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The relationship between school and independent educational evaluations: Issues in identification and eligibility for students with learning disabilities

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Publication Date
  • Education
  • Special (0529)
  • Education
  • Tests And Measurements (0288)
  • Education


There has been a significant rise in the number of students identified with learning disabilities, and consequently determined eligible to receive special education services since 1980. Some have argued that there has been an under- and over-identification of children with learning disabilities, and that the criteria in which to judge whether a learning disability exists is particularly faulty. This investigation examined the relationship between 50 school-based and independent educational evaluations (IEEs) regarding the identification of children with learning disabilities. The reason for referral, assessment processes used, and the overall criteria employed in these evaluations were reviewed using mixed methodological approaches. The level of agreement was also studied between school and agency evaluations. Unsatisfactory agreement was found when comparing learning disabilities identification specifically. Results, however, indicate satisfactory agreement between evaluations when they consider a broader spectrum of disability categories. Paired t-tests indicate that the independent agency employed almost twice as many informal and formal measures as schools did. A smaller sample was further analyzed using content analyses noting particular issues with report specificity and quality. The lack of information about school team-based decision was cited as a limitation. Overall access to IEEs, the need for definitive LD identification criteria, and the need for more collaboration among evaluators to enhance student achievement and family understanding of need were noted as implications.

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