States Monitor School Disproportionality

In 2007, Alexa Posny, Director, U. S. Office of Special Education Programs, wrote a memo to state directors of special education on the topic of “Disproportionality of Racial and Ethnic Groups in Special Education.”  It reminded directors of the regulatory framework within which states must work to reduce the over-identification of non-disabled minority children for special education placement.  

Posny summarized the problem: “Excerpts from findings in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004’s statute note that: (1) greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling minority children with disabilities; (2) African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their white counterparts; (3) more minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population; (4) in the 1998-1999 school year, African-American children represented 14.8% of the population aged 6 through 21, yet comprised 20.2% of all children with disabilities served in our schools; and (5) studies have found that schools with predominately white students and teachers have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education.”

Both in 1997 and in 2004, at the times of IDEA renewal, the topic of disproportionality was hot in congress.  But gradually it has become almost a non-topic. While it is correct to remind state directors of  their obligations, it simply does not trickle down to LEAs except in pro forma directives.

Response to Intervention started off as a program to reduce special education placements and retentions.  Now it is drifting into a general education program to support classroom teachers.

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cf. School Speech Therapy, Pull Out, and LRE

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