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The Pre-referral Intervention Process


See how easy it is for general education classroom teachers to select and track individual student interventions with Partnering4StudentSuccess.

Software Solution: Reduce Ineligible Referrals

There’s a different path for teachers and Student Support Teams to realistically manage pre-referral interventions in general education classrooms, resolving student struggles and reducing ineligible referrals. Partnering4StudentSuccess is an award-winning solution to support teachers with evidence-based classroom interventions to help students succeed.

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Change in Student Referrals: A Success Story

On average, 86.5 percent of Ontario-Montclair students who received early intervention through the program saw their issues resolved in the general education classroom.

“P4SS makes the pre-referral process consistent across every school in the district, and makes it more effective for teachers and students. We can see from the last five years of results that our decision is paying off.

Read the full article here.

Below is a summary of a hearing before the subcommittee on education reform, Committee on Education and the Workforce, United States House of Representatives, from June 2002, “Learning Disabilities and Early Intervention Strategies: How to Reform the Special Education Referral and Identification Process.”

testimony from dr. joseph f. kovaleski


  • We have long understood that too many students have been over-identified as having learning disabilities. We have seen limited funds for special education overwhelmed by too many students in the system.
  • As students have been found eligible for special education, we have seen general education come to an understanding that it has little responsibility for students with even transient academic and behavior problems.
  • Many teachers have come to believe that any student with any difficulty may have hidden disabilities that prevent them from succeeding in the regular classroom.
  • The testing process itself, as it is typically implemented, leads to over-identification into special education.

Without a procedure for early intervention, schools typically rely on the so-called “refer-test-place” practice.  It is well known that testing alone, without early intervention, often leads to three types of placement errors:


Students who are academically deficient and resistant to good instruction may still not qualify for special education services


Students with higher IQs  and marginal problems are identified for special education


May result in disproportionate representation of minority and ELL students in special education programs

Case Study

  • Pre-referral interventions implemented: 
    • In Pennsylvania
    • From 1990-1997 
    • In over 1,700 schools in 500 school districts
  • What the pre-referral process/procedure focused on:
    • Provided support to general education teachers
    • Precisely assess each student with academic and behavioral difficulties (the 2nd most common reason for referrals to special education is school behavior)
    • Monitoring students’ performance

“These pre-referral procedures are, in my view, the most effective way of determining whether a student’s difficulties are the result of a lack of instruction rather than a disability…”

- Dr. Kovaleski

Result / Conclusions

  • When this pre-referral process was implemented, 85% of the students identified for the process did not need a further full and individual evaluation for special education

  • Referrals for special education eligibility screening can be greatly reduced by using an effective pre-referral intervention process

  • Testing alone, without the pre-referral process, leads to over-identification

in summary

"I believe that the recommendations that I have made would increase the effectiveness of the general education program which provides services for at-risk students, would facilitate the prevention of academic and behavioral difficulties at primary and intermediate grades, and would reserve needed special education services for those student who are truly eligible."

– Dr. Kovaleski

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