mentally validated principles of instructional design and behavior change, implementation of the intervention is monitored to ensure that it is carried out as intended, and the student’s progress is monitored frequently (often, twice or more per week). Improvements in the intervention are implemented if the results are falling short of goals and the overall effects are evaluated.

Special education eligibility may be considered after the results of one or more high-quality interventions are implemented and evaluated. If the student’s progress has improved significantly, special education is not likely to be considered further. If the intervention is not sufficient to bring the student into a broadly defined range of normal achievement, behavior, or emotional regulation, special education need is considered. Special education need is evaluated according to judgments of whether the specially designed instruction with necessary supports and services are likely to address the problem effectively.

In Iowa, students are simply designated as eligible or not eligible for special education services. The eligibility criteria for the high-incidence disabilities are: (a) a large difference from average levels of achievement, behavior, or emotional regulation that interferes significantly with school performance, (b) insufficient response to high-quality, rigorous interventions, and (c) demonstrated need for special education.

No IQ tests are used; there are no eligibility criteria specifying the need for an assessment of intellectual functioning or ability. Standardized tests of achievement and behavior rating scales are used sparingly. Direct measures in the natural setting, such as curriculum-based measurement in academic skills domains and behavior observation and interview, are used instead, with local norms used to decide degree of need. That is, students are compared with peers in the same classroom, school, and district to determine degree of need.

Special education is changed. Resources are redirected from expensive eligibility evaluations to the development of high-quality interventions in general and special education. Moreover, greater emphasis on early intervention and prevention is possible because the focus is on delivering effective programs, not on waiting until students fail badly enough to qualify for special education.

Finally, the Iowa reform has not resulted in greater numbers or proportions of students placed in special education. It has changed how special education is done in order to improve outcomes for children and youth. For more information see Ikeda et al. (1996) and Reschly et al. (1999).


Application of assessment measures that provide the foundation for problem-solving interventions was recognized as crucial in the 1982 NRC report: “It is the responsibility of assessment specialists to demonstrate that the measures employed validly assess the functional needs of the individual child for which there are potentially effective interventions” (p. 94). The report noted that much of the data collected then within the context of

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