Pre-Referral Requirements

Updated 4/9/18

The pre-referral process is designed to ensure that school teams make reasonable accommodations and modifications prior to making a referral for a special education assessment. Only individuals whose needs cannot be met in the general education program with accommodations and/or modifications are eligible for special education services.

A student shall be referred for assessment(s) only after the resources of the general education program have been considered, documented and where appropriate, utilized (EC 56303). Prior to a referral for special education by a staff member and/or parent, the site principal, counselor, or designee should utilize a Student Study Team (SST) or other collaborative process to document attempts of general education program accommodations and/or modifications and assure that the individual's needs cannot be met in the general education program.

Adapting the General Education School Program
It is important to remember that program accommodations and adaptations should precede a referral for special education. Although it is important to find and serve individuals with exceptional needs, it is also important to be sure that special education referral is necessary. A student shall be referred for assessment(s) only after the resources of the general education program have been considered, and where appropriate, utilized. Each school site shall be encouraged to organize a study, (i.e. Student Study Team/SST) program composed of both general education staff and specialists for the following purposes:

  • Discussing student needs
  • Developing a set of program accommodation alternatives
  • Selecting from alternative accommodations and adaptations those appropriate to the individual student

Examples are:

  • Alternative instructional methods or materials (such as: shorter assignments, easier materials, classroom contracts, peer/cross age tutoring, special equipment, supplemental instructional programs, instructional aide assistance, etc.)
  • Closer home and school cooperation/agreements: Parent facilitator, parent education, home visits, and home contacts
  • Review available/applicable community agencies and services, and use as appropriate
  • School based general education intervention programs
  • Tutorial programs
  • Adjustment of school day, such as rearranging class schedule or placing into another class for partial or whole day
  • Parent volunteer programs
  • English as a second language program, bilingual programs
  • Early Childhood/School Improvement Program resources
  • Title I program resources
  • General education alternative programs, such as opportunity classes or after school support programs
  • Consultation with on site staff
  • Consultation with district support staff
  • Any other local school/district option that is available and appropriate to student needs, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) supplemental educational services

Because each student is guaranteed the right to an education in the least restrictive environment, evidence shall be presented which shows that attempts have been made to continue serving the student in a general education classroom. (Section 56303, Education Code)

Student Study Team (SST) Process
The general education Student Study Team (SST), which includes the parent and student when appropriate, is designed to systematically problem solve difficulties encountered by a variety of students. The SST is a school site team established through general education to serve as a review process for students who encounter problems in the general education program. The team uses a collaborative approach to assist students who are not demonstrating satisfactory progress. The team offers suggestions, organizes resources, develops remediation plans, clarifies issues and problems, establishes accountability, and/or makes direct referrals to other support services. Composition of the SST should include parents, teachers, site administration, support staff, and student when appropriate.

SST Meeting Steps
SST Chair receives meeting request from teacher, counselor, parent, student, administrator
SST Chair sets meeting date, facilitates data collection, observation, file review
SST Chair notifies parents and appropriate participants
The SST meets and:
  Identifies student's strengths and challenges
  Clarifies concerns and provides feedback
  Suggests possible accommodations/modifications/adaptations
  Develops action plan with team participant input and commitment
  Sets follow-up date
A follow-up meeting is held to:
  Evaluate action plan results
  Choose further options, if needed, which may include a referral for special education assessment
  • It is not appropriate to refer a student for possible placement in a specific programs. Referrals are for assessment only.

Parental procedural safeguards and timelines make it necessary to document when a referral has been made. Referrals are required to be in writing and should contain, at a minimum, the following information:

  1. Student's name, address, school, grade, birthdate and teacher
  2. Information on any grade in which the pupil was retained
  3. Parents' names and home and work telephone numbers
  4. Native language of the student (Primary Language from Home Language Survey)
  5. Native language of the parent
  6. Date of referral
  7. Name of the person making the referral
  8. Specific areas of concern
  9. A description of interventions utilized in the regular education program and a summary of the student's response to those interventions.
  10. Specific observed behaviors
  11. Current programs and materials being used with the pupil including accommodations to assist the student in accessing the general curriculum
  12. Current academic functioning
  13. Known significant health problems

Referral for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
In many cases, an individual may not require special education services as defined in IDEA but may be eligible for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires school districts to address the needs of students who are considered disabled which is defined in Section 504 as "any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., learning). In most cases considerations of 504 eligibility would be made prior to a special education referral. (Please refer to Section 504 Procedures for Serving Students for further information).

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