Referral Process

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Special Education services are not intended to be a dumping ground for every student who is having trouble in school. They are intended to make available additional resources for students who have a handicapping condition that takes more than the resources available in the regular classroom.

The resources for a student with a handicapping condition may be delivered in a place outside the regular classroom with a special education teacher. The special education teacher may provide services in or out of the regular classroom. Or it is possible that the regular classroom teacher may provide the service as part of his/her regular classroom instruction.

Special education services are expensive and may also be restrictive, so it is important that we refer and place students who truly need the services of special education. Once a classroom teacher has identified that a student in the classroom has some problems they should become very specific as to the problem. A discussion should take place between staff members and the principal whether a student should be referred to special education.

Who can refer?

A teacher, parent, or other concerned party identifies a concern (s) which he/she believes is interfering with a student’s learning potential; e.g., academic delays, processing deficits, communication difficulties, behavioral concerns, etc. Those concerns are conveyed to the classroom teacher, and discussed with the parent and the principal by the teacher.


Pre-referral is the stage prior to referral to a program planning team and prior to the development of an individual education plan.

Pre-referral intervention is part of the continuum of supports to meet a continuum of needs. The focus at this stage is to gain a better understanding of the child's strengths and needs in order to plan instruction. Its primary focus is on how well the student is responding to the curriculum and instructional methodologies. Early identification of learning needs can result in early intervention which may prevent problems from escalating.

The primary purpose of the prereferral process is to reduce inappropriate referral of students for formal assessment, thereby enabling students to remain in regular class settings and avoid the possible mislabeling of students as having a disability.

Several positive effects of prereferral:

1. A decrease in the number of students traditionally referred for special education services.

2. A decrease in the cost of funding for special education programs.

3. Improved instructional outcomes resulting from the prereferral procedures.

4. Improved school climate.

5. Reduces the delay between referral and intervention (shortens the diagnostic process).

6. Uses existing, current student data or information.

7. It relies on the expertise of classroom teachers who know the students best.

8. Prereferral affords direct benefit to the students with mild disabilities by increasing their opportunities in mainstream settings, improving their chances of success with the regular curriculum, and helping them avoid the stigma that is often associated with a disability label.

Regular Education Interventions

The classroom teacher's role is central to the process in determining if and when further steps need to be taken (i.e., a referral to the Solutions Team). The special education teacher can play an important consultative role in this phase of the decision making.

The teacher reviews the cumulative record of the student and checks with the student’s previous teacher(s).

The teacher attempts various instructional strategies, program adaptations, or modifications to accommodate the student’s individual needs (talk/email with other staff who might be able to suggest different strategies, modifications or accommodations to try, special education teachers have various resource manuals that they may part with).

Note: teachers typically and routinely conduct Preferral activities. That is, the teacher modifies instruction, learning environment, instructional day, learner tasks, or manages classroom behavior.

The Solutions Team

The teacher records all strategies or interventions attempted. If classroom modifications and/or instructional adaptations have not provided a satisfactory solution for the problem, the classroom teacher refers the student to the Solutions Team.

The Solutions Team, which includes a special education teacher, determines what other instructional strategies and program adaptations should be implemented to help the student succeed in the regular classroom. If after several intervention strategies and outcomes are attempted and the student still does not make progress, the Solutions Team refers the child for special education evaluation.

If a student continues to have difficulty after prereferral activities, the Solutions Team may recommend a referral for formal assessment. This begins the formal special education process.

Initial Referral

The Solutions Team, typically, will make the referral for special assistance. Accordingly, the regular education teacher, along with the Solutions Team, identifies a learning problem and then collects as much information as possible relative to the student's specialized needs. The student's difficulties should be based on recorded observations. The teacher should make a clear statement of the student’s needs, (i.e., primary purpose of the request for assistance).

The referral should include:

· A clear and concise description of the student's present level of functioning

· A brief summary of the student's learning strengths

· The student’s unique learning style

· A prioritized list of the student's learning needs

· A brief description of the student's social interactions with peers

· A description of the problem that is interfering with school success

· A summary of the interventions that have been tried -- what worked and what did not work

After prior parental notice and consent have been given and an individual assessment is under way, the teacher should continue to observe the student in a variety of learning situations. A history of the student's problem can provide valuable information by describing the frequency with which the behavior occurs and under what conditions. It is recommended that teachers collect representative samples of the student's work, particularly if the student's problem is poor academic achievement.


State guidelines, as well as best practices, requires that general education conduct a pre- referral team meeting before referring to Special Education. The classroom teacher is required by the state to implement and document general education interventions to show what has been attempted to remediate the problem and present the results to the pre-referral team. The classroom interventions must be of sufficient scope and duration to determine their effects on the student's educational performance.

The general education pre-referral team may consist of parents, general ed. teacher, resource teacher, administrator, psychologist, and any other necessary staff, such as, SLP, OT, ESL, etc. It is this team's responsibility to problem solve and review data from interventions. When interventions are unsuccessful in meeting the student's academic needs, the team may decide to refer the student to the special education evaluation team. Special services' staff may provide screening and consultation services (such as in providing information concerning ADHD), FACTUAL TESTING OR ASSESSMENT MAY NOT BEGIN UNTIL the evaluation team decides that an assessment is appropriate and agrees on the selection of relevant assessment measures.

The special education teacher will:

A. Have the classroom teacher complete a referral form.

1. In most cases the classroom teacher completes all sections of this form, parents complete a questionnaire regarding his/her concerns.

2. It is essential that vision and hearing within the last calendar year be documented.

B. The referral is given to the special education teacher. Have the classroom teacher submit any data that is needed, i.e., behavior logs, samples of work, attempted strategies and interventions, Terra-Nova scores, SRI scores, etc.

C. A Prior Written Notice (PWN) is given to the parents by the special education teacher indicating a referral for special education services has been completed. The parents are also given a copy of their rights.

D. A Consent for Evaluation Form is given to parents by the special education teacher for their signature.

1. No special education assessment can begin before the signed parent permission form is returned.

2. A copy of the Consent for Evaluation and the Referral form are faxed to the Special Education office, so that the SpEd office can assist in keeping track of the 45 school-day timeline required from Parent Consent for Evaluation to placement in special education services.

E. The special education teacher does individual academic testing and classroom observations.

F. The special education teacher will coordinate with the Special Education Coordinator and make sure the appropriate itinerant staff (School Psychologist and/or Speech Therapist and/or Physical Therapist and/or Occupational Therapist) are scheduled to be on site to evaluate referred students.

Eligibility Determination

Evaluation Summary and Eligibility Determination meeting is held to determine if special education services are needed. Parents, student (if 14 or over) and classroom teacher, consultants, if available, should be in attendance.

IEP Development and Annual Review

An IEP meeting is held to develop the student's program and must be reviewed at least annually. The classroom teacher, principal, special education teacher, and parents and student (if 14 or older) need to be in attendance.

Reevaluation A reevaluation to determine continued need for special education must occur at least every three years.

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