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

Observation (Sec. 300.310)

Comment: Many commenters recommended removing the observation requirements in Sec. 300.310, stating that they are costly and overly prescriptive and have no statutory basis. One commenter stated that the requirements for determining eligibility under the category of SLD are so specific that the observation requirements are unnecessary.

Discussion: The observation requirements for children suspected of having SLD have been in the regulations since before 1983. Important information can be obtained about a child through observation in the classroom, or for a child less than school age, in an environment appropriate for a child of that age. Objective observations are essential to assessing a child's performance and should be a part of routine classroom instruction and are not costly or overly prescriptive. We believe the observation requirements are an important matter to regulate clearly. We will, therefore, change Sec. 300.310(a) through Sec. 300.310(c) to clearly state that the public agency must ensure appropriate observation and documentation of the child's academic performance and behavior in the areas of difficulty to determine whether a child has an SLD.

Changes: We have changed Sec. 300.310(a) through Sec. 300.310(c) to clearly state the observation requirements in determining whether a child has an SLD.

Comment: Several commenters supported requiring a member of the group to be trained in observation. Many commenters requested clarification regarding what it means to be trained in observation. One commenter stated that there are no established training protocols or uniform professional standards for conducting an observation.

Discussion: We agree that the requirement for an individual to be trained in observation is unclear and should be removed. States are responsible for determining specific personnel qualification requirements, and, for the reasons stated under Sec. 300.308, States and LEAs should determine appropriate group membership.

Changes: We have removed the phrase "trained in observation" from Sec. 300.310(a).

Comment: Several commenters stated that the public agency should determine the most appropriate individual to conduct the observation. One commenter recommended specifying a reading specialist to conduct the observation when the child's learning problems involve reading. Another commenter stated that the observer should not be limited to a member of the eligibility group. One commenter stated that it is not necessary to obtain parental consent for the observation.

Discussion: The person conducting the observation should be a member of the eligibility group because information from the observation will be used in making the eligibility determination. If information is available from an observation conducted as part of routine classroom instruction that is important for the eligibility group to consider, the eligibility group should include the person who conducted that routine classroom. This will eliminate redundant observations and save time and resources. Parental consent is not required for observations conducted as part of routine classroom instruction and monitoring of the child's performance before the child is referred for an evaluation.

If an observation has not been conducted, or additional observation data are needed, the decision as to which person should conduct the observation is best left to members of the eligibility group, based on the type of information that is needed to make the eligibility determination and identify the child's needs. Parental consent is required for observations conducted after the child is suspected of having a disability and is referred for an evaluation. We will revise Sec. 300.310 to clarify the different ways in which observation data may be obtained and to clarify that parental consent is required for observations conducted after the child is suspected of having a disability and is referred for an evaluation.

Changes: We have revised Sec. 300.310 to specify in paragraph (a) that the public agency must ensure that the child is observed in the child's learning environment. A new Sec. 300.310(b) has been added to require the eligibility group to use the information obtained from the routine classroom observation or conduct a new observation and to require parental consent for observations conducted after the child is suspected of having a disability and is referred for an evaluation. Proposed Sec. 300.310(b) has been redesignated as new Sec. 300.310(c).

Comment: One commenter requested clarification regarding the definition of an "appropriate" environment in which to conduct the observation of a child who is less than school age, as well as guidance in determining what such an environment would be for children who are out of school.

Discussion: The eligibility group is in the best position to determine the environment appropriate for a child who is less than school age or out of school.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested clear guidance about the working relationship between the special education teacher and the general education teacher in conducting an observation.

Discussion: We decline to provide specific guidance on the working relationship between the special education teacher and the general education teacher in conducting an observation because this relationship will necessarily vary depending on how classrooms are structured and teacher responsibilities assigned. Such decisions are best made at the local level. Generally, we would expect that the child's general education teacher would have data from routine classroom instruction and would work with the other members of the eligibility group to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to determine whether a child has an SLD. A special education teacher who is experienced in working with children with SLD, for example, might have suggestions on ways to structure a particular observation session to obtain any additional information that is needed, and may be able to assist the general education teacher in gathering the data.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended requiring an observation for any child suspected of having a disability, not just those suspected of having an SLD.

Discussion: Observation data will generally be a part of the existing data reviewed for any child suspected of having a disability. Section 300.305(a)(1) requires the eligibility group for any child suspected of having a disability to review existing evaluation data, including classroom-based observations and observations by teachers and related services providers. We do not believe that requiring an observation of children suspected of other disabilities is necessary, however, as identification of those other disabilities is not always as dependent on classroom performance and behavior as is identification of children with SLD.

Changes: None.