Pre-Referral Process

Updated 8/12/15

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. 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.

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Adapting the General Education School Program
It is important to remember that program accommodations and adaptations should precede special education referral. Although it is important to find and service 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 of an education in the least restrictive environment, evidence shall be presented which shows that attempts have been made to continue 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


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 "handicapped persons." The definition of "handicapped person" in Section 504 is "any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., learning). Considerations of 504 eligibility should be made prior to a special education referral. (Please refer to Section 504 Procedures for Serving Students for further information)

NCLB: Single Site Plan and Local Educational Agency Plan (LEAP)
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop a LEA Plan as a requirement for receiving federal funding for NCLB. The annually updated LEA Plan describes the actions LEAs will take to ensure and meet NCLB programmatic requirements. The LEA Plan has several purposes including a single, coordinated, and comprehensive plan describing educational services for all students, including students with disabilities that can be used to guide implementation of federal and state-funded programs, the allocation of resources, and reporting requirements. In the Plan an LEA must identify prevention and intervention assessments and supports done prior to the identification of students for special education. The district must also identify and utilize assessments for the at risk student. A school's Single Site Plan specifically addresses how students who are not demonstrating adequate yearly progress will be supported in attaining the general education core curriculum.

Click here to download and print "Procedures Guide-Pre-referral Process"