Difficult-to-Teach and Special Education Over-identification

We are reposting this important information on the role of teachers in the over-identification of children for special education. A theory of over-identification must examine the role of teachers. The Jim Wright summary is critically important.

Teacher Referrals

How regular classroom teachers understand at risk children and then decide what special help they need is a critical factor as to the number of children who end up in special education. For example, there are more boys than girls in special education. We learn: “e.g., evidence that female teachers are more likely than male teachers to refer boys for special education coupled with the predominance of female teachers in the teaching force, especially in the elementary grades” (Policy Archive).

Although some special education referrals come from child find activities and parents, most come from the teaching faculty. Indications are teachers refer too many children to special education.

One hypothesis is that teachers view special education as a remedial support service rather than a disability-only service. Modern classrooms are full of “difficult-to-teach” (DTT) children, whatever the problems the children have. They do not easily follow the standard lessons teachers are prepared to conduct. When 20% or more of the children in a teacher’s classroom are difficult-to-teach, it is hard to achieve instructional goals.

A clown on main street.

A clown on mainstreet.

“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”.

Comment

In our most recent posts it is clear over-identification of special needs children is correlated with the over-identification of detention and suspension cases. The U. S. Departments of Education and Justice have issued a paper on the topic. Hence teachability is a factor in discrimination against struggling students. See the post, “Suspensions Hit Minorities, Special-ed Students Hardest”

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201401-title-vi.html

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