Recommendation SE.1: The committee recommends that federal guidelines for special education eligibility be changed in order to encourage better integrated general and special education services. We propose that eligibility ensue when a student exhibits large differences from typical levels of performance in one or more domain(s) and with evidence of insufficient response to high-quality interventions in the relevant domain(s) of functioning in school settings. These domains include achievement (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics), social behavior, and emotional regulation. As is currently the case, eligibility determination would also require a judgement by a multidisciplinary team, including parents, that special education is needed.
We provide more detail regarding our intended meaning below:
The proposed approach would not negate the eligibility of any student who arrives at school with a disability determination, or who has a severe disability, from being served as they are currently. Our concern here is only with the categories of disability that are defined in the school context in response to student achievement and behavior problems.
While eligibility for special education would by law continue to depend on establishment of a disability, in the committee’s view noncategorical conceptions and classification criteria that focus on matching a student’s specific needs to an intervention strategy would obviate the need for the traditional high-incidence disability labels such as LD and ED. If traditional disability definitions are used, they would need to be revised to focus on behaviors directly related to classroom and school learning and behavior (e.g., reading failure, math failure, persistent inattention and disorganization).
By high-quality interventions we mean evidence-based treatments that are implemented properly over a sufficient period to allow for significant gains, with frequent progress monitoring and intervention revisions based on data. Research-based features of intervention quality are known and must be implemented rigorously including:
an explicit definition of the target behavior in observable, behavioral language;
collection of data on current performance;