U.S. Approves Broader Methods for Identifying Special Ed Students
> 8/7/2006 3:47:46 PM

The federal government recently authorized changes in the 25-year old academic standards used to identify children with special education needs. Until now, the common method involved comparing intelligence tests and academic achievements. Critics and advocates for special ed kids argued repeatedly that such techniques were unfair to the kids to whom they most applied, as major discrepancies in scoring usually do not occur until around third or fourth grade. Waiting until such a late date to assign certain children to special ed, they argued, almost ensured their failure.

The New York Times reported on new legislation, passed by the Department of Education, that eases previous requirements for schools to adhere to the discrepancy method. Hopefully, this new ruling will allow educators to better gauge the special needs of children with learning disorders and assign them to appropriate programs earlier in their academic careers. The new rules also require schools to alert parents when they begin testing children for such disabilities. It may lead to further evaluation for struggling students and greater flexibility in determining academic needs.

Still, advocates and parents of disabled children found flaws in the new program. Their major issue stemmed from the fact that the regulations do not require schools to review the educational progress of disabled students each year. Under the law, schools review this information only once every three years with parental permission. In this scenario, some believe, parents will not be properly notified of the educational standings and options of their children. Despite such valid concerns, the program does appear likely to enable increasing attention to be paid to children who are disabled and those who might be. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

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