1. Special Education Overidentification Causes: Definitions

This is not a trivial subject, the definition of overidentification

It subsumes identification, under-identification, mis-identification, partial-misidentification, over-identification and recurrent mis-identification. 

It subsumes “disproportionality,” where minorities are misidentified.

It subsumes faulty placements as to least-restrictive environment.


Recurrent mis-identification is the greatest sin.  It is the practice of continuing to keep a child in special education when a disability no longer exists, or never existed, beyond the IEP year, and especially beyond the three-year evaluation.  National comments about repeated overidentification are non-existent.

A worst case scenario (example) is when a non-disabled black child is classified mentally retarded, placed in special education, put in a self-contained classroom (in the old building across the street), and kept there, year after year.  The initial mistake is replayed with compounding consequences.  Hence, overidentification as a national American public policy problem is not a point in time but a continuing problem reflecting institutional failure.

Linda Schrock Taylor puts it this way:  

“So, do not underestimate the strength of this black hole, and the power of federal monies – education and Medicaid – to create and sustain the energy force that entraps and holds these children. Do notice how few honest steps are taken to bring about real reform – ones that would actually, and effectively, educate American children in general, and special education students, in particular. The most shocking and inexcusable aspect of the pretense, the mouth-service, given to “accountability,” is the dearth of professionals who actively attempt to get students OUT of Special Education. Few see any value in specifically structuring special education programs towards ‘repairing’ and releasing children; few feel any urge to commend an exiting child; few see the importance of choosing curriculum and methods that would prevent the need for such programs in the first place. “

Odd Problem

Oddly, the problem has been divided into overidentification vs. disproportionality. 

THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE READER! if you are inclined to think this way.

Disproportionality is code for black, for the most part. 

Native Americans and Hispanics are not as intensely discussed as black American children.  Asians are not discussed at all because they tend to out-perform whites academically.  The contrast is artificial and dilutes the issue of  over-placing and over-retaining children in special education.  The challenge is scientific, not political. 

An evidence-based process of orderly assisting “strunggling children” should be designed and carried out without regard to the politics of education and social structure.  Where discrimination occurs, it should be overcome by rational thinking and fair play.

The focus on race is a distraction.  It keeps us from discovering system errors.

Gray skies in Paris

John M. Panagos

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