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Special Education Eligibility

Eligibility for special education services is the result of following a systematic process that carefully evaluates and identifies one or more learning impairments that interfere with a student receiving educational benefit. This process may begin with the Response to Intervention (RtI) model.

Response to Intervention (RtI) is utilized in general education to address learning difficulties early on in an effort to mitigate the challenge(s) in the general education setting. According to IDEA , Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies are tools that assist educators to provide support to students as soon as a need is identified.

RtI Video Clip :



The Vista Unified School District has developed a comprehensive Response to Intervention and Instruction guide that provides a structure that teachers and staff can follow to ensure that instruction is differentiated to meet the needs of students who are struggling in one or more areas of the academic and/or behavioral programs. Differentiated instruction is not a standard set of instructional supports, but rather a flexible set of instructional techniques, strategies, and activities that address the prior knowledge, interests, and abilities of the student in the learning environment. Key components of differentiated instruction include:

  • Utilizing formative (on-going) authentic assessment that is integrated into the instruction to determine areas of strength and weakness.
  • Establishing essential questions that focus the lessons on the central ideas, knowledge, and skills pertinent to the subject area.
  • Utilizing flexible student grouping to encourage student to student interaction to both challenge and support one another during the learning sequence. 
  • Responding to individual students in the instructional environment (level of engagement, learning style, challenges, prior knowledge, interests).
  • Constant reflection by the teacher on the effectiveness of the lesson to support student access to content.


Please click on the link below to view the VUSD RtI Guide:

engaged students.jpg



For more information on differentiated instruction, visit the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials:



In addition to using the RtI guidelines defined the by school district, the Student Success Team (SST) is involved in the process in an effort to bring parents and educators together as a team to further discuss, analyze and identify additional interventions needed to ensure student success. The SST process is the first official step to address challenges a student may be having. Typically, a student would be referred to the SST process prior to consideration for special education services in order to keep the intervention and support in the Least Restrictive Environment.




Student Success Team (SST)

The Student Success Team is composed of instructional staff (teacher, administrator, psychologist, other) and the parent/guardian. The SST is intended to review the current status of student achievement and develop a specific response(s) to intervention in the general education setting over a period of time (4 to 8 weeks) to address the area(s) of deficit. If the student is not responding to the initial remedial instruction or modifications made in the general education setting, the SST reconvenes to review the reasons for lack of progress and identify next steps. It is important to note that one outcome of the SST process may be referral for special education assessment.  


Vista Unified School District SST Process Packet:






Student Success Team (SST) Initial Meeting Steps


SST Meeting Time: 60 minutes

Step 1: Student Information Review (15 minutes):

The team reviews, examines, and discusses pertinent information about student’s strengths and areas of need, preferences, interests, and general health and well being. This information is collected through team discussions, review of records, work samples, observations, outside evaluations the parent/guardian may have gathered, and interviews.

Step 2: Concern Identification (15 minutes):

The team lists, in priority, academic and/or behavioral concerns. The team then develops one or two measurable goals to address the concerns. The goals are based on grade level California Common Core Content Standards, developmental behavioral outcomes, comparative peer performance, and achievement criteria.

Step 3: Identify Intervention (20 minutes):

The team brainstorms possible interventions to meet the academic and/or behavioral goal(s) identified in Step 2. Interventions are then selected based on their feasibility and likelihood of success. Creative uses of both community and district resources (e.g. Supplemental Educational Services, after school tutoring, counseling, individualized learning technology resources, etc.) are considered in determining the feasibility of each intervention. The frequency and duration of the intervention are established. The staff responsible for providing the interventions is identified.

Step 4: Progress Monitoring (10 minutes):

Information on the student's progress toward the identified goal(s) will be collected and recorded frequently by the classroom teacher from a variety of sources such as classroom observations, assessments, student work samples, behavior charting, etc. Adjustments to the interventions are made based on this information.

Step 5: Schedule a Follow-up Meeting:

A date is identified for reconvening the SST team after 4 to 8 weeks to monitor the progress made on goals.