The experiences of parents with the pre-referral process: An evolutionary perspective
Good, Katherine I
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I he pre-referral process, if completed correctly, is the most important tool school districts can utilize lo keep students in the general education classroom learning alongside their general education peers. Often the pre-referral process is misused and misunderstood. Too often school districts use the pre-referral process as a screening mechanism ultimately ending in evaluation for special education services. Erroneously, teachers and administrators often see the pre-referral process as the entry into special education w hen actually the goal of the pre-referral process is to keep students in the general education setting with the modifications needed to be successful alongside their peers. The purpose of this study is to investigate, delve into, and begin to understand the experiences that parents of children with special needs have had with the pre-referral process. The pre-referral process is not mandated by federal law. However, the most recent re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stresses that parents should be highly engaged within all processes surrounding the education of students with disabilities. New Mexico interpreted the language in IDEA as a mandate to provide a structured pre-referral process prior to considering students for special education evaluation. As the pre-referral process continues to grow, school districts have relied heavily on information provided by educators and administrators involved to make adjustments to the process. The player in the process that has been neglected is the parent. School districts must invest the time and energy to understand the experiences parents have had with the new process lo fully develop a collaborative, successful, and productive process. In this study, interviews, observations, and side-by-side interactions with parents will expand the limited available research with multiple dimensions and allow the researcher to build a composite of information that will illustrate and describe the perceptions and experiences of parents as they maneuvered their way through the pre-referral process. Upon completing the research, school districts will have the ability to utilize the information lo better develop and engage parental participation in the pre-referral process.