A student may be referred for special education instruction and services at any time by the student’s parent, guardian or foster parent, teacher or other service provider, or any involved parties. A referral for special education programs and services is generally made after all relevant general education resources have been explored and, where appropriate, implemented. Best practice is to utilize the school site’s Response to Intervention (RtI) or Student Study Team (SST) process prior to making the referral.
Referrals must be made in writing; e-mail is an acceptable format. If a verbal referral is made, any staff member must offer to help the person write the referral. This includes assisting parents who may not understand the process or know how to request testing for their child.
4.1 General Education Interventions
Not all students who experience difficulties learning in school need special education. Often a student’s school problems can be corrected through modifications of the general education school program. The student’s general education teacher should first try to:
- Modify instructional strategies.
- Conference with parent and other teachers.
- Consult with their principal, colleagues, district support staff and/or other special education specialists.
4.1.1 Response to Intervention (RtI) or Student Study Team (SST)
The RtI or SST multidisciplinary team, a general education process, is required at each school site to intervene on behalf of students who are experiencing learning difficulties. This team must include the student’s general education teacher. It is strongly recommended that parents, and when appropriate, the student experiencing learning difficulties, participate in these RtI/SST meetings. When requested, special education staff may also participate to suggest possible modifications to a student’s general education program.
The RtI/SST assists the classroom teacher to:
- Identify academic, social, or health issues that interfere with the student’s learning and achievement in the classroom.
- Prioritize concerns about the student.
- Develop a plan to assist the student.
- Determine how to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
The SST may consider a referral to the 504 team to determine eligibility. Refer to Chapter 24, Section 504 for further information.
The RtI/SST does not function as an automatic referral for special education and related services.
When a member of the school staff has a concern about a student’s progress, that staff member should:
- Complete the forms required by the RtI/SST.
- Present the student’s learning profile so that the RtI/SST may, if appropriate, recommend accommodations to the general education instructional program.
Regardless of who makes the referral, the RtI/SST will:
- Review known information about the student and develop a plan which may include some or all of the following recommendations:
- Adjust the instructional style or presentation.
- Try a variety of instructional strategies.
- Modify classroom materials or seating arrangements.
- Revise the format or amount of home or class assignments.
- Try different techniques of managing or channeling a student’s behavior.
- Change the student’s schedule, grade level, teacher and/or school of attendance.
- Use specialized instructional strategies for English Learners.
- Make accommodations for the customs and values of the student’s culture.
- Reconvene to review the teacher’s documentation and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan’s implementation.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
As applicable, ensure that “English Learner Initial Referral and Decision-Making Process Cumulative File Check,” “English Learner Extrinsic Factors,” and “English Learner Intervention Summary” forms are completed. This begins the CEP-EL process. Refer to Form/Links.
In considering referrals of culturally and linguistically diverse students for special education, care must be taken to determine whether learning and/or behavior problems demonstrated by the students indicate a disability or, are manifestations of cultural, experiential and/or socio-linguistic differences.
Interventions to help resolve difficulties that arise from differences in cultural and linguistic background or from difficulties with the acculturative process, for example, might include:
- Cross-cultural counseling
- Peer support groups
- Teaching cultural survival skills.
- Instruction in English language development
- Assistance in developing basic interpersonal communication skills.
- Determine whether the student should be referred for special education and related services.
If a referral for special education and related services is indicated, the assigned Special Education case manager will:
- Notify the parent of initiation of a referral for assessment to identify individuals with exceptional needs by completing the Special Education Referral Form, found within the district’s electronic IEP system.
- Provide the parents with a copy of the completed Referral Form.
- Proceed with the Assessment Process.
Throughout the RtI/SST process, general education modifications should continue to be explored and implemented.
4.1.2 Generally, a student should not be referred for special education and related services if:
- The student is demonstrating slow but steady progress within the general education classroom.
- The student has had excessive absences from school not necessarily related to health issues.
- A remediable health condition exists that has a significant effect on the student’s academic performance and can be reasonably expected to improve if treated.
- The sole basis for the student doing poorly in school is the student’s:
- Limited English language proficiency
- Cultural differences
- Lack of educational experiences including explicit and systematic instruction
- Environmental or economic disadvantage
- Temporary physical Disabilities
- Social maladjustment If the site team determines the student does not need to be assessed because the student is adequately progressing in all aspects of the student’s educational program (academic, social/emotional, communication, fine/gross motor, etc.), a Prior Written Notice and Procedural Safeguards must be provided to the parent. This is generally not advised in view of “Child Find.” In addition, if the parent requests an evaluation and the district refuses, the parent may seek a private evaluation with which the district has no evidence to refute. Depending upon the circumstances, the district may end up reimbursing the parent for that private evaluation.
4.2 General Referral Procedures
A referral initiates the assessment process.
The referral must be documented and include a record of student progress, teaching strategies used and effectiveness of modifications attempted. This information should accompany the Referral for Special Education form.
In most cases, the referral process is completed by Special Education staff at the student’s school of attendance.
For students with a suspected low incidence disability, the Special Education case manager should contact the Low Incidence Program Office.
Once a Special Education referral has been received, it is to be signed and dated by the person making the referral (or received via e-mail); if the referral is not dated, it must be dated by the receiving staff member. It is then forwarded to the Education Specialist on site to be entered into the district’s electronic IEP system.
The case manager is the person with primary responsibility for coordinating the referral, assessment and IEP development process.
Upon receipt of the written referral, the case manager must:
- Immediately complete the Referral Form in the electronic IEP system AND lock the event.
- Notify the school principal and other school site staff members, as appropriate, that a referral has been made for a particular student.
- Develop an assessment plan in collaboration with those who will be assessing the student.
- Send to the parent within 15 calendar days the following:
- Referral for Special Education
- Assessment Plan
- Notice of Procedural Safeguards
All communications with a student’s parent must be provided in the primary language of the parent unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. In such instances, an interpreter or translator must be used to explain the information to the parent.
If the parent has provided notice of representation by an advocate or attorney, the referral and assessment documents are to be given to the representative in the parent’s primary language.
The timelines listed below must be adhered to throughout the entire process:
Referral form and Assessment
Plan sent to parent.
No later than 15 calendar days from date referral is received
Assessment Plan reviewed by
parent and returned to district
At least 15 calendar days from date parent receives assessment plan
Assessment completed and
IEP team meeting held
60 calendar days from date district personnel receive the signed Assessment Plan, excepting time periods when school is not in session for more than 5 consecutive school days.
It is the case manager’s responsibility to make sure timelines are met.