Is special education racist? With the New York Times asking, you’d have to assume, yes:
More than six million children in the United States receive special-education services for their disabilities. Of those age 6 and older, nearly 20 percent are black.
Critics claim that this high number — blacks are 1.4 times more likely to be placed in special education than other races and ethnicities combined — shows that black children are put into special education because schools are racially biased.
But our new research suggests just the opposite. The real problem is that black children are underrepresented in special-education classes when compared with white children with similar levels of academic achievement, behavior and family economic resources.
The belief that black children are overrepresented in special education is driving some misguided attempts at policy changes.
I was not expecting that:
In a study published today, we report that the under-diagnosis of black children occurs across five disability conditions for which special services are commonly provided — learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments and emotional disturbances. From the beginning of kindergarten to the end of eighth grade, black children are less, not more, likely than white children with similar levels of academic performance and behaviors to be identified as having each of these disabilities.
In fact, our study statistically controlled for many possible factors that might explain these disparities. Examples included differences in children’s academic achievement, behavior, gender and age, birth weight, the mother’s marital status and the family’s income and education levels. In contrast, many previous studies reporting overrepresentation have not adjusted for these factors. Instead, these prior studies have relied on school- or district-level data that did not adequately control for differences in risk factor exposure between black and white children.
Since nobody remembers anything, Steve Sailer notes that racial differences in special ed were what led Arthur Jensen of Berkeley to the Dark Side a half century ago:
Jensen’s interest in this topic began when one of his graduate students noted that the white special education students he was working with appeared to be more genuinely “retarded” than the students from minority groups who had been placed in special education. In fact, it seemed to Jensen’s student that whereas the white children functioned at a low level both inside and outside the classroom, the minority children sometimes appeared “quite indistinguishable in every way from children of normal intelligence, except in their scholastic performance and in their performance on a variety of standard IQ tests (Jensen, 1974, p. 222).”