School Speech Therapy and Special Education Overidentification

American school speech-language pathologists continue to make placement recommendations for a large percentage of all special education children, second only to Specific Learning Disability.  The number has been growing, and many of the children placed and retained are incorrectly identified.  Many are non-disabled minority children.  An effect never considered is how speech and language designation reduces chances for academic success.  While the costs of special education grow, SLI children and others are not receiving the academic support they need to graduate with peers.  A recent report from the Center for Public Education makes these clear.  In 2006 the diploma graduation rate for SLI children 67.45, slightly higher than SLD pupils[].


The Center for Public Education sets forth recommendations for reducing the overidentification of at-risk children for special education placement:

“The vast majority of students today who are identified with disabilities might have been classified as simply “low achieving” just a few years ago. However, their achievement still lags behind that of non-disabled students. The booming growth of special education—along with the accountability measures of NCLB—makes the achievement of students with disabilities something educators cannot ignore. While specific solutions are elusive due to the lack of research, when schools and districts target resources and support, the achievement of students with disabilities does increase.

In order to accurately evaluate your district’s needs and goals, you should consider the following questions:

1. What is the special education population in our district? How does it break down by disability? By racial/ethnic group? By family income?

2. How are our district’s special education students performing relative to other students? Has this performance changed over time?

3. What goals could we reasonably set for special education students, keeping in mind the group’s diversity?

4. How much of our special education dollars are federal? State? Local?

5. Do we have enough special education teachers? Do they meet the “highly qualified” definition? Do they have enough resources and support?

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