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Expert Q&A

Can the school keep a child on Response to Intervention if the parent thinks she needs to be evaluated for a learning disability?

My daughter is 9 years old. She has been diagnosed dyslexic and ADHD. She is learning disabled in reading and almost in math. My school will not evaluate her. The reading specialist says she is reading at a third grade level. Both specialists that tested her said she is at a second grade level. My school is making us go through the response to intervention program. The school psychologist said they have to do this first by law. I read them the law that stated they shall but not may do RTI. It went over their heads. My principal told me off the record that my educational specialist was spinning the numbers. My response was. “well, what about the neuropsychological evaluation?” Her response was, “if you go looking for something you’ll find it.” My daughters overall Terra Nova score was 25. Her spelling was 9, reading was 11. The educational specialist recommends the Wilson reading program. My school doesn’t offer this. This is heart breaking to watch your child cry when trying to do homework. My oldest son also has ADHD. I had no problem getting him an IEP. My principal told me my daughter wasn’t that poor of a student. My daughter and I spend hours many nights doing homework. Now the psychologist, principal and reading specialist are pulling her out more to work with her. They think she needs to practice reading more. My daughter has been in a special reading group sense first grade and tutored outside of school since first grade. Holly’s grades are because of my help and hours of studying. Do I have to continue RTI?

Schools are not supposed to keep children in an RTI mode indefinitely. If the child is making progress, they should ultimately be able, based on that progress to return to the regular program. If they are not making progress in a reasonable period of time, the school should refer the child for evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education. Under the IDEA 2006 regulations, a child may be considered for eligibility under LD if:

(1) the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade level standards in one or more of the following areas when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or State-approved grade level standards: (i) Oral expression; (ii) Listening comprehension; (iii) Written expression; (iv) Basic Reading skills; (v) Reading fluency skills; (vi) Reading comprehension; (vii) Mathematics calculation; or (viii) Mathematics problem solving.

(2) (i) The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section when using a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research based intervention; or (ii) The child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments, consistent with Secs. 300.304 and 300.305;

(3) the group determines that its findings under paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section are not primarily the result of (i) a visual, hearing, or motor disability; (ii) Mental retardation; (iii) Emotional Disturbance; (iv) cultural factors, (v) Economic disadvantage; or (vi) Limited English Proficiency. 34 CFR 300.309.

Obviously, in order to make these decisions, the school district would have to actually conduct an evaluation. In addition, the federal regulations clearly provide that a child should be considered for evaluation for special education either if a) they have not made adequate progress after an appropriate period of time when provided with scientific, research based intervention, or “whenever a child is referred for an evaluation.” 34 CFR 300.309 (c)(2). While a school may choose not to evaluate a child in response to a parent’s written request for evaluation, they must give the parent written notice of the decision not to conduct the evaluation, the reason for the refusal of the evaluation, and the parent’s right to request a due process hearing to challenge the refusal of the evaluation by requesting a due process hearing. 34 CFR 300.503 (a) They may not simply ignore the parents’ request or insist on continuing to provide additional non-special education intervention.

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