The continued success of students toward successful job and career outcomes is best achieved though a sustainable, formative assessment, and implementation system that chronicles students (as individuals and as members of particular groups) in their ongoing attainment of specific reading, language, writing, and other learning skills. This system necessarily involves considerable teacher supports for ensuring initial and continuous screening, assessment, and evaluation for, and organized planning and communication about, their students' progress. In many schools and districts, student data analysis has not been viewed as a high priority. To reverse this trend, school systems (districts) must place immediate and particular emphasis on school, teacher, and student data so that there are mechanisms in place in every school to analyze the effectiveness of each program or system for individual students. Only in this way can data be gathered systematically to guide students' educational successes (or struggles) from year to year. All districts, schools, and education staff must become familiar with data analysis, data interpretation, and date use to inform plans of action and instruction that assist teachers with individual students in his or her achievement of grade-level reading proficiency.

Using data implementation, schools and teachers can move from insubstantiated observations and hypotheses to facts about their students' reading development. By utilizing concrete data to guide instructional decisions, districts, schools, and teachers will be able to determine the changing needs of their students and to target specific resources needed to achieve grade-level proficiency for each student. Data is also used to track the impact of staff development efforts and student learning to ensure that students are on track for postsecondary or workforce success. Overall, this system provides the basis for a far more comprehensive and targeted approach to overcoming barriers to school learning and to providing instructional methods and strategies with a greater chance of success.

Data Systems and Use

The screenings and assessments required shall be done directly by appropriately trained specialists (certified teachers of reading, guidance counselors, pupil appraisal personnel, or any other professional employees of the school system), all of whom shall operate as advocates for the students identified as needing services or assistance to reach grade level achievement. Persons who have not been trained to do such screenings or assessments may not carry them out. Screening/assessment specialists must be professional employees of the school system who have met the following requirements:

  • Identification and knowledge of the following:

    The SEEDS community

    Characteristics of ADD and HD

    Characteristics of social, cultural, and emotional at-risk literacy failure factors

    Characteristics of gifted SEEDS (or Twice Exceptional in many states)

  • Use of appropriate screening instruments:

    State-approved Kindergarten Screening Instrument(s) to determine developmental strengths and needs

    Social/Emotional Factors At-Risk Checklist

    Informal Reading/Language Inventories

    Rapid Automatic Naming Tests

    Written Language Samples

    Informal Mathematical Assessment

    Norm-Referenced Tests

  • Administration and interpretation of selected screening instruments:

    Training of Personnel to Administer Instruments

    Training of Personnel to Interpret Screening Results

  • Operation and procedures of school building level committee:


    Referral Process

    Multitier Systems of Support Interventions in the General Education Classroom


    Decision-Making Process

  • Selection of appropriate classroom strategies, accommodations, and modifications
  • Child advocacy

The number of hours of skill development in each requirement must be documented. Retraining the specialists is not necessary if any previous training can be documented within the last three years. See for approved screening/assessment instruments.

The parents or guardians of a student can request a private assessment. The school or district may take into account the assessment, administer additional assessments, or provide intervention based on the private assessment.

The federal ESEA requires annual testing of all students in reading and math in grades 3-8. Science recommends that testing begin in kindergarten and continue until grade level reading is attained and sustained. Once in high school, all students must meet state-set proficiency standards, thus compelling the state to encourage ongoing assessment and progress monitoring of reading achievement gains for all students. Additionally, the most recent reauthorization of the IDEA 2004 is consistent with ESEA in emphasizing quality of instruction and documentation of student progress. A process based on the student's response to scientifically-validated, research-based intervention is one of the criteria included in IDEA 2004 that states may use in determining whether a student has a specific learning disability, including dyslexia. Regardless of the process in place, the parents or guardians always have the right to request a referral for assessment at any time. This right needs to be clearly communicated to the parent/guardian.

The IDEA 2004 also allows local education agencies (LEAs) to use up to 15 percent of their Special Education funds for Early Intervening Services (EIS) to support prevention and early identification of SEEDS in General Education, to minimize over-identification for and unnecessary referrals to Special Education. EIS is intended to provide academic and behavioral supports and professional development regarding early literacy and behavior especially in grades PK-3. LEAs with a disproportionate number of minority students identified for Special Education services are required to implement a program with EIS funds.

The International Dyslexia Association indicates that students with dyslexia may demonstrate unexpected difficulties in the areas of reading, writing, and math despite the provision of effective foundational reading instruction; screening and assessment will therefore identify and accelerate MTSS. Additionally, students with dyslexia and learning disabilities may be gifted and their difficulties more difficult to appreciate because of their intellect. Formal assessment and diagnostics are necessary to understand these difficulties and their relationship to the student's cognitive abilities, reading fluency, writing, and mathematical skill.

Data Gathering

If at any time (from kindergarten through grade 12) a student continues to struggle with one or more components of reading and/or experiences grade level reading literacy failure, districts, schools, and charter schools must collect additional information about the student. This information shall be used to evaluate the student's underachievement and to determine what actions are needed to improve the student's academic performance. Some of the information that the district or charter school collects is in the student's cumulative folder; other data is available from teachers and parents/guardians.

To ensure that underachievement in SEEDS is not due to lack of appropriate instruction in reading, other criteria should be considered. This information includes data demonstrating that the student received appropriate instruction as well as data-based documentation of repeated formal assessments of student achievement at reasonable intervals (progress monitoring). Additional information to be considered includes the results from some or all of the following:

  • Vision screening
  • Hearing screening
  • Teacher reports of classroom concerns
  • Basal reading series assessment
  • Accommodations provided by classroom teachers
  • Academic progress reports (report cards)
  • Samples of school work
  • Parent conferences
  • Speech and language screening through a referral process

One of the actions that the district, school, or charter school has available is to recommend that SEEDS be administered a diagnostic assessment if the student demonstrates poor performance in one or more areas of reading and/or the related area of spelling that is unexpected for the student's age, grade, or intellectual development.

When the district, school, or charter school recommends formal assessment for a student, the following procedures must be adhered to.

Formal Assessment

A student's formal assessment diagnostic is dependent upon multiple factors, including the student's reading performance and skill, response to supplemental scientifically-based reading instruction (MTSS), input from teachers, and input from the parents or guardians. Additionally, the appropriate time for assessment is early in a student's school career. While earlier is better, SEEDS should be recommended for assessment even if the reading difficulties appear in later grades.

These procedures must be followed:

  • Notify parents or guardians of the proposal to perform a formal assessment diagnostic on a student
  • Inform parents or guardians of their rights
  • Obtain permission from the parents or guardians to assess the student
  • Assess the student, ensuring that the professionals who administer the assessments have been trained in the evaluation of SEEDS

The notices and consent must be provided in the native language of the parent or guardian or by another mode of communication used by the parent or guardian, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.

Tests, assessments, diagnostics, and other evaluation materials must:

  • Be validated for the specific purpose for which they are used
  • Include materials tailored to assess specific areas of educational need and not merely materials designed to provide a single general intelligence quotient
  • Be selected and administered so as to ensure that, when a test is given to a student with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, the results accurately reflect the student's aptitude or achievement level (or whatever other factor the test purports to measure) rather than these impaired skills
  • Include multiple measures of a student's reading abilities, such as informal assessment information (e.g., anecdotal records, lists of books the student has read, audio recordings of the student's oral reading)
  • Be administered by trained personnel in accordance with the instructions provided by the producer of the evaluation materials

The district, school, or charter school must administer measures that are related to the student's educational needs. Depending on the student's age and stage of reading and intellectual development, the following reading areas should be assessed:

  • Reading real and nonsense words in isolation (decoding)
  • Phonological awareness
  • Letter knowledge (name and associated sound)
  • Rapid naming
  • Reading fluency (rate and accuracy)
  • Reading comprehension
  • Written spelling

Based on the student's individual academic difficulties and characteristics, additional areas that can be assessed include vocabulary, written expression, handwriting, and mathematics.

English Language Learners (ELL)/Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

Much diversity exists among English language learners (ELLs). The identification and service delivery process for SEEDS must be in step with the student's linguistic environment and educational background, and the involvement of a language proficiency assessment committee is recommended.

Additional data gathering may be required to produce language proficiency documentation that includes or addresses the following:

  • Home language survey
  • Assessment related to identification for limited English proficiency (oral language proficiency tests and norm-referenced tests)
  • Linguistic environment and second-language acquisition development
  • Previous schooling in and outside of the United States
  • Comprehensive oral language proficiency testing in English and in the student's native language whenever possible

These data gathering procedures are important in determining:

  • Whether the student's current classroom setting is appropriate given his or her language abilities
  • The appropriate languages in which to assess the student's academic achievement and cognitive processing
  • The degree to which language proficiency in both the first and second language influences or explains the student's test performance on the academic achievement and cognitive processing measures
  • Whether the student's difficulties in reading are the result of a disability or a reflection of the normal process of second language acquisition

Additionally, personnel involved in the evaluation process of ELL for SEEDS need to be trained in bilingual assessment and interpretation procedures. It is strongly recommended that personnel involved in the assessment and interpretation of assessment results have the following knowledge:

  • Understanding of first and second language acquisition stages
  • Impact of culture on student performance
  • Knowledge regarding bilingual education and English as a Second Language programming and MTSS teaching methods
  • Knowledge in interpreting the results of a student's oral language proficiency in relation to the results of the test measuring academic achievement and cognitive processes
  • Understanding of how to interpret the results of similar or parallel tests given in more than one language

To appropriately understand test results, the examiner(s) or a committee of knowledgeable persons must interpret them in light of the student's language development (in both English and the student's native language), educational history, linguistic background, socioeconomic issues, and any other pertinent factors that affect learning.

SEEDS Determination

A district, school, or charter school team or committee of knowledgeable persons determines whether the student is a SEEDS, after reviewing all accumulated data, including the following areas:

  • Observations of the teacher, district, charter school staff, and/or parent/guardian
  • Data gathered from the classroom (including student work and the results of classroom measures) and information found in the student's cumulative folder (including his or her the developmental and academic history)
  • Data-based documentation of student progress during instruction/intervention
  • Results of administered assessments
  • All other accumulated data regarding the development of the student's learning and his or her educational needs

Difficulties in the area of reading for SEEDS will reflect unexpectedly low performance for the student's age and educational level in the following areas:

  • Reading real words in isolation
  • Decoding nonsense words
  • Reading fluency (both rate and accuracy)
  • Written spelling

Unexpectedly low reading performance, including poor reading fluency, will result from a deficit in phonological processing, including the following:

  • Phonological awareness
  • Rapid naming
  • Phonological memory

Many SEEDS will have difficulty with the secondary characteristics of literacy, including reading comprehension, written composition, spelling, grammar, and rote math skills.

A committee of knowledgeable persons must also incorporate the following guidelines into its determination:

  • The student has received MTSS instruction
  • The student has an unexpected lack of appropriate academic progress (in the areas of reading and spelling) relative to their age/grade/intellectual development
  • The student has adequate intelligence (an average ability to learn in the absence of print or in other academic areas)
  • The student exhibits characteristics associated with SEEDS
  • The student's lack of progress is not due to sociocultural factors such as language differences, irregular attendance, or lack of experiential background

Based on the above information and guidelines, the committee of knowledgeable persons determines and identifies SEEDS and determines whether the student has a disability under federal law. A student is considered to have a disability if the condition substantially limits the student's learning. Students with additional factors that complicate SEEDS may require additional support or referral to Special Education.

Referral to Special Education

At any time during the assessment for reading failure identification process or during instruction, students may be referred for evaluation for Special Education. At times, students will display additional factors complicating their instruction and requiring more support than what is available through MTSS. At other times, students with severe at-risk characteristics or related disorders will be unable to make appropriate academic progress within any of the programs described in the procedures related to SEEDS. In such cases, a referral to Special Education for evaluation and possible identification as a child with a disability within the meaning of the IDEA 2004, Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , and the 2008 ADAAA should be made as needed.

If a SEEDS is found eligible for Special Education in the area of reading, the school district must include appropriate reading instruction on the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).

If a SEEDS is referred for Special Education, districts and charter schools must follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In IDEA 2004, SEEDS is considered one of a variety of etiological foundations for "specific learning disability. This refers to a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language that may manifest in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disability, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. It does not apply to students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Note on federal law: IDEA 2004 indicates that states must permit the use of a process based on a student's response to scientific, research-based intervention as one of the criteria for determining whether a child has a learning disorder. Currently, the research base for a MTSS model is strongest at the elementary level, where large-scale implementation has been occurring for many years. Within IDEA 2004 exists the category of Specific Learning Disability students, who need to qualify under state and federal requirements to receive these services as a Special Education service. Currently, in most states over 50% of students qualified for Special Education are in this category. There are significant numbers of students who fall below qualifying for this designation, yet fail to learn to read appropriately by national and state standards. The adoption of a MTSS model in compliance with IDEA 2004 will proactively address the beginning signs of reading and other academic struggles among SEEDS students.

Executive Summary