See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil on “Disproportionality”-The Latest Federal Assault on Equity

It is a strange time when reading the latest federal education regulations moves from mundane and boring to painful and soul sucking. Mired in the language of bureaucracy you can see young souls being crushed.

We have seen stripping of protection for gender non- conforming youth to even have the right to a relatively safe bathroom, the erasure of reams of special education rules without providing any additional guidance or changes in the underlying statutes, and now we see a delay in merely asking districts to review their special education placements and just see if they are possibly placing too many children in special education (a.k.a. disproportionality).  No sanctions, just collecting the data and publicizing it.

This was the language from the ED Review newsletter I received today from the federal department of education.

At the elementary and secondary education level, the Department postponed by two years the date for states to comply with the “Equity in IDEA” or significant disproportionality regulations, from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020.  The Department also postponed the date for including children ages three through five in the analysis of significant disproportionality, with respect to the identification of children as “children with disabilities” and as “children with a particular impairment,” from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022.  The agency took these steps in order to thoroughly review the regulations.

What is there to review?  If disproportionality exists, or exists in certain places or for certain disabilities that is relevant data that we should care about and look into the causes.  If it doesn’t we should pat ourselves on the back, but we should look under the rock and see what crawls out or doesn’t.

You can see the description of the rule below—its about equity in special education, some students regularly over identified and often shunted away from their peers to second class classrooms, rates vary widely across schools, districts and states, but there are some common patterns and you can imagine what they are.  And the issue is complex, ed week did a good job of looking into some of the nuance.  In my experience there are also disabilities that minorities are less likely to be identified—like autism—which often requires a costly battery of tests, where at least in NYC, Black students tended to be diagnosed later because than typically more wealthy White students.

But we should find out.  You can see the actual language describing the rules below.  The rules are hard to argue with if you care about the facts or equity.  But I guess that explains why they are being delayed—sad!

Purpose of This Regulatory Action: The purpose of these final regulations is to promote equity in IDEA. Specifically, the final regulations will help to ensure that States meaningfully identify LEAs with significant disproportionality and that States assist LEAs in ensuring that children with disabilities are properly identified for services, receive necessary services in the least restrictive environment, and are not disproportionately removed from their educational placements by disciplinary removals. These final regulations also address the well-documented and detrimental over-identification of certain students for special education services, with particular concern that over-identification results in children being placed in more restrictive environments and not taught to challenging academic standards.

While these regulations only establish a system for identifying significant disproportionality based on overrepresentation, the regulations acknowledge that overrepresentation may be caused by under-identification of one or more racial or ethnic groups and the regulations allow funds reserved for comprehensive CEIS to be used to address these issues if they are identified as a factor contributing to the significant disproportionality. LEAs are legally obligated to identify students with disabilities and provide the resources and supports they need to have equal access to education. Thus we, encourage States to ensure that the State’s and LEAs’ child find policies, practices, and procedures are working effectively to identify all children with disabilities, regardless of race or ethnicity.

What do you think?

More Comments