Jennifer Garwood

Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Reading Education


Language, Literacy, and Special Education


College of Education


Browne, Susan


Learning disabled children--Identification


Elementary Education and Teaching


Many studies have examined changes in state legislation and guidance in response to IDEIA (2004) with regard to identification of specific learning disability (SLD). However, it is difficult to find research examining the diagnostic practices for SLD within various states. Investigators in the present study aim to isolate the significant features of practices used to identify SLD in New Jersey, delineate relationships between district characteristics and diagnostic practices, and detect trends in the use of response to intervention (RTI). This qualitative research study utilizes an illuminative evaluation model, in which survey and interview data was analyzed to explore aspects of diagnostic practices that reflect or conflict with research-based understandings of reading disability. An analysis of the data reveals that there is a strong reliance on severe discrepancy (SD) methods in the identification of SLD within NJ, a finding that conflicts with current research about the diagnosis of reading disability. The study shows a very slow progression in the growth of RTI programs, a practice that allows for early, targeted intervention and identification of reading disabilities. The data reveals a lack of correlations between diagnostic methods and demographic characteristics. The collective data also demonstrates considerable variation within the methods that are being employed. Inconsistencies within both SD and RTI approaches raise concerns about the reliability of each method.