the general population (Wagner, 2000). The students who do not respond adequately to the very targeted, intensive interventions described above would then be eligible for an individualized education program (IEP), which would stipulate the ongoing supports required.
The proposed tiered intervention strategy is consistent with a broad consensus in the literature that high-quality interventions should be applied prior to consideration of special education eligibility and placement. Current special education rules and guidelines in the states nearly always require such prereferral interventions (although it may have another name) or school-based problem solving. Unfortunately, the quality of these interventions is often poor (Flugum and Reschly, 1994; Telzrow et al., 2000). For example, the vast majority lack critical features of effective interventions, such as: (a) behavioral definition of the problem; (b) development of a direct measure of the problem in the natural classroom or other setting that is of concern; (c) baseline data indicating the nature and severity of the problem; (d) analysis of the problem (task analysis with identification of prerequisite skills, analysis of environmental conditions, including instructional features); (e) development of an explicit, written intervention plan based on principles of instructional design and behavior change; (f) frequent checks on whether the plan is implemented as intended; (g) frequent progress monitoring with changes in the plan as needed; and (h) evaluation of results in terms of whether the gap is reduced sufficiently between peer and age-grade expectations (Tilly et al., 1999).
According to self-report information and examination of special education case files, approximately 80 to 90 percent of current prereferral interventions are missing three or more of these indices of quality (Flugum and Reschly, 1994; Telzrow et al., 2000). Studies indicate that 80 percent or more of the students receiving prereferral interventions as they are implemented today are also considered for special education eligibility. Poor quality is a major reason for the failure of prereferral interventions to resolve more problems in general education settings. Many of the prereferral interventions are guided by very popular models of “collaborative consultation” (e.g., Idol and West, 1987; West and Idol, 1987), which do not require data collection or several of the other critical features identified above (Fuchs and Fuchs, 1992; Tilly et al., 1999). Changing the quality of the interventions prior to the consideration of special education eligibility is crucial. Key special education and related services personnel (e.g., school psychologists) need substantial retraining and reorientation in order for this step in the special education services process to have its intended effect.
Children and youth who do not respond to high-quality interventions should be considered for special education, but only after high-quality interventions are provided. We reiterate that special education should not be considered unless there are effective general education programs, prefer-