Tuesday, June 20, 2006

According to the Department of Education, over two-thirds of Virginia's school divisions have a high number of minority students in special education

Holly Prestidge:

The department says about 90 of the state's 132 school divisions have much higher numbers of minorities in individual disability categories than state expectations for those groups.

Some school divisions have a disproportionately high number of minorities in special education as a whole compared with their general student population.

Others report black students spending more time in special-education classes than white students.

Paul Raskopf, director of financial and data services for the Virginia Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Student Services, said special education has evolved into an area where students are often sent when they're struggling because their school doesn't have alternative programs to help them.

Raskopf said the big question that disproportionality raises is whether school officials are appropriately identifying students for special- education services.

Several Richmond-area school divisions were cited by the Virginia Department of Education last year for disproportionality in one of two areas:

Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, New Kent and Powhatan counties were cited for the percentage of special-education students, by race, in at least one of six disability categories.

Hanover, Goochland and New Kent were also cited for having too high a percentage of minorities in special education compared with their general student population.

Neither Richmond nor Petersburg were cited for disproportionality since the majority of the students in those school divisions are minorities.

"We have so many minority students, so for us minority means something else," said Treeda Smith, public information officer for Richmond Public Schools.

Role of special education questioned

Study says 1 in 4 teens don't graduate on time in Va.

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