27. Special Education Overidentification Causes: “Difficult-to-Teach”

“Difficult-to-Teach” is an interesting category to bring into the overidentification picture and  it potentially the best explanatory position available. 

“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).

The model we argue is the neat compliant dutiful caucasian female child with adequate intelligence.  This child is EASY to teach.  More boys than girls are in special education because they are HARDER to teach.

Variations away from the model child increase the probability of special education placement and academic distress.

Having dirty clothing, broken glasses,  smelling, soiling underwear and having lice make children difficult to teach according to ordinary standards of good taste.

Not paying attention, jumping around, talking out of turn, breaking things, asking too many questions, lying, needing constant repetition, not catching on to the lesson, losing money, failing to stay on task, crying, needing constant reminders, and not taking turns are behaviors making children harder to teach.  When learning styles are different, differential teaching techniques must be applied.  Teaching must be more individualized.

Assistance walking, wheelchair operation,  volume adjustments, special apparatus requirements and computer hookups make disabled children harder to manage.  They take time away from “teaching.”

Mumbling, writing too slowly, avoiding eye contact, not responding to questions and failing to follow directions trip up Limited English children. 

Different racial and ethnic backgrounds are unpleasant for some teachers.

Combinations of these traits increase the probability of  needless special education placements and later academic problems.  ADHD is a referral for “disruptive children.”

Some teachers say that if your class has over five “hard-to-teach” children it will be a long year.  Having a large class of  compliant children is easier.

It is not necessarily bigotry and bias.  Teaching is demanding work and teachers do care.  When a classroom is too hard to manage, it is almost impossible to teach and the stress is high.  The teacher’s performance is called into question by the results of No Child Left Behind testing results; system errors for over testing are attributed to teachers.

Teachers tend to pass on their burnout problems to special education personnel.  Special education is an escape hatch for classroom management issues.

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