In May 2010 local school districts in the State of Michigan received notice that effective September 1, 2010, school districts must publicize the criteria for establishing a student’s eligibility for a specific learning disability (SLD), the category under which  many students with dyslexia qualify for special education services.

The Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) were revised in response to the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Prior to 2004, school districts used a severe discrepancy model to determine a student’s eligibility for SLD. After the reauthorization of IDEA, this was no longer acceptable.

To determine eligibility for SLD, schools now can use either:

  • Scientific, research-based intervention methods or
  • A student’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

When making the determination of eligibility, the Multi-disciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) must use a convergence of multiple data sources that may include comparison of the child’s performance on:

  • State or national norms
  • Curriculum-based measurements that fall 6 data points or at or below the 9th percentile
  • Criterion-referenced measures that falls 50% below the criterion considered achieving
  • Norm-referenced measures that falls at or below the 9th percentile.

In addition, a member of the MET must conduct an observation of the child in his or her general education setting (unless the child does not attend one). That observation must address the academic performance in the areas of difficulty and therefore, in order to do this, the student needs to be observed to see the behavior in the deficit areas. Michigan Criteria for Determining the Existence of a Specific Learning Disability.

You’ll want to go to your school district’s website to access the information as to the specific criteria and process that your district is using to determine SLD eligibility.

Remember, as a parent you have the right to request a referral for an evaluation for your child at any time. You’ll want to begin by talking to your child’s teacher. Together you can chart a course for your child’s success!