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1 Issues of Law, Policy and Practice in Transitioning Students With Learning Disabilities to Higher Education Diana Pullin, J.D., Ph.D. Boston College.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Issues of Law, Policy and Practice in Transitioning Students With Learning Disabilities to Higher Education Diana Pullin, J.D., Ph.D. Boston College."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Issues of Law, Policy and Practice in Transitioning Students With Learning Disabilities to Higher Education Diana Pullin, J.D., Ph.D. Boston College Addressing Achievement Gaps: Students With Learning Disabilities Transitioning From High School to College

2 2 Sources of law (federal): Entitlement to special education in IDEA Bans on disability-based discrimination: - Section Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

3 3 Sources of law (state) : state laws on special education nondiscrimination on basis of disability state education reform laws

4 4 The categories of SLD students to be concerned about: IDEA students (have defined disability and need special education) Section 504/ADA students: - students with disabilities - students with records of disability - students regarded as having a disability Students not previously diagnosed: - in high school - in higher education

5 5 IDEA requirements on who decides if a student has a specific learning disability: the parents the student’s regular teacher (or, if there is not one, someone qualified as a general education teacher for the student’s age group) at least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist or remedial reading teacher 34 C.F.R. Sec

6 6 IDEA definition of “specific learning disability”: Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. 34 C.F.R. Sec (c)(10)

7 7 State standards for identifying specific learning disabilities under IDEA: may not require the use of discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement must permit the use of a process based on the child's response to scientific, research-based intervention (RTI) may permit the use of other alternative research- based procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability 34 C.F.R. Sec (a)

8 8 A specific learning disability can be found if: 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: oral expression; listening comprehension; written expression; basic reading; reading fluency; reading comprehension; mathematics calculation; or mathematics problem solving. 34 C.F.R. Sec. 309(a)(1)

9 9 But … SLD can only be found if: the student does not make sufficient progress to meet age or grade-level standards when using a process based on the child's response to scientific, research-based intervention 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 using appropriate assessments … and not attributable to visual, hearing, or motor disability; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency 34 C.F.R. Sec (a)(2) and (3)

10 10 and SLD can only be found if: there are data documenting that underachievement didn’t result from poor instruction by showing that the student received appropriate instruction in regular education in reading and math from qualified personnel, was given reasonable, regular, and formal assessments of achievement in response to instruction 34 C.F.R. Sec (b)

11 11 Implications for practice: Educator qualifications will be very important. State content standards, state assessments, state modified achievement standards and assessments, and state assessment scoring approaches will be very important. Transition plans for SLD students take on increasing importance.

12 12 The impact of NCLB and state education reform on high school experiences and transitions to college: changing credentials (or the meaning of credentials) changing knowledge bases changing status due to accountability systems (over/under identification; “low-hanging fruit,” etc.)

13 13 Preparing for the high school-to-college transition: the critical role of IEP and 504 plans student support plans for students with no disability status (under some state requirements) moving to higher education with no plans in place

14 14 The nondiscrimination requirements of federal (and some state) laws are different from IDEA: Nondiscrimination protections apply, not the right to free appropriate public education. The only entitlement here is to be free of disability-based discrimination. Disability status can be defined differently. “ Reasonable accommodations. ” Some further legal considerations:

15 15 What are reasonable accommodations: in testing for graduation? in testing for admissions? in testing for college placement? in programs in high school? in programs in college? NOTE: “Reasonableness” is not universal. NOTE: Minimum requirements must be clear and defensible.

16 16 Implications for policy, practice and future research: Will there be fewer SLD labels and who will receive them? Will educators know and be able to do what is called for to diagnose, implement RTI approaches and educate SLD students? How will the skills and knowledge that high school graduates bring to college change? How will the test performance of SLD students on state tests compare to NAEP, SAT, ACT, AP and other tests? Will the consumers who arrive at colleges be fully prepared for college based on their high school experiences?

17 17 References Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), 42 U.S.C et seq. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975/2004). 20 U.S.C et seq., as amended by Public Law , and implementing regulations at 34 CFR Part 300. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107–110, 115 Stat (2002). Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act (1973), 20 U.S.C U.S. Department of Education Web site at


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