Re: Let’s Make Everybody Special
Let us not forget that in this area can be found yet another dubious “Rhode Island, We’re Number One!” rating.
From a February 8 Providence Journal article by Jennifer Jordan:
Rhode Island already claims the highest percentage of students in special education in the country – 21 percent compared with the national average, 13.7 percent
What is the drawback?
It costs far more to educate a special-education student in Rhode Island – $22,893 a year, compared with $9,269 for a regular-education student.
How have we achieved this distinction? A Jennifer Jordan article in the May 20 ProJo identifies over-diagnosis as a major factor. And the “target” is equally disturbing.
“Too Many Minorities in Special Ed”
Seven school districts in Rhode Island are labeling too many students of color with learning disabilities they may not have and placing them into special education, a problem that has sparked a federally required review by the state Education Department.
In Central Falls, Hispanic students are almost 10 times more likely to be labeled “mentally retarded” than their non-Hispanic peers.
Black students in Providence are five times more likely to be classified as “emotionally disturbed” than other students.
Native American students in South Kingstown are 16 times more likely to be categorized as “learning disabled” or “other health impaired,” a category that includes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
East Greenwich, Narragansett, Newport and Woonsocket were also cited for disproportionately identifying black, Hispanic or Asian students with learning disabilities, according to state education officials, who have been meeting with district leaders to find out why.
The State Director of Special Education, Kenneth Swanson acknowledges that
REFERRING TOO MANY students to special education in general is a statewide and national problem that needs to be addressed by an overhaul of the education system, Swanson said.
Special education has become a fix-all, educators say. In some cases, students having trouble learning to read, students acting out, and students with speech issues are being shuttled into special education instead of getting academic or behavioral help.
On a side note, “overhaul” sounds like an overly-dramatic, not to mention unnecessarily expensive, response to this problem. Is this not a simple matter of tweaking (or enforcing) the guidelines for the diagnosis of students?
Returning to Justin’s post, the question of the funding source of special education takes on an even greater importance if the state education system has identified (wrongly, it appears in many cases) a disproportionate number of students for these programs. But whatever size the special ed population in the state shakes out at, the idea of sliding part of that bill across the city line has no basis in logic, accountability or good governance.