Officials question special ed numbers
By: The Associated Press
The Messenger 12.05.07
NASHVILLE (AP) — An unusually high rate of Tennessee children in special education classes has some experts concerned children are being pushed out of regular classes to help improve test scores.
According to a recent report on the state’s schools, one in six students received special education services in the 2006-2007 school year.
Officials said special education students should be only 10 to 12 percent of the total student population, but Tennessee isn’t the only state reporting numbers above that.
With annual student progress required under No Child Left Behind, there is pressure to either fix general education courses or shift low performers out of them, said James McLeskey, chairman of the special education department at the University of Florida.
“When general education hasn’t improved its core subjects, problems arise at times,” he said. “People are depending on special education to provide a broad range of services that there simply aren’t enough resources to provide.”
Tennessee counts gifted students in its special education numbers but state officials said the vast majority of special education students are those with a mental or physical disability that keeps them from being able to progress unaided in a regular classroom.
Some federal laws, including No Child Left Behind, promote intervention and heavy monitoring of kids in regular education classes before they are moved to special education classes.
Connie Smith, executive director of accountability with the state Department of Education said she’s been talking with the state’s special education division about auditing some school districts with the agreement of the districts’ boards — especially those districts in trouble under No Child Left Behind.
“It could be that there’s that large of a population of special education students,” she said, “but it always raises a red flag so you need to go in and examine how students are being identified.”
Information from: The Ten-nessean, www.tennessean.com
special education, Tennessee