The evaluation and identification process for dyslexia can be multifaceted. The process involves both state and federal requirements that must be followed. The evaluation and identification process for students suspected of having dyslexia is guided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Referral Process for Dyslexia and Related Disorders (SSC)
The determination to refer a student for an evaluation must always be made on a case-by-case basis and must be driven by data-based decisions. The referral process itself can be distilled into a basic framework as outlined below.
Data-Driven Meeting of Knowledgeable Person
A team of persons with knowledge of the student, instructional practices, and instructional options meets to discuss data collected, including data obtained during kindergarten and/or first grade screening, and the implications of that data. These individuals include, but are not limited to, the classroom teacher, administrator, dyslexia specialist, and/or interventionist. This team may also include the parents and/or a diagnostician familiar with testing and interpreting evaluation results. This team may have different names in different districts and/or campuses. For example, the team may be called a student success team, student support team, student intervention team, or even something else. In SBISD, this team is called the Student Support Committee (SSC).
Unless the student is already served under IDEA or Section 504, this team of knowledgeable persons is not an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee or a Section 504 committee, although many of these individuals may be on a future committee if the student is referred for an evaluation.
When the Data Does Not Lead to Suspicion of a Disability, Including Dyslexia or a Related Disorder
If the team determines that the data does not give the members reason to suspect that a student has dyslexia, a related disorder, or other disability, the team may decide to provide the student with additional support in the classroom or through the RTI/MTSS process. The student should continue to receive grade level, evidence-based core reading instruction. (Tier 1) and any other appropriate tiered interventions. However, the student is not referred for an evaluation at this time.
When the Data Lead to a Suspicion of a Disability, Including Dyslexia or a Related Disorder
If the team suspects that the student has dyslexia, a related disorder, or another disability included within the IDEA, the team must refer the student for a full individual and initial evaluation (FIIE). In most cases, an FIIE under the IDEA must be completed within 45-school days from the time a district or charter school receives parental consent. The student should continue to receive grade level, evidence-based core reading instruction (Tier 1) and any other appropriate tiered interventions while the school conducts the FIIE.
To learn more about the data gathering process please see page 24 of the Dyslexia Handbook.
Parents/guardians always have the right to request a referral for a dyslexia evaluation at any time. Once a parent request for dyslexia evaluation has been made, the school district is obligated to review the student’s data history (both formal and informal data) to determine whether there is reason to suspect the student has a disability. If a disability is suspected, the student needs to be evaluated following the guidelines outlined in this chapter. Under the IDEA, if the school refuses the request to evaluate, it must give parents prior written notice of refusal to evaluate, including an explanation of why the school refuses to conduct an FIIE, the information that was used as the basis for the decision, and a copy of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards.
Should the parent disagree with the school's refusal to conduct an evaluation, the parent has the right to initiate dispute resolution options including; mediation, state complaints, and due process hearings. Additionally, the parent may request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense. Should the parent believe that their child is eligible for Section 504 aids, accommodations, and services the parent may request an evaluation under Section 504.
Procedures for Evaluation
Child Find is a provision in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that requires the state to have policies and procedures in place to ensure that every student in the state who needs special education and related services is located, identified, and evaluated. The purpose of the IDEA is to ensure that students with disabilities are offered a free and appropriate public education (20 U.S.C. §1400(d); 34 C.F.R. §300.1). Because a student suspected of having dyslexia may be a student with a disability under the IDEA, the Child Find mandate includes these students. Therefore, when referring and evaluating students suspected of having dyslexia, LEAs must follow procedures for conducting a full individual and initial evaluation (FIIE) under the IDEA. View detailed information regarding Child Find.
A formal evaluation is not a screening; rather, it is an individualized evaluation used to gather specific data about the student. Formal evaluation includes both formal and informal data. All data will be used to determine whether the student demonstrates a pattern of evidence that indicates dyslexia. Information collected from the parents/guardians also provides valuable insight into the student’s early years of language development. This history may help explain why students come to the evaluation with many different strengths and weaknesses; therefore, findings from the formal evaluation will be different for each child. Professionals conducting evaluations for the identification of dyslexia will need to look beyond scores on standardized assessments alone and examine the student’s classroom reading performance, educational history, early language experiences, and, when warranted, academic potential to assist with determining reading, spelling, and writing abilities and difficulties. As part of the evaluation when dyslexia is suspected, in addition to the parent and team of qualified professionals required under IDEA, it is recommended that the multi-disciplinary evaluation team include members who have specific knowledge regarding-
- the reading process,
- dyslexia and related disorders, and
- dyslexia instruction.
Notification and Permission
When formal evaluation is recommended, the school must complete the evaluation process as outlined in the IDEA. Procedural safeguards under IDEA must be followed. For more information on procedural safeguards, see TEA’s Parent Guide to the Admission, Review, and Dismissal Process (Parent’s Guide) and the Notice of Procedural Safeguards.
The Importance of Early Screening
The early identification of students with dyslexia along with corresponding early intervention programs for these students will have significant implications for their future academic success. In the book Straight Talk about Reading, Hall and Moats (1999) state the following:
- Early identification is critical because the earlier the intervention, the easier it is to remediate.
- Inexpensive screening measures identify at-risk children in mid-kindergarten with 85 percent accuracy.
- If intervention is not provided before the age of eight, the probability of reading difficulties continuing into high school is 75 percent (pp. 279–280).
Research continues to support the need for early identification and assessment (Birsh, 2018; Sousa, 2005; Nevills & Wolfe, 2009). The rapid growth of the brain and its responsiveness to instruction in the primary years make the time from birth to age eight a critical period for literacy development (Nevills & Wolfe, 2009). Characteristics associated with reading difficulties are connected to spoken language. Difficulties in young children can be assessed through screenings of phonemic awareness and other phonological skills (Sousa, 2005). Additionally, Eden (2015) points out that “when appropriate intervention is applied early, it is not only more effective in younger children, but also increases the chances of sparing a child from the negative secondary consequences associated with reading failure, such as decline in self-confidence and depression.”
Keeping the above information in mind, it is essential to screen students for dyslexia and related disorders early in their academic careers.
In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1886, amending Texas Education Code (TEC)
§38.003, Screening and Treatment for Dyslexia,1 to require that all kindergarten and first-grade public school students be screened for dyslexia and related disorders. Additionally, the law requires that all students beyond first grade be screened or tested as appropriate.
In response to the screening requirements of HB 1886, the SBOE amended its rule in 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §74.28, Students with Dyslexia and Related Disorders. While this rule speaks primarily to evaluation and identification of a student with dyslexia or related disorders, it also requires that evaluations only be conducted by appropriately trained and qualified individuals.
A related state law adds an additional layer to screening requirements for public school students. Texas Education Code §28.006, Reading Diagnosis, requires each school district to administer to students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade a reading instrument to diagnose student reading development and comprehension. This law also requires school districts to administer a reading instrument at the beginning of seventh grade to students who did not demonstrate reading proficiency on the sixth-grade state reading assessment. The law requires each school district to administer to kindergarten students a reading instrument adopted by the commissioner or an alternative reading instrument approved by the commissioner. The commissioner must adopt a list of reading instruments that a school district may use to diagnose student reading development and comprehension. Districts are permitted to use reading instruments other than those adopted by the commissioner for first, second, and seventh grades only when a district-level committee adopts these additional instruments. Texas Education Code §28.006(d) requires each district to report the results of these reading instruments to the district’s board of trustees, TEA, and the parent or guardian of each student.
Further, a school district is required to notify the parent or guardian of each student in kindergarten, first grade, or second grade who is determined to be at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties based on the results of the reading instruments. SBISD uses TX-KEA, NWEA MAP and MAP Fluency.
In accordance with TEC §28.006(g), an accelerated reading instruction program must be provided to these students.