Addressing students’ needs to avoid assignment to special education - the research

Addressing students’ needs to avoid assignment to special education 
By Andrea Ochoa, Johns Hopkins University 
Research shows that students of color and students with from low socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately represented among those receiving special education services. Although special education is meant to provide students with individualized support, qualifying for special education services may negatively impact student outcomes. For example, teachers and parents may hold students in special education to low academic and behavioral standards. Further, students may perceive a stigma associated with receiving special education services. Thus, it is important to provide students with the proper support to decrease the likelihood that they will be incorrectly assigned to special education.
Hingstman and colleagues conducted a systematic review of programs that tested whether they decreased the number of elementary school students assigned to special education. The review included 12 studies evaluating nine programs: four targeted academic and behavioral skills, three focused on academics, and two focused on behavior. The authors found that programs that included a tutoring component, emphasized sustained professional development, and ensured some level of parent engagement were most effective in decreasing the number of students assigned to special education services. Although the review only included 12 studies, the findings suggest programs that include these components may reduce the number of students unnecessarily referred to special education when implemented in the early grades and with fidelity.

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