Teacher Referrals

How regular classroom teachers understand at risk children and then decide what special help they need is a critical factor as to the number of children who end up in special education. For example, there are more boys than girls in special education. We learn: “e.g., evidence that female teachers are more likely than male teachers to refer boys for special education coupled with the predominance of female teachers in the teaching force, especially in the elementary grades” (Policy Archive).

Although some special education referrals come from child find activities and parents, most come from the teaching faculty. Indications are teachers refer too many children to special education.

One hypothesis is that teachers view special education as a remedial support service rather than a disability-only service. Modern classrooms are full of “difficult-to-teach” (DTT) children, whatever the problems the children have. They do not easily follow the standard lessons teachers are prepared to conduct. When 20% or more of the children in a teacher’s classroom are difficult-to-teach, it is hard to achieve instructional goals.

“Children who are ‘difficult to teach’ (DTT) are those who experience considerably greater difficulty learning new educational material and mastering academic concepts than do their typical peers of the same age. Difficult-to-teach students may also display significant behavior problems (e.g., chronic inattention, a tendency to act impulsively, verbal defiance, or physical aggression). This group can be thought of as falling along a continuum, ranging from less severe to more-severe learning problems. In some cases, DTT children are classified as having a special education disability and receive special services. Many of these students, however, have no identified disability and are enrolled in general-education classrooms without additional support” (Jim Wright).

Teachers may have difficulty adapting their standard classroom methods for special needs children. They may lack training in “differential teaching.” Therefore, they are inclined to fall back on the special education services.

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