Category Archives: Over-identification

Teacher Referral a Cause of Special Education Over-identification

We are reposting this important feature to further draw attention to this component of special education over-identification. Teachability regardless of disability status is critical.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

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.

“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).

Teachers may have difficulty adapting their standard classroom methods for special needs children. They may lack training in “differential teaching.” Therefore, they are inclined to fall back on the special education services.

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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.

Special Education Over-identification News 2013

Teaching and Fighting Over-identification

Stevie Evans, a special education teacher in Oakland, California, gave an interview to NPR in which she pinpointed over-identification problems within the context of classroom teaching:

““My school now, it’s about 70 percent Latino, 30 percent African-American. But in my class it’s well over 90 percent African-American boys, so there’s an overrepresentation of black boys in special education. Who are the people putting them in special ed? The majority of teachers are white women. Just like myself.,” says Evans.

 “There’s something wrong with that,” Evans says. “It’s not that black boys are just prone to have learning disabilities or are dumber than other races. It’s like, that’s ludicrous. We’ve already proven that that’s not what it is. So what is it then? It’s something that institutionalized and so systematized that we people don’t even see it.”

Miss Evans says she enjoys teaching special needs children very much.

The article was written by Kristine Stolakis.

http://www.kalw.org/post/flowcabulary-and-other-lessons-one-oakland-special-ed-teacher

Dr. John Panagos and a Book on Over-identification

I am thinking I must take up book-writing in order to sharpen up the study of disproportionality and special education over-identification.  It forces upon us logical analysis not easily captured by blog posts.  Blogging is a good technique for gathering and defining.

The essence of my story is that it has taken me several years to sort out how education works, including the history of it, and including the politics of it.

Stop sign along country road.

Stop sign along country road.

Working in Arizona schools as a professional speech-language pathologist gave me an initial template but brought out other questions I could not answer.  Again, reading history shakes our beliefs in “official policy.”  Well-intentioned “leaders” think they are “innovative” but they are simply repeating the past.

The strongest point is we work in government schools.  What is the agenda of government schools, to create informed citizens for good democracy?  No, and it never has been except in elite schools where rich people send their kids.  A close look at congressional committees tells us school policy is hand and glove with labor issues.  When we needed men to run lathes during the industrial revolution we decided to take young Irish boys out of the  coal mines of Kentucky and educate them. When our school children talk slang and have bad accents we promote “speech correction” teaching.  Lurching federal labor policies pull local education off course.

The fly in the ointment was the enactment of compulsory education, setting the stage for the illegal exclusion of minority children and handicapped children. Elite educators fought like crazy to keep them out of government schools until Brown v Board of Education forced the issue.  Schools became the battlefield for national politics.  Special education after 1975 provided another technique for excluding children with government school classrooms.

The “standards movement” leading up to  No Child Left Behind was a political reaction to the loss of the elitist agenda.   “At-risk” school children of course were pushed around by the need to pass “tests” even when they were dropping out of government schools like misfits.

The history of special education is in fact a great success story when one looks back to 1940 when state laws prevented handicapped persons from going to school because they were “too dangerous.”  The IDEA Child Find Requirement as an extension of Compulsory Education was a constitutional high point in American education.

How well schools manage the education of “struggling pupils” has much to do with the overall success of American schools.  Sure, our scores would be higher if we excluded them.  We could put deaf children in special schools and  hyperactive pupils in asylums. We could send all indians to indian schools or Oklahoma.  We could place black  children in their own school buildings down the road by the smokestacks.  We could send all Mexican children back home.  We could  round-up Japanese children and put them in camps as we once did.  We could put “retarded” pupils in “self-contained” classrooms in old buildings.  We could send troublesome children to “detention” on the way to prison.  We could even cook up some charter school arrangements where special education excellence via child find is an after thought.

Or we could face that we wrote the U. S. Constitution and we are stuck with it.

The most interesting thing I have read to date is “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ A_Nation_at_Risk)….the 1983 report of American President Ronald Reagan‘s National Commission on Excellence in Education.  Its publication is considered a landmark event in modern American educational history ” (Wiki).

As influential Americans railed about sinking academic performance, nothing was said about the enactment of Public Law 94-157 in 1975 forcing schools to take handicapped children as a matter of constitutional rights.  The compulsory education chickens had come home to roost.  Of course performance had to sink.  The bell shape curve had been truncated.

For professionals, the realization many Americans do not want to have “disadvantaged” children in the classroom is where the disproportionality issue begins.  It is not a problem of enhancing assessment skills or sending federal advisories to state departments of education.  It is about the cultural history of American schools and blindness to the problem.

Special Education Over-identification News 2012

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.

Preschool Over-identification in Special Education

Several of our posts emphasize the importance of preschool education to prevent the over-identification of at-risk children for special education placement.  E.g.:

SLPs Can Lead Over-identification Preschool

Prevention Programs

Mr. Chang, swan-goose and friend, Lakeside, Arizona

IMPORTANT CASE

A legal case in Washington, D.C., as reported in the Washington Post by , is related to special education identification issues.

 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/court-orders-district-to-expand-preschool specialeducation /2011/11/16/ gIQA5NHgSN _story.html)

Blackman v. District

In 1997, according to  IDEA regulations, litigation was brought in Blackman v. The District of Columbia, complaining the District of Columbia schools were not responding to special education referrals in a timely fashion, creating a “backlog” of hearings for eligibility determination.

Initially, progress to eliminate the backlog was made, but then the District slipped back.  In 2003 the United States District Court addressed the backlog problem.  The Implementation Plan provided for an “independent assessment” conducted by Dr. Tom Hehir, a special education expert.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSk6Ca7r3dQ)

Push-Back

The District has questioned a recent court opinion:

“Chancellor Kaya Henderson pushed back Friday at this week’s federal court ruling that the District has failed to identify and treat adequate numbers of young children with special needs, saying that the District received little credit for substantial progress.”

The court’s involvement resulting from parent complains on behalf of their children has history.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/11/21/41619.htm


http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-proposes-dedicated-office-early-learning utm_source=asha&utm_medium

November, 2011
“The U.S. Department of Education announced today a proposal to create an Office of Early Learning, tasked with overseeing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants and coordinating early learning programs across the Department.”Effective early learning programs are essential to prepare our children for success in school and beyond,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “A dedicated early learning office will institutionalize, elevate and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems.”