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By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
Prior to a child's being suspected of having an SLD, the school or district must provide documentation that proves that the student has been provided appropriate instruction by qualified personnel. Students whose lack of achievement can be attributed to a lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math should not be determined to have an SLD. Such students should be provided with appropriate instruction in general education as well as scientific, research-based interventions. Appropriate instruction in reading must include the essential components of reading instruction* defined in the No Child Left Behind Act. These essential components include explicit and systematic instruction in:
*Source: Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 § 1208(3)
The school or district should also provide data-based documentation of frequent assessments of the student's progress, to measure effectiveness of that instruction. In addition, that documentation should be provided to the student's parents in a timely manner. A student's progress should be documented by using an objective and systemic process administered at reasonable intervals. In other words, information such as teacher reports and teacher-made tests, while helpful, are not adequate for this determination. Data should be used to determine the effectiveness of a particular instructional strategy or program and should be provided to parents in order to keep them informed of their child's progress, so that they can support instruction and learning at home.
If the group charged with determining whether a student has an SLD decides that this documentation is not adequate, a decision may be made to delay making a final determination and continue to collect additional information about the student. In order to extend the time by which the evaluation will be completed, parents must consent to the time extension. The evaluation process must be completed within 60 calendar days from their consent, unless their state has a different requirement.
Students whose lack of achievement (as determined in Step 1) can be attributed primarily to one of the following factors should not be determined to have an SLD.
Such students can be served in other disability categories of IDEA or through programs for at-risk or disadvantaged students, such as Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act.
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