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Interesting article/opinion

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Posted Apr 17, 2002 at 5:40:24 PM
Subject: Interesting article/opinion

Special ed as a dumping ground

April 17, 2002

The cool slogan – "Leave no child behind" – doesn't address the
fact that children are often left behind to languish in special
education classes. It's a touchy subject that was largely left out
of the Bush administration's new education reform plan.

Now on its way to implementation on the wings of a 25-city tour
by Education Secretary Rod Paige, the No Child Left Behind Act
promises to make public schools more accountable by requiring
annual tests from third through eighth grades.

But if the administration wants to make public schools more
accountable, the first thing it needs to do is crack down on the
schemes that many employ to avoid accountability.
Independent study, home study and alternative schools are all
innovative ways to sequester and warehouse problem kids
without having to bother with the unpleasantness of teaching

Special education is another such innovation. It took root in
1975 when Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped
Children Act (renamed the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, or IDEA) requiring public schools to teach
students with disabilities ranging from the emotionally
disturbed to the mentally retarded.

Special education originally served a specialized clientele, but
the floodgates opened in 1991 when the U.S. Department of
Education insisted that IDEA covered students diagnosed with
attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As it happened in the years that
followed, more and more children were diagnosed with
attention-related disabilities.

A study by the Mayo Clinic estimates that 7.4 percent of
school-age children have ADD or ADHD, and the National
Institutes of Health claims that 3 percent to 5 percent of the
overall U.S. population is affected by learning differences.

Little wonder that the last decade was a boom time for special
education – especially since, as with bilingual education, getting
students into these classes is easier than getting them out.
Students can be enrolled on the referral of a teacher; removal
requires a consensus of an Individual Education Program team
consisting of school officials and the student's parents.

Removals are rare. And that may be because school
administrators have a fondness for special education. After all,
it pays for itself. According to a study by the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., the per-pupil cost of special education classes now stands at more than $12,000, most of which the schools recoup from state and federal government.

It also has not hurt the popularity of special education classes
that they serve as useful dumping grounds for kids with
behavioral problems.

Do the dumped include racial minorities? You bet they do, says
the National Research Council. It contends that more than 14
percent of African-American children are identified for special
education, compared with 12 percent of whites and 11 percent
of Hispanics. And according to Department of Education data,
2.2 percent of black students are identified as mentally
retarded, compared with 0.8 percent of white students.

Some students are mistakenly placed in special education
because schools fail to teach them the basics and then – adding
insult to injury – identify them as disabled because they don't
know what they were never taught.

Thus the mischievous and the misdiagnosed are mixed with
those who really need special education, those with mental
retardation and other disabilities. The stigma for all concerned is just one reason why, as Paige noted in testimony before
Congress, just one in four special education students in some
states will ever receive a high school diploma.

That's pretty much what I saw in an earlier incarnation as a
substitute elementary teacher. One day I was assigned to a
special education class. That I lacked training was of no concern
to administrators. In the classroom, I discovered the
educational equivalent of a tossed salad – kids with behavioral
problems mixed with kids with short attention spans and those who were mildly mentally retarded. It is difficult to get any
teaching done in such an environment, let alone any learning.

Congress is now conducting committee hearings on the
reauthorization of IDEA. And President Bush has established a
commission to look into special education. Its report is due this

Accountability is the new catch phrase. But thanks to the debate
over special education, Americans may discover whether our
leaders even know the meaning of the word.

Navarrette can be reached via e-mail at rnavarrette@dallasnews.com.

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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Joined May 21, 2018
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Posted:Apr 17, 2002 11:51:11 PM

I don't think it pays for itself. I can honestly say that even at the worst school I ever worked in, where we were told straight out that "the reason we have special ed is because it is a legal requirement," there was no desire to have more kids in special ed; rather some discouragement of referrals. This has been the experience of many parents at many grade levels as well, being told "your kid won't qualify - he's too smart" and that sort of thing.

That whole schtick is a myth. Unfortunately, the damage that does to the article's credibility casts a cloud of doubt on many of hte other totally valid points.

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Posted:Apr 18, 2002 11:16:53 AM

As the son of a former Sped Director, and having family friends who also work in Special Ed, I can say that some districts do indeed work to label as many children as possible so as to maximize the sped money the district gets. There are many fuzzy accounting methods to divert these funds out of the sped programs and into general overhead accounts.

I guess the difference between those who would over-label to amximize the premium per head sped students get and those who would under-label is the degree that parent-advocates push for apprrpriate services and the quality of auditing of programs conducted by the state dept. of ed.

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Posted:Apr 18, 2002 11:25:52 AM
Subject:Re: well...

Some observations from our state, WA.

We have one program that allocates dollars to
a program called LAP, I think it stands for
Language Assistance Program - the amount of
dollars our school gets is based on how many
children qualify for free and reduced lunch.

I gave up this year on SE classes for my
dyslexic son this year as the class was so disruptive
with kids with behavioral challenges and the
teacher could not bring them under control.

He is in inclusion LA with no aide and
I do all the work on modification for him.


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Posted:Apr 18, 2002 10:04:23 PM
Subject:Re: well...

Hate to say it... but in my case... there weren't parent-advocates pushing for appropriate services. I think the admins just didnt' have the brains to figure out the paperwork. Hey, the state gets paid a lot of money from New York to handle their toxic waste, and much of it ends up in that county, adn no, I don't think the general state of things is a coincidence...

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