Office for Civil Rights
Annual Report to Congress FY 2005

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Putting Reading First

Research shows reading difficulties and behavioral problems are among the most common reasons for referring students for special education evaluation and, ultimately, for their placement in special education programs.  OCR’s experience, including its previous investigations, has shown minority students and students with limited English proficiency, in particular, may be misidentified and placed in certain special education categories.

Students inappropriately placed in special education programs may not receive the same curriculum content as other students and may face barriers in their later efforts to obtain a regular high school diploma, pursue postsecondary education, or prepare for employment.  Similarly, students who need special education services, but who are not identified, evaluated, and provided such services, also face significant barriers to future success.

Research also shows classroom interventions addressing reading problems can reduce the number of children who are inappropriately referred for evaluation and placed in special education programs.  In working with school districts, OCR emphasizes the importance of implementing high-quality research-based reading programs, both in order to reduce the number of students who are inappropriately referred for special education evaluation and placed in special education programs and to ensure students who need, but are not receiving, special education are provided the services they require.

Education is a civil right.  To deny that right is to cancel all other rights.  An educated child is a child who can grow up to be a full participant in society, voting, finding meaningful work, getting involved in the community, and working to achieve his or her own American dream.…

Rod Paige,
 Former Secretary of Education, 2002

For many years now, OCR has been conducting compliance reviews in school districts around the country on the issue of misidentification of all students, particularly minority students, in the provision of special education services.  The initiative also focuses on ensuring national origin minority students are not identified, referred for evaluation, and placed in special education programs based on their limited English proficiency.

For example, in a FY 2005 compliance review of a school district, OCR determined the district discriminated against national-origin minority students with limited English proficiency (LEP) and American Indian students by inappropriately placing them in special education programs because of their English language skills.  The district agreed to meet effectively the educational needs of its LEP and American Indian students and to ensure LEP and American Indian students are appropriately identified and appropriately placed in special education programs. 

Also in FY 2005, OCR successfully resolved a compliance review of a school district with an agreement ensuring several hundred students identified as cognitively disabled and learning disabled are evaluated appropriately and provided education programs and services appropriate to their needs. The district agreed to:  correct problems in its assessments and consideration of adaptive behavior for students who may be eligible for special education services; ensure consistent consideration of evaluation data; and review the eligibility and placement of those students who have been affected by shortcomings in these areas.  Students who no longer receive special education or whose placement is changed as a result of the revaluations will receive remedial or other appropriate transitional services, as needed. 

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Last Modified: 11/01/2007