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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Specific documentation for the eligibility determination (proposed Written report) (Sec. 300.311)

Comment: Several commenters supported the requirements for the written report, stating that they provide a useful framework for practitioners. However, several commenters stated that the requirements for the written report should be removed because they go beyond the requirements of the Act and impose additional procedural and paperwork burdens for school personnel. Several commenters stated that the report is much more detailed than the evaluation and eligibility report for children with other disabilities, and stated that this could discourage schools from evaluating children suspected of having SLD.

Discussion: Section 614(b)(4)(B) of the Act requires the public agency to provide a copy of the evaluation report and the documentation of determination of eligibility to the parents for all children evaluated under the Act. Section 300.311 specifies the content for the evaluation report for children suspected of having SLD. States and LEAs have more discretion over the specific content of an evaluation report for children suspected of having a disability under the other disability categories. Therefore, whether the SLD evaluation report is more detailed or burdensome than other evaluation reports would depend on State and local requirements. We believe that the elements of the report specified in Sec. 300.311 provide important checks to prevent misidentification and ensure that children who actually have SLD are identified.

Changes: None.

Comment: Several commenters recommended that the written report include statements regarding the existence of a psychological processing disorder and the basis for making the determination; whether the child achieved commensurate with the child's age and ability; whether the child achieved commensurate with the child's age and intellectual development; whether the child achieved commensurate with the child's peers; and whether there are strengths and weaknesses in performance or cognitive abilities in one or more of the areas in Sec. 300.309(a) that require special education and related services.

Discussion: We decline to change the content of the written report in the manner recommended by the commenters because the statements that commenters recommended be included in the written report are inconsistent with the eligibility requirements for children with SLD in Sec. 300.309.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended including an assurance that the eligibility determination was made in accordance with Sec. 300.306(c)(1), regarding procedures for determining eligibility and placement, and Sec. 300.8(c)(10), regarding the definition of specific learning disability.

Discussion: Section 300.311(b) requires each member of the eligibility group to certify in writing whether the report reflects the particular member's conclusion about whether the child has an SLD, and if it does not reflect his or her conclusion, submit a separate statement presenting his or her conclusions. There is no need for any additional assurances.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter stated that including "evaluation report" in the description of the written report is confusing because it is unclear whether the evaluation report is something additional to the written report.

Discussion: The information required in the written report in Sec. 300.311 is a part of the documentation of eligibility required in Sec. 300.306(a)(2). Section 300.306(b) and (c) lists the requirements for eligibility determinations for all children suspected of having a disability, including children suspected of having SLD. Section 300.311 provides specific elements that must be addressed in the report for children suspected of having SLD. Two separate reports are not necessary as long as the information in Sec. 300.311 is included in the documentation of the eligibility determination in Sec. 300.306(a)(2). We agree that this should be clarified. Therefore, we will change the heading for Sec. 300.311 from "Written report" to "Specific documentation for the eligibility determination" and will modify the language in Sec. 300.311(a) accordingly.

Changes: We have changed the heading for Sec. 300.311 and modified Sec. 300.311(a) to clarify that the requirements in Sec. 300.311 are in addition to the requirements for the documentation of the eligibility determination required in Sec. 300.306(a)(2).

Comment: Several commenters requested that the written report include the determination of the group concerning the effects of cultural factors, limited English proficiency, and environmental or economic disadvantage to be consistent with all the elements in Sec. 300.309(a)(3).

Discussion: We agree that it is important to emphasize the importance of considering such factors in determining eligibility under SLD and will add these factors in Sec. 300.311(a).

Changes: We have added a new paragraph (6) to Sec. 300.311(a) to require the written report to include a statement on the effects of cultural factors, limited English proficiency, environmental, or economic disadvantage.

Comment: Several commenters requested clarification of what happens if a group member disagrees with the report and agreement is never reached. Other commenters asked whether services are delayed pending a group consensus; whether the submission of a separate statement is synonymous with a veto for eligibility; whether it matters which group member submits a separate report; and whether each group member has equal standing.

Discussion: The eligibility group should work toward consensus, but under Sec. 300.306, the public agency has the ultimate responsibility to determine whether the child is a child with a disability. Parents and school personnel are encouraged to work together in making the eligibility determination. If the parent disagrees with the public agency's determination, under Sec. 300.503, the public agency must provide the parent with prior written notice and the parent's right to seek resolution of any disagreement through an impartial due process hearing, consistent with the requirements in Sec. 300.503 and section 615(b)(3) of the Act.

Every effort should be made to resolve differences between parents and school staff through voluntary mediation or some other informal dispute resolution process. However, as stated in Sec. 300.506(b)(1)(ii) and section 615(e)(2)(A)(ii) of the Act, mediation or other informal procedures may not be used to deny or delay a parent's right to a due process hearing, or to deny any other rights afforded under Part B of the Act.

Changes: None.