8. Special Education Overidentification Causes: Teacher Training

Education reformers replay “teacher training” as a grand solution to many school teaching problems.  “If only we could just train them right!”

Signs that special education and related services personnel are receiving sufficient and relevant preservice and inservice staff training to prevent overidentification are nil.  Somehow Congress buys into this notion of staff training over and over, and will even give money for it over and over.

Take Response to Intervention, for example.  This is a perfectly reasonable model to sort out children for remedial support and special education but reports indicate great variation as to implementation.  cf.,  7. RTI Success  Here are some findings:

“REL West (Regional Education Laboratories, U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, 2009) conducted a survey of RTI policies and procedures employed in selected states.  A table 3 presents an overview of how nine states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington) conformed to eight programmatic concerns.

No state addressed all eight concerns. Three states addressed six, and one four.  Of the 73 cells in the table, 41 (64%) were filled. Progress in the nine states was uneven, suggesting considerable discretion as to how RTI was being organized. (There is no federal mandate for RTI.)

All nine states were “promoting general education ownership” of RTI.  The table format excluded special education as a concern. “…while state respondents highlighted as accomplishments progress in training and technical assistance, cross-discipline collaborative efforts, and framing RTI as a general education initiative (as opposed to one exclusively for identifying students with spe­cific learning disabilities), they also acknowledged some of these areas as ongoing concerns…

In four states—Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington—respondents described special and general education depart­ments as sharing responsibility.

Two states deliberately excluded the term RTI in naming their initiatives, according to respondents, to avoid its association with special education and to foster broader application.”

Only 4 states were “incorporating student diversity” into their RTI programs. “In implementing RTI policy, as with any other educa­tion reform or policy, states need to consider the di­verse needs of students.”

We’ve looked at  press reports on local RTI implementation, and only a small number of  administrators seem to be involved in leadership.  Special education and related services personnel are at the margins.  Some school boards get involved but it appears broad participation of school personnel is not an initial aim.  Diversity is not a significant concern either.

Staff training can’t work well unless overidentification is put on the table for frank discussion and technical specification.  Training entails specifics.  Diversity has to be defined programmatically.  For example, one must instruct teachers to recognize and COUNT the number of minorities in their classrooms and on their special education referral lists.  Counting is easily mastered and yet has powerful implications for awareness and judgment.  Administrators can count the counts and come up with profound reports to the faculty.

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