Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Educational and School Psychology

First Advisor

Joseph F. Kovaleski, D.Ed.

Second Advisor

Mark J. Staszkiewicz, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Courtney L. McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

David J. Lillenstein, D.Ed.


The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2004) fundamentally permitted a response to intervention (RTI) process for identifying students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) after decades of problematic criteria with the ability-achievement discrepancy model. Monitoring student progress to determine rate of improvement (ROI) is an important component of RTI (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1998; Gresham, 2001; Kovaleski et al., 2013) and while abundant in the literature, recommended practices continue to surface that require inclusion in state regulation and guidance documents. This exploratory, qualitative study built on previous studies (Hauerwas, Brown, & Smith, 2013; Zirkel & Thomas, 2010b) that systematically reviewed state regulation and guidance documents for determining student eligibility for SLD. Documents representing all 51 states (including the District of Columbia) were used to gather information about the inclusion of a set of recommended practices that were gleaned from the literature and formed into a checklist. Because a checklist of recommended practices for determining ROI did not already exist, inter-rater reliability was calculated between two researchers for a subset of documents and was found to be between fair and perfect for checklist items. Evidence for recommended practices were inconsistent across states, with some being included more frequently than others. Monitoring student progress over time was found most often, but specific practices related to the quality of data used to determine special education eligibility were scant (i.e., using linear regression to generate a trend line representing student progress, considering outlier data). Few states included specific procedures for requiring or recommended a specific number of data points for making instructional decisions, quantifying a magnitude of deficiency for determining when a student is significantly below expectations, or specifying procedures by SLD category or grade level. Implications for future research include refining the research tool used to gather information and gathering updated information about state requirements and recommendations as states continue to refine regulation and guidance documents. Implications for educators and school psychologists include the need to remain current with ever-changing regulatory and guidance documents for identifying students with SLD and bring empirical research findings to practice for determining student ROI.