Special Education Overidentification Overview

We begin a series on special education overidentification in American schools.  Building on prior posts designed to sort out problems, causes and attitudes, we now know more to shape a better perspective on how this public policy issue continues to stand in the way of sound improvements in general education performance. 

Segregationist views have carried over into schools with the help of legislation such as No Child Left Behind and IDEA 2004.  While at-risk learners deserve protection under the law, acts of protection which legally place them in special education without sufficient protections to let them out.  Therefore, “difficult-to-teach” children, or “struggling children,” have their learning problems compounded by artificial separations from general education theory and best practice.  Concepts of “Universal Design” are hard to implement across legal and programmatic lines.  We still fight the notion of two systems, separate but unequal.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

Ultimately the debate goes back to the early 20th century decisions to establish compulsory education where all children could go to school and have equal opportunity to learn.  We are only 75% there.

IDEA 2004 established regulations as to the categories of children eligible for special education.  They help to establish a framework for overidentification. Type of traditional conditions such as dysgraphia and vision impairments must be sorted into the categories.  There is no category for articulation impairment or reading disability.  Hence, we must sort according to conditions and categories along with the possibilities of combinations and overlap.  These circumstances add to the difficulty of making accurate placement decisions. 

A most helpful summary of “Categories of Disability under IDEA Law” is provided by:

NICHCY / National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
1825 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009
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