Special Education Over-identification News 2012

2012 Comments

The reports here accurately reflect the status of over-identification and / or disproportionality in America as we survey the online literature. It is always possible to find good ideas about reducing the problems at hand but many claim there is poor awareness of the problem.  For some this is hard to believe after all the years of problem identification.  Whatever the federal government has done has had marginal impact on local school practices.  We have spent quite a bit of time tracking this national school problem and there has been no change.  There are, however, inspired and gift individuals who know what to do but cannot overcome institutional  forces.  

At-Risk Black Children

Education Week reporter Nirvi Shah tracks news and trends of interest to the special education community, including administrators, teachers, and parents.”

Ms. Shah points out the need to reduce the over-identification of black school children. “While African Americans make up approximately 17 percent of public school enrollment, they account for 31 percent of students identified as having mental retardation or intellectual disabilities, 28 percent of students labeled as having an emotional disturbance, and 21 percent of students who have learning disabilities. Some of these categories aren’t pure medical diagnoses, calling judgment, and perhaps bias, into play.”

We stress here that this is a well known problem which is recycled over and over again by well-intended journalists who do not know the history and understate the national issue.  The problem has been documented since 1960.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/01/a_new_initiative_hopes_to.html

Funding

The Federal Education Budget Project Blog writes  to say current IDEA funding is designed to minimize the over-identification of at-risk children for special education placement. “New money is distributed in this manner to avoid encouraging special education over-identification, that is, to prevent schools from wrongly identifying low-performing students as “disabled” in order to secure a greater share of federal funding. Setting a base and adjusting it according to population changes removed any incentive to over-identify students as disabled.”   2012

http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/individuals-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution

State Variations

Ben Wieder of the Stateline Organization has presented an excellent summary of current trends on the over-identification reduction front.  Identification rates vary from state to state, although the reasons are somewhat a matter of  opinion.

One possibility is changing service delivery models for teachers and special education personnel:  “Stephen Frank, a director at Education Resource Strategies, a private consulting firm, says that putting too many students in special education is among the most inefficient practices in all of education. His company works with school districts to help them make the best use of their resources. He advocates for larger classes, co-taught by both general and special education teachers, or bringing specialists in to traditional classes to help special education students rather than sending those students out of the class for extra help. He also suggests that districts consider encouraging their traditional teachers to get cross-certified in special education, rather than relying only on additional special education teachers.”

 http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/01/25/state-special-education-rates/14849/

IEP Teams

Ed Law Connect in California publishes an article by Englebrecht and Newman, having the title, “Over-identification and misidentification (April, 2012, to advise school IEP teams about the risks of mis-identification of at risk children:

“It is essential that IEP team members understand how to properly identify students who are eligible for special education and related services. There are times when a referral for an evaluation for special education is made by a parent or teacher for a student who is struggling academically but does not have a true disability or where a student has a medical diagnosis but does not require special education and related services and is consequently also not eligible for special education (and may or may not be eligible for a 504 plan). IEP teams should be sufficiently familiar with the eligibility requirements of federal and state law and avoid the potential harm of wrongly identifying a student as eligible for special education.”

http://edlawconnect.blogspot.com/2012/04/over-identification-and.html

IEP Team Decision Making

Writing in Ed Law Connect, Geneva Englebrecht  and Adam Newman state perfectly  some of the problems involved in IEP decision-making leading to misevaluations of at-risk children.  Lots can go wrong in meetings, especially when school leaders move meetings along at warp speed with inadequate explanation so as not to “waste time.”

“It is essential that IEP team members understand how to properly identify students who are eligible for special education and related services. There are times when a referral for an evaluation for special education is made by a parent or teacher for a student who is struggling academically but does not have a true disability or where a student has a medical diagnosis but does not require special education and related services and is consequently also not eligible for special education (and may or may not be eligible for a 504 plan). IEP teams should be sufficiently familiar with the eligibility requirements of federal and state law and avoid the potential harm of wrongly identifying a student as eligible for special education.”

Great work!

http://edlawconnect.blogspot.com/2012/04/over-identification-and.html

Quantification

In Over-Identification of Minority Children in Special Education – What Can Be Done? the post makes a key point about the need to study local data of misidentification:

“Better keeping оf data to include increased information abоut race, gender, and race by gender categories. More detailed, systematic, and comprehensive data collections wоuld provide a better sense of demographic representation in special education thаt cоuld bettеr hеlp understand thіs issue.”

Many special education teachers and personnel either have no clue about who makes up their caseloads, or are in deep denial.

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