Guidelines on Implementation of Specially Designed Reading Instruction to Students with Disabilities and Clarification About "Lack of Instruction" in Determining Eligibility for Special Education

If you would like to receive notification of our publications via e-mail, register at web.nysed.gov/vesid/register.htm.


Memo - May 1999

TO: District Superintendents
Presidents of Boards of Education
Superintendents of Schools
Superintendents of State-Operated and State-Supported Schools
Organizations, Parents & Individuals Concerned with Special Education
Nonpublic School Administrators and Educators
State and Local Teacher Associations
New York City Board of Education
Principals of Public Schools
Directors of Special Education
Chairpersons of Committees on Special Education
Chairpersons of Committees on Preschool Special Education
Chairpersons of Committees on Preschool Special Education
Directors of Pupil Personnel Services
Commissioner's Advisory Panel for Special Education Services
SETRC Project Directors and Training Specialists
ALTA Project Directors
Colleges with Special Education Teacher Training Programs
Colleges with Special Education Teacher Training Programs
Impartial Hearing Officers
Community Dispute Resolution Centers
Independent Living Centers
FROM: Rita D. Levay
SUBJECT: Guidelines on Implementation of Specially Designed Reading Instruction to Students with Disabilities and Clarification About "Lack of Instruction" in Determining Eligibility for Special Education

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on the implementation of a May 1997 amendment to section 200.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education that allows school districts to use certified reading teachers to provide specially designed reading instruction to students with disabilities who have significant reading difficulties. Such reading instruction would be provided only when the student's reading difficulties cannot be met through the provision of general education reading programs. The attached guidelines provide information in a question and answer format to clarify issues associated with this change.

As a result of the change to section 200.6 of the Regulations, school districts now have increased flexibility in determining appropriate personnel to provide specially designed reading instruction to students with disabilities. This amendment allows specially designed reading instruction to be a special education service and, as such, eligible for Public Excess Cost Aid.

The memorandum also addresses the special rule in the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regarding "lack of instruction" in making eligibility determinations for students suspected of having disabilities (See question 5). This information is included at the recommendation of the advisory group that assisted with the development of this memorandum. The advisory group was composed of parents, teachers, administrators, representatives of the New York State Reading Association and Department staff.

Many more students with disabilities have the ability to achieve grade level reading skills and higher educational standards if they are afforded access to the general education curriculum and they and their teachers are provided the necessary supports. However, in New York State, the performance of students with disabilities in reading is significantly lower than that of their nondisabled peers. In 1997-98, 46 percent of students with disabilities achieved the Statewide Reference Point on the Grade 3 Reading Pupil Evaluation Performance (PEP) Test as compared to 84 percent of their nondisabled peers. Performance on the Grade 6 Reading PEP Test was lower. Only 37 percent of students with disabilities achieved the Statewide Reference Point as compared to 83 percent of nondisabled students. These figures represent minimum performance standards and underscore the critical need to improve the performance of students with disabilities in reading.

In February 1998, the Department convened the New York State Reading Symposium to present research on early reading acquisition. The intent was also to stimulate statewide discussions about improving programs for the State's youngest readers and to seek research-based guidance in framing Department initiatives to improve the quality of early literacy programs in New York State. Among the conclusions reported by the Symposium chair, Dr. P. David Pearson, in the executive summary of the Final Report of the New York State Reading Symposium, are:

Additionally, Dr. Pearson indicated that recent research on children with reading difficulties suggests that only a few students (perhaps two to four percent) have difficulties that stem from intractable neurological or intellectual issues. He indicated that most children with reading problems are simply children who are not responding well to instruction. When those students are provided a rich and intensive diet of general education instructional support through some sort of special intervention, they can learn to read within the normal range of performance for their peers. Proven interventions that Dr. Pearson summarized include:

The executive summary also indicated that the nature of the curriculum (the content, opportunities, and skills) in these interventions does not--and should not--differ from the curriculum offered to readers who are making normal progress. What differs is the intensity of teaching, the consistency of support and the immediacy of the feedback that can be provided when teachers work in tutoring or in small groups. These concepts are important for all teachers as they work with students, including students with disabilities, who have difficulties in reading. The Final Report of the New York State Reading Symposium, as well as edited videotapes of the symposium presentations, are available through your local Board of Cooperative Educational Services and Teachers Centers.

For further information concerning the provision of specially designed reading instruction, please contact your Special Education Quality Assurance Regional Associate of the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) (a list of Regional Offices is attached) or the VESID Special Education Policy Unit at (518) 473-2878.

Questions and Answers Addressing Implementation Issues

1. What are the requirements of section 200.6 of the Regulations?

Paragraph (6) of subdivision (b) of section 200.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education was added, effective May 2, 1997, as follows:

When specially designed reading instruction is included in the individualized education program, individuals qualified under section 80.7 of this Title* (*Proposed amendments to Part 80 of the Commissioner's Regulations regarding requirements for teacher certification refer to Teachers of Literacy (Birth through Grade 6 and Grades 5 through 12). For this memorandum, "reading teachers" will be used for references to certified personnel in the area of reading as currently described in Part 80) may provide such instruction. For purposes of this paragraph, specially designed reading instruction shall mean specially designed individualized or group instruction or special services or programs, as defined in subdivision 2 of section 4401 of the Education Law, in the area of reading and which is provided to a student with a disability who has significant reading difficulties that cannot be met through general reading programs.

2. What is specially designed reading instruction?

Specially designed reading instruction is individualized or group instruction or a special service or program provided to meet the student's needs in the area of reading as recommended in the individualized education program (IEP). A certified reading teacher or a special education teacher is authorized to provide specially designed reading instruction. This instruction may be provided in the classroom or in another educational setting structured to meet the needs of the individual student.

3. How does specially designed reading instruction relate to the Learning Standards in English Language Arts?

English Language Arts is composed of a series of integrated skills including reading, writing, listening and speaking. Consistent with the Learning Standards in English Language Arts, students are expected to read, write, listen and speak for:

Reading is one component of English Language Arts. However, because the study of English Language Arts includes the integration of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, reading cannot be addressed in isolation from the other uses of language. The strengths and needs of a student with a disability in the area of reading should be identified and addressed within a comprehensive and integrated literacy curriculum. Additionally, the importance of early literacy programs and interventions cannot be overlooked.

The Learning Standards in English Language Arts serve as the framework for instruction. The English Language Arts Resource Guide with Core Curriculum is an outline that provides an additional level of specificity to the Learning Standards. For most students with disabilities, the IEP goals and objectives associated with reading are linked to the standards by ensuring a student has the precursor skills and strategies in reading necessary to access and progress in the general education curriculum.

4. What is the role of general education teachers and reading teachers at Committee on Special Education meetings?

The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) afford general education teachers, including reading teachers, more involvement with Committees or Subcommittees on Special Education in the development and implementation of a student's IEP. A general education teacher must be a member of the Committee if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment. Reading teachers may also be asked to participate in Committee meetings for a particular student.

General education teachers help the Committee determine appropriate positive behavioral interventions and strategies that will be necessary to support an individual student in the general education environment. They are also expected to present information about the student's performance and to help the Committee make decisions about participation in general education classes, nonacademic activities and extracurricular activities. General education teachers will help to determine what supplementary aids and services, program modifications and supports for the student and/or school personnel are necessary for the student to participate to the fullest extent possible in the general education curriculum.

Examples of modifications or supports that may be provided for students include:

Examples of modifications or supports that may be provided for school personnel are:

Reading teachers have expertise in diagnosing reading problems and designing appropriate instructional interventions. They may be requested to conduct a reading assessment for an individual student. Based on the evaluation results, they should be able to offer solutions to address any identified reading problems. The reading teacher may suggest annual goals and short-term objectives for the student in the area of reading.

5. How does IDEA address "lack of instruction" in reading when determining eligibility for special education services?

When IDEA was reauthorized, the Congressional Committee Report stated that substantial numbers of children are likely to be identified as having a disability because they have not previously received proper academic support. Therefore, in making the determination of a child's eligibility, the Act states that a child shall not be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor for such a determination is lack of instruction in reading.

Attachment A provides sample questions that may prove useful in structuring conversations to address the question, "Has there been a lack of instruction?" Committees are encouraged to review these questions; modify them as appropriate for their own district use; and develop additional, district-specific or student-specific questions to consider when making that determination. These sample questions may also be helpful to School-Based Student Services Support Teams when considering strategies to support those students with learning difficulties in the general education environment.

6. What needs to be in an individualized education program to indicate specially designed reading instruction?

For a student with a disability who has needs in the area of reading, the IEP describes the student's present level of performance including a summary of the student's abilities and needs relating to reading skills. This information is based on recent formal and informal assessments and other evaluation procedures. When discussing present levels of performance, Committees should consider what prior instructional methods and strategies have been utilized with the student to avoid reinstituting programs that have not proven effective in the past.

The IEP includes measurable annual goals and benchmarks or short-term objectives consistent with the student's needs and abilities in reading. Annual goals reflect specific reading skills the student should be able to demonstrate by the end of the school year. Benchmarks or short-term instructional objectives are the measurable, intermediate steps between the student's present level of performance and the student's annual goals related to reading. Short-term objectives must include evaluative criteria, evaluation procedures and evaluation schedules.

The IEP describes how specially designed reading instruction will be provided, although the term "specially designed reading instruction" need not appear on the IEP. For example, specially designed reading instruction may be provided:

The IEP includes recommendations for any specialized equipment or testing accommodations that are appropriate for the student. Instructional methodology may be discussed at the Committee meeting but is not specified on an IEP. The IEP need not indicate who will provide the specially designed reading instruction.

7. What role does collaboration play in the provision of specially designed reading instruction?

Collaboration among reading teachers, special education teachers and general education classroom teachers is critical to ensure that the efforts of all personnel involved with the student contribute to improved reading performance. Collaboration affords teachers an opportunity to maintain ongoing communication which is necessary to enhance student success. Without time to collaborate, a student's reading program may be fragmented. School district administrators are strongly encouraged to establish opportunities for consultation among teachers which support meaningful instructional integration to meet the needs of these students. In addition, school administrators should provide opportunities for teachers to learn about effective research on literacy instruction and its application in the classroom. By fostering open communication:

General and special educators can benefit from the expertise of reading professionals who have extensive training in the diagnosis and remediation of reading problems. Additionally, they are knowledgeable about developmentally appropriate and well-balanced instructional methodologies in reading.

General education and reading teachers can benefit from the expertise of special education teachers who are skilled at adapting and modifying instructional strategies and curriculum to meet the needs of individual students.

All teachers can collaborate on methods of assessment to accurately reflect the skills and knowledge of students with disabilities and to ensure that alternative testing techniques/testing accommodations indicated on a student's IEP are consistently implemented.

Special educators can familiarize general education and reading teachers with the special education process and facilitate their participation in meetings to review student progress.

Specialists who provide specially designed reading instruction in settings outside of the student's general education classroom can collaborate with classroom teachers to ensure that:

interventions, strategies and instructional techniques used in specially designed reading instruction are consistently implemented throughout the student's instruction in all curricular areas; and

specially designed reading instruction is adapted to encompass and integrate vocabulary, concepts and curricular material addressed in the general education classroom setting.

Any teacher working with a student with a disability must have access to that student's IEP. The school district and building administrator must ensure that all teachers working with a student, including special and general education teachers, reading teachers or other appropriate support personnel are able, as necessary, to consult with and act as resources for each other.

8. What role do parents have in the provision of specially designed reading instruction?

It is important that parents support their child's emerging reading skills. Parents have valuable information about their children. They know what their children like, what they can expect in different situations, how they express their feelings and how they respond to problems. Parents are familiar with their child's background and can relate reading to their child's life experiences. Schools need to capitalize on parents' capabilities to support reading instruction.

Information provided by the parents is a vital part of the evaluation and must be considered in developing the IEP. IDEA specifically includes parents as members of the Committee. They must be given every opportunity to participate in making decisions concerning the child's program. Parents are partners with school personnel in developing the IEP.

Schools can create environments conducive to active involvement of families by planning ways to establish rapport, by responding to opportunities to connect families with needed services and by providing a variety of options for parents to become partners with the schools. Schools and teachers can share information about effective strategies and activities that parents can use at home to support reading development. These activities can include encouraging parents to:

This information can be provided to parents through newsletters, parent workshops on developing reading skills, parent-teacher conferences and/or IEP meetings.

9. Who determines who will provide specially designed reading instruction?

Although the Committee is responsible for determining special education programs and/or services to meet the needs of individual students, the assignment of specific instructional staff to implement the IEP rests with the school district's administration. It is important to acknowledge that reading teachers who are currently providing remedial reading instruction may not be able to assume additional responsibilities for the provision of specially designed reading instruction. In addition, administrators need to be aware of instructional group sizes described in section 200.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Administrators and supervisors must adhere to limits prescribed in State regulations. (This will be addressed in more detail in Question 10.)

Prior to deciding who should provide specially designed reading instruction to students with disabilities, administrators should consider the following:

10. What parameters apply regarding instructional group size limits for reading teachers who provide specially designed reading instruction?

The intent of this regulation is to improve access to quality reading instruction for students with disabilities by ensuring that districts are aware that they have flexibility in determining who is appropriate to provide specially designed reading instruction. It is not to increase the caseload of reading teachers, affect the quality of instruction for students in general education, or to redirect reading teachers from effective early intervention programs for nondisabled students.

If reading teachers assume responsibility for providing instructional services to students with disabilities, their caseloads for remedial reading students should be reduced to reflect this change. The total caseload of a teacher affects the quality of instruction provided to all students, including those with disabilities. A large instructional group size has a detrimental effect on a teacher's ability to adequately address the learning needs of all students assigned to the teacher. Smaller class size is especially critical at the early grade levels. Districts should strive to achieve a balance between general education and special education in order to ensure that all students have access to quality instruction in reading.

As referenced in section 200.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner, students with disabilities receiving special education services and/or programs should be grouped by the similarity of their individual needs. The range of educational achievement of these students should be limited to assure that the instruction provides each student opportunity to achieve the annual goals identified on his or her IEP. One benefit of grouping by similarity of need is that instruction provided to one student in the group does not detract from the learning of others.

Several situations may affect the number of students reading teachers are assigned to work with:

Situation 1

If a reading teacher is providing specially designed reading instruction as a special education service or program, the number of students assigned to the teacher must be in compliance with section 200.6 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. For example, if a reading teacher is acting exclusively as a consultant teacher, the total number of students with disabilities assigned to that consultant teachers shall not exceed 20 (8NYCRR 200.6(d)).

Situation 2

Some reading teachers may provide specially designed reading instruction to students with disabilities, and may provide several special education services such as consultant teacher services and special class instruction. The number of students assigned to that teacher would be calculated based on the teacher's full-time equivalency. For example, if 50 percent of that teacher's time and responsibilities are providing consultant teacher services, the teacher should provide services to no more than ten students as a consultant teacher.

If the remaining 50 percent of that teacher's responsibilities include the provision of special class instruction, the special class size cannot exceed 15 students. Therefore, the total caseload of this reading teacher who is providing consultant teacher services and special class instruction cannot be more than 25 students with disabilities.

In either of these situations, the total number of students assigned to a teacher should not exceed the teacher's capacity to provide the required level of service as documented in the IEPs of all students assigned to the teacher.

11. Under the IDEA, can nondisabled students benefit from specially designed reading instruction?

Yes. The IDEA allows nondisabled students to receive incidental benefits from special education, related services and supplementary aids and services provided in a general education classroom or other educational setting. When a reading teacher provides specially designed reading instruction to a student or group of students with disabilities in accordance with their IEPs, nondisabled students may receive the "incidental benefit" of that instruction.

For example, a reading teacher who is providing specially designed reading instruction as a consultant teacher service to two students with disabilities in a fourth grade classroom, in accordance with their IEPs, would be allowed to include nondisabled students in the classroom instructional group.

12. What funding is available to support specially designed reading instruction?

Since specially designed reading instruction is considered a special education service for students with disabilities, school districts are eligible for Public Excess Cost Aid to support this instruction. In addition, Federal flow-through IDEA funds and/or local funds could be used to support this instructional program.

Educationally Related Support Services (ERSS) Aid can also be used to support specially designed reading instruction for students with disabilities who are receiving 20 percent or less of their services in special education programs.

13. How do you determine funding streams if teachers provide some services under the provisions of Title 1 and other services under IDEA?

As a general rule, administrators need to determine the percentage of the full-time equivalency of the reading teacher dedicated to the provision of Title 1 and special education services. If a reading teacher is providing Title 1 reading services during six of eight instructional periods a day and specially designed reading instruction as a special education service during two periods a day, then 2/8 (or 25 percent) of that teacher's salary and benefits could be supported by special education funding. The remaining 6/8 (or 75 percent) of salary and fringe benefits should be subsidized with Title 1 (Part A) funds.

This proportion of funding can also be applied to general materials and equipment; however, there may be instances when students with disabilities will require specialized materials and equipment, which may be funded using special education funds. For example, a student with a visual impairment may require specialized software for text enlargement on a computer screen or talking books.

14. Can Title 1 and IDEA funds be combined to institute schoolwide programs?

Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) authorizes Title 1 schools with a concentration of poverty of at least 50 percent to conduct schoolwide programs. The 1997 amendments to the IDEA allow schools conducting these schoolwide programs to combine IDEA funds with local and State funds to implement a schoolwide program. This schoolwide program flexibility may provide advantages to schools. By allowing schools to integrate their programs, strategies and resources, the schoolwide program can become a catalyst for comprehensive reform of the entire instructional program. Participation in schoolwide programs also ensures that students with disabilities are effectively integrated into the general education environment.

Combining IDEA funds and other program funds does not, however, relieve school districts of the responsibility for maintaining the requirements of IDEA. School districts that use IDEA funds in schoolwide programs must ensure that children with disabilities in those schools receive services recommended in a properly developed IEP and are afforded all applicable rights and services guaranteed by IDEA. The amount of IDEA funding that may be combined for schoolwide programs is determined by the number of children with disabilities participating in the schoolwide program multiplied by the amount of Part B, IDEA funds per child with disabilities served by the school district.

15. What role does personnel development play in the provision of specially designed reading instruction?

While many general and special education teachers have strong pedagogical background in reading instruction, some do not. Knowledge about effective research on literacy instruction and its application to the classroom is important for all teachers in order to improve the reading performance of students. Appropriate professional development activities should be implemented to meet the needs of any teachers who require additional expertise in the area of reading instruction. Administrators should explore resources that may be available to meet the in-service needs of their staff, such as arrangements with Teacher Centers, Staff and Curriculum Development Networks as well as local colleges and universities. Teachers should be involved in developing professional development plans in the district.

Additionally, each school district that receives Federal IDEA Part B flow through funds must develop and initiate a Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) plan. CSPD plans should be linked to VESID goals to increase student achievement and increase opportunities for integration. A school district whose data suggest student performance in reading should improve or districts whose teachers have expressed an interest in improving their instructional skills in reading should make this a high priority in its CSPD plan and integrated with Comprehensive District Education Plans (CDEP). Special Education Training Resource Center (SETRC) training specialists are focusing their staff development efforts on district needs identified within CSPD plans and can provide or arrange for these staff development initiatives.

16. Will the tenure of reading and/or special education teachers be affected by section 200.6 of the Commissioner's Regulations?

No. Section 200.6 of the Commissioner's Regulations and these guidelines address the qualifications and certification of personnel who deliver direct reading services to students with disabilities. According to section 30.8 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, a professional educator who is employed to devote a substantial portion of time to instruction in a subject shall be deemed to serve in the special subject tenure area or areas encompassing such subject. Under this regulation, the reading teacher would continue to provide reading instruction so the tenure area would remain in the area of reading. Providing instruction to a class composed entirely of students with disabilities would not change the tenure area of the teacher. Since specially designed reading instruction is a special education service, the tenure of special education teachers is not affected.

Attachment A - Sample Questions to Determine Eligibility for Special Education Services and/or Programs Based on Individual Student Reading Needs

In some instances, Committees on Special Education will need to establish whether "lack of instruction" is the determinant factor in an eligibility decision for a student suspected of having a disability. To do so, Committees need to consider and discuss:

The following are sample questions to address these areas. Individual Committees on Special Education are encouraged to review these questions; modify them as appropriate for their own district use and develop other probing questions that can facilitate and/or structure conversations to determine if "lack of reading instruction" is, in fact, the determinant factor in eligibility decisions.

17. The Student

Diagnostic/Evaluative Information Available to Identify Individual Student Needs in Reading:

1. What are the child's strengths, interests and positive behaviors or attitudes towards reading? Can these be built upon? Does the student have other forms of expression such as dance, drawing, movement, or music?
2. What language is used at home? Does the student speak or read in a language other than English?
3. What is the student's present level of achievement in reading?
4. What observational data or formal assessment results have been collected on the student's reading performance? What other evidence is available to document reading performance?
5. Are there emotional and/or social behaviors that have hindered the student from reading successfully?
6. Do the student's reading abilities generalize across settings, curricular areas and classes?
7. Has the student made progress commensurate with his or her expected achievement?
8. What is the student's preferred pathway to reading and/or literacy learning? What learning modalities have been used in reading instruction to support the student's abilities?
9. Has lack of attendance been a factor in developing a student's literacy skills? (A student should not be determined to require special education solely on the basis that the student has been excessively absent from school. However, the Committee must consider whether the reasons for the absences are related to a disability that adversely affects the student's educational performance.)
10. Is the child new to the school, district, State or country? What information is available from the previous educational environment? Did the student have educational opportunities in his or her native country?

18. Prior Instruction

Appropriate/Effective History of Reading Instruction to Meet Individual Needs:

1. What type of reading instruction has been used?
2. Was instruction provided individually, in a small group or in a classroom setting?
3. How long has such instruction in reading been provided? What has been the frequency and/or duration of that instruction?
4. What are the qualifications of the person who provided the instruction?
5. What modifications and adaptations to the reading instruction/curriculum have been implemented? For the student? For the program? For materials? What have been the effects of such adaptations?
6. What methodologies and/or strategies have proved most effective in promoting the student's literacy development?
7. What measures have been used to document a student's strengths and weaknesses in reading?
8. Has the student had opportunities to read independently? Has he or she participated in extended time programs to increase opportunities to read?
9. Prior to referral, did a building-level support team address the student's reading needs? Did members of that team effectively communicate with one another regarding the student's needs? Did general education instruction respond to those recommendations?
10. Based on the student's performance in reading, have alternative reading programs and/or remedial reading programs been provided? If so, describe those services.

VESID SPECIAL EDUCATION POLICY AND QUALITY ASSURANCE QUALITY ASSURANCE REGIONAL OFFICES

[an error occurred while processing this directive]