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Process for Specific Learning Disability Determination

Specific Learning Disability

On May 14th 2010, the State of Michigan Department of Education issued a memorandum requiring every local educational agency (LEA) and public school academy (PSA) in Michigan to publicly post on their web site, or make public through other means, the process or combination of processes which will be used by the LEA or PSA to determine the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). In accordance with this directive, the JCISD will utilize a pattern of strengths and weaknesses as part of a full and individual evaluation as outlined in the Michigan Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Specific Learning Disability (Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education and Early Intervening Services, May 2010) at all grade levels in all schools.

In Michigan, prior to the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA), the identification of a student suspected to have a SLD was based on a single, severe discrepancy model. The 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA now expressly prohibits all states from requiring the use of the severe discrepancy model.

The JCISD believes that students, especially in the early elementary years, are best served academically through the application of a response to scientific, research-based intervention process that includes: use of research-based core instructional programs and practices provided by highly qualified teachers and implemented with fidelity; regular progress monitoring of student performance in response to high-quality instruction; and data-based problem-solving tailored to each individual student's intensity of need. The data collected during this process constitute an important part of any subsequent comprehensive evaluation of students suspected of meeting the state and federal requirements for programs and services in the area of SLD.

The JCISD process for a full and individual evaluation utilizing a pattern of strengths and weaknesses for determination of a SLD includes:

· Analysis of multiple sources of data, from a variety of sources, including information provided by the family.

· Observation of the student in the learning environment at a time when they are engaged in the specific area of need identified in the evaluation plan.

· Assurance that a student's suspected SLD is not primarily the result of: lack of appropriate instruction in reading; lack of appropriate instruction in math; a visual, hearing, or motor disability; a cognitive impairment; an emotional impairment; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency. In addition, the evaluation team must also determine if the student's lack of progress has been primarily impacted by poor attendance, frequent moves between schools, or other factors.

· Finding of an academic skill deficit and insufficient academic progress based on multiple sources of information in at least one of the qualifying areas associated with SLD (oral expression; listening comprehension; written expression; basic reading skill; reading fluency skill; reading comprehension; mathematics calculation; or mathematics problem solving).

· Demonstration that the student exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined to be relevant to the identification of a SLD, using appropriate assessments. At the JCISD this includes the use of cognitive processing measures to better inform an understanding of the student's learning difficulties. All data are then analyzed relative to research-based clinical profiles of learning disability emphasizing the relationships between areas of cognitive and academic strengths and deficits as they relate to our most current understanding of SLD.

· Demonstration that there is a need for the intense interventions available through special education programs and services to be implemented in order for the student to progress in the general curriculum.