Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Educational and School Psychology

First Advisor

Joseph F. Kovaleski, D.Ed.

Second Advisor

William F. Barker, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Edward M. Levinson, Ed.D.

Fourth Advisor

Paul E. Lowery, D.Ed.


The increasing demand for special education services has been identified as a major contributor to the rising cost of education, and frequently students are erroneously identified as requiring special education services when their needs could be adequately addressed in the regular education classroom. The prereferral intervention process has been proposed as an alternative to the traditional refer-test-place process of identifying special education students because struggling students receive extra help quicker and students’ progress toward established goals is closely monitored to see if changes in instructional delivery are necessary. This quantitative study utilized a survey method to investigate current prereferral intervention practices in Pennsylvania elementary schools since the removal of the Instructional Support Team mandate. Independent variables including the expertise of the individual coordinating the prereferral intervention program, administrative support, training availability, and data collection, were compared to the level of implementation (LOI) of the prereferral intervention process and the specific learning disability (SLD)incidence rate. Elementary schools that continued to employ instructional support teachers had higher scores using the level of implementation of the prereferral intervention process rubric. Significant results were obtained between level of implementation and schools with prereferral intervention policies/procedures, schools that provide time during contracted hours to meet, schools with IST/prereferral intervention coordinators who participated in initial IST training, training in differentiated instruction, collection of different types of curriculum based assessments, and the use of data to determine whether a student who has had a prereferral intervention should be referred on for a multidisciplinary evaluation. Only one significant result was obtained between the independent variables and the SLD incidence rate, which was principal attendance at meetings, and this significant result was in an unexpected direction. This study revealed that, although a large percentage of elementary schools continue to operate instructional support teams, several changes have transpired following the removal of the mandate. Continuing research is necessary to determine what variables are related to positive outcomes for struggling students so that they can receive the support they need early without the need for special education services until all other options have been exhausted.