The Department of Student Services offers a comprehensive continuum of services for students eligible for special education services due to academic, social, or language difficulties. These students are supported in general education classrooms and Learning Resource Centers with a variety of resource supports and related service providers. Care is taken to use research based instructional materials and skill development is frequently monitored. The department endorses a partnership philosophy with parents and encourages them to be active members of their child’s educational team.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) details the guidelines for the identification, evaluation, and eligibility determination for students who may be eligible for special education services. In the most recent re-authorization of IDEA (2004), the process for identifying students eligible under the Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) category changed significantly from over 30 years of practice. The most noticeable changes includes the removal of the requirement to consider a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability, and the inclusion of the requirement that a local education agency may use a process which determines if a child responds to scientific, research based intervention as part of the evaluation process. This process is most commonly referred to as Response to Intervention (RtI).
The Illinois State RtI Plan, issued on January 1, 2008, outlines a framework for statewide implementation of RtI. Included in this Plan is the requirement that school districts are required to use a process that determines how a student responds to scientific, research-based interventions (RtI) when determining whether that student is or continues to be eligible for and entitled to special education services under the category of SLD. (ISBE Guidance Doc ref.)
Key components of an RtI process include (a) a school-wide, multi-tier instructional and behavioral system for preventing school failure, (b) universal screening, (c) progress monitoring, and (d) a data-based decision making process for determining the severity of student needs and movement within the multi-tier system. In short, an RtI process eliminates the wait-to-fail model. All students are screened on an ongoing basis, services are provided based on need rather than waiting for students to fail before high-quality interventions can be used, and an accountability system ensures frequent progress monitoring that informs changes in both the type and intensity of programming.