Disabilities & Early Intervention Strategies:
How to Reform the Special Education Referral
of House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Education
June 6, 2002, the House held an IDEA hearing about "Learning Disabilities
and Early Intervention Strategies: How to Reform the Special Education
Referral and Identification Process."
This is a brief overview of witness testimony from IDEA News Briefing
#10 (July 8, 2002) from the IDEA Rapid Response Network (information about
the IDEA Rapid Response Network is at the end of this article). Download
complete testimony of witnesses.
William Goodling's Testimony
William F. Gooding, Educator and Former Chairman of the House Committee
on Education and the Workforce and chief author of the last IDEA reauthorization,
did not address learning disabilities except in passing.
He reiterated many of the points made in previous hearings:
* there is a teacher shortage and a problem in teacher training;
* paperwork needs to be reduced by investigating (and funding) technology
to streamline forms;
* there should be incentives to mediate before litigating and a limitation
on attorneys' fees (he didn't specify whether this limit should apply
to school districts or only to attorneys who counsel parents);
* a focus on early and research-based intervention for young children;
* a fostering of increased parental involvement.
Dr. Robert Pasternack's
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. Department of Education, focused on reading. He spoke in support
of the Leave No Child Behind Act, Reading First and Early Reading First
He emphasized building on the No Child Left Behind Act to focus on scientifically
based early reading interventions and achieving results for all children,
not just those in special education.
He argued for a focus on prevention, early identification, and early intervention.
out of 3 fourth graders cannot read proficiently.
7 out of 10 inner city and rural fourth graders cannot read at the
most basic level." - Rod Paige, Secretary of Education
questioned the use of models based on discrepancies between IQ test scores
and reading performance for identifying which children should receive
special education services.
Dr. Reid Lyon's
Dr. G. Reid
Lyon, Research Psychologist and Chief of the Child Development and Behavior
Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(NICHD) in Rockville, MD, discussed the collaborative work of the NICHD
and OSERS on early reading.
On learning disabilities, he spoke of the "persistent debate about:
(a) the definition of the disability,
(b) the diagnostic criteria and assessment procedures employed in the
(c) the content, intensity, and duration of instructional practices provided,
(d) the policies and legal requirements that guide the identification
and education of students with LD."
cited statistics about the rise of LD diagnoses in the past two decades
and argued that the rise in children identified and given services has
not resulted in improved performance for those children, especially those
identified late (after
the education profession create instructional casualties by inadequately
preparing both general education and special education teachers
to address learning differences among children?" -
Dr. Reid Lyon, National Institutes of Health
Dr. Lyon asked for explanations of the increase in students diagnosed
with LD and questioned whether the increase results from improved identification
practices or an ambiguous definition of the disability: "Put another
way, does the education profession create instructional casualties by
inadequately preparing both general education and special education teachers
to address learning differences among children? Once identified, why are
special education services not effective in improving learning?"
proposed four factors that explain the increased incidence of LD:
1. The vague definition invites variability in identification procedures.
2. Traditional approaches to early reading instruction underestimate the
variability among children in their talent and preparation for learning
to read, and teachers are inadequately trained to address this variability.
3. Remediation is minimally effective after the second grade, so it is
troubling that so many students are identified later than that.
4. Assessment procedures work against identifying children early.
believes that the traditional special education model has been ineffective
because it is too little, too general, too unsystematic, and too late.
Research shows, he argued, that this does not have to be the case, especially
with LD that centers on reading difficulties.
Dr. Lyon argued for policies that begin with science first and follow
Like Mr. Pasternack, he argued for discontinuing the practice of using
models to identify children with LD. He went into considerable detail
about scientific findings.
The testimony of David Gordon, Superintendent of the Elk Grove Unified
School District in Elk Grove, California, is posted on the Committee's
website as being available by request. We assume this is because it was
not presented in electronic form.
one-third of college freshman need to take remedial classes before
they can handle entry level courses.
Twelfth grade students rank among the lowest of industrial nations
in math and science. -
Dr. Rod Paige, Secretary of Education
Joseph Kovaleski, Director of Pupil Services at the Cornwall-Lebanon Sch.
District in Lititz, Pennsylvania, was trained as a school psychologist
and is a special education administrator.
Kovaleski spoke of successful pre-referral early intervention programs
in Pennsylvania using Instructional Support Teams that have led to decreases
in identification of children who require special education services under
He suggested that the testing process leads to over-identification, that
the best way to identify children is to assess their response to effective
instruction, and early literacy programs need to be fully funded. He also
argued that screening processes need to address emotional and behavioral
as well as academic needs
IDEA Rapid Response Network
The Disabilities Rights Education and Defense Fund
(DREDF) launched the IDEA Rapid Response Network:
If you wish
to receive email information about reauthorization and/or participate
in the Network, please send an email to preserveIDEA@dredf.org Include your name, contact
information (postal address, telephone number, and email) and whether
you want updates or wish to participate in the Network.
More information about the IDEA
Rapid Response Network is available on the DREDF site.