math, reading, or language arts had to be found near or below the 10th percentile. The identified processing deficit criterion was a disorder in (a) processing; (b) production of language; and/or (c) production of information. Both criteria were examined separately and in tandem to determine consistency. Evidence was also gathered for the inclusion of information from other sources (e.g., parents/guardians, the student, therapists) and the identified area of adverse impact. Results indicated variability and vagueness among the Eligibility Reports. Though slightly more than half of the Eligibility Reports (57.97%) contained information that identified D-LI-SLD within the appropriate criteria, the remaining Eligibility Reports only contained one criterion or neither criteria for the determination of eligibility. Recommendations were made to make the eligibility process more comprehensive and consistent.