Comment on Over-identification

On November 3, 2003, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, submitted its report and recommendations on the enactment of the INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2003. There was good bipartisan cooperation. Its first recommendation to improve IDEA 1997 in substance was the following:

(1) “… encourage informal and speedy resolution of problems, prevent misidentification of students, and reduce bureaucratic paperwork for teachers…”

Congress had heard a lot of testimony about over-identification and disproportionality, especially with respect to minority children and the learning disabled.

In February of 2005, National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations (NAPSO) submitted its “Comments and Regulatory Recommendations” to the U. S. Department of Education for the purpose of implementing IDEA regulations.

“The National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations (NAPSO) is a coalition of national professional organizations whose members provide and support a variety of school-based prevention and intervention services to assist students in becoming effective learners and productive citizens.” The following organizations approved the comments:

American Art Therapy Association
American Counseling Association
American Dance Therapy Association
American Music Therapy Association
American Occupational Therapy Association
American Physical Therapy Association
American Psychological Association
American School Counselor Association
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National Association of School Nurses
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Social Workers
School Social Work Association of America

NAPSO expressed one concern about pupil misidentification for special education placement:

“The data from the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health (1999), the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, and other sources indicate that the under-identification and misidentification of children and adolescents with mental disorders is already a huge problem.”

But as we have pointed out in earlier blogs, as a means of “…school-based prevention and intervention services to assist students in becoming effective learners and productive citizens…” there was no advocacy for “struggling students” who are misplaced in special education in the same period in which Congress saw over-identification as a chief reform issue. Special education professionals have been noticeably silent about the issue of over-identification dating from 2004 to 2010.

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