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2 Placement In Special Eclucation: Histoncal Developments and Current Procedures In the United States, definitions of educable mental retardation and methods of recognizing its existence are closely tied to social expectations inherent in our education system. In contrast to the often obvious mani- festations of severe mental deficiency, educable mental retardation is not as easily identifiable. In fact, the category itself did not exist until the ad- vent of compulsory education at the turn of the century and the adoption of intelligence tests as a simple method of tagging deficient performance. Even today it is not recognized by many cultures in less-developed areas of the world and is identified at widely varying rates among industrialized countries. To understand the concepts and issues concerning the identification and education of educable mentally retarded (EMR) children, we first de- scribe characteristics of children identified as mildly or educably mentally retarded. We then review the historical origins of special education in America. Within the historical context, the central role of the standardized intelligence test for identification and placement of mentally retarded stu- dents receives special note. The development of a nationally supported system of special education set the stage for a rising debate over dispro- portionate representation of black students and, to a lesser extent, His- panic students in classes for EMR children. This controversy has resulted in recent court decisions and federal and state legislation dealing with placement procedures and the rights of handicapped children. We turn then to a detailed examination of current procedures for spe- cial education placement. According to the regulations of Section 504 of 23
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24 REPORT OF THE PANEL the Rehabilitation Act and P.L. 94-142, a child can be placed in an EMR program only after various stages in the process of referral, assessment, and placement have been completed. The relation of each step in the pro- cess to the eventual receipt of the EMR label is discussed, with special attention to those factors that mediate the placement of minority students. WHO ARE THE CHILDREN CLASSIFIED AS EMR? Defining and describing the population of EMR children is fraught with difficulties because of the inherently social nature of such identification. A child is considered to be educably mentally retarded only after he or she has proceeded through the steps of referral, evaluation, and placement in the classificatory systems used by schools. He or she may receive the label not only on the basis of identified subnormal functioning but also as a consequence of administrative factors operating within schools. Formal definitions of mental retardation reflect the changing social per- ceptions of those who are considered members of this group. Although several classification systems for mental retardation exist in this country, the one that is most commonly used by schools and adopted, with only slight modification by P.L. 94-142 is that of the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD). The AAMD defines mental retardation as "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concur- rently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the devel- opmental period" (Grossman, 1977:5~. ~ The term "significantly sub- average" refers to an upper limit of two standard deviations below the mean score for measured intelligence. The highest category of mental retardation is "mild," equivalent to the education category EMR, and covers those whose IQ scores are between 55 and 70. This definition dif- fers from the previous AAMD definition of mental retardation (1959), which included the category "borderline retardation," which had IQ score limits from one to two standard deviations below the mean. With this change in definition, many children previously considered mentally re- tarded, although mildly so, were transferred to the normal population. Not only has the definition of mental retardation changed, but the boundaries that define eligibility for placement in programs for mentally retarded students in public schools also vary among states and districts. For example, a child with an IQ of 75 may be considered EMR in one state, while the same child would not be eligible for such a placement in another state. HA new edition of the AAMD's Manual on Terminology and Classification in Mental Re- tardation is expected to be published in 1982. It will incorporate modest revisions to the cur- rent AAMD definition of mental retardation.
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 25 Estimates of the prevalence of mental retardation lack precision be- cause of the absence of a clear categorical definition. For example, when IQ scores alone are used as evidence of mental retardation, 2 an arbitrary cutoff of two standard deviations below the mean IQ of 100 would be an IQ of 70, and the prevalence of all degrees of mental retardation would be 2.28 percent. Studies that examined intelligence alone derived figures close to this percentage (Birch et al., 1970; Mercer, 1973; Rutter et al., 1970~. The introduction of additional criteria to the definition, such as adaptive behavior measures (Mercer, 1973; Tarjan et al., 1973) or the use of such selective screening mechanisms as nominations by school staff (Birch et al., 1970), reduce the percentage of children identified as mentally retarded to between 1.0 and 1.3 percent. The total percentage of students in EMR classes in 1978 was closer to these values;3 it is estimated from the OCR school survey to be 1.4 percent. SOME DESCRIPTIVE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EMR POPULATION4 Different definitions of mental retardation yield discrepant prevalence rates, and the methods used in a particular study to define mental retar- dation determine which children are included in the category. There is, none- theless, some consistency in the characteristics of individuals currently classified as educable or mildly mentally retarded within our school systems. Age One of the most consistent findings is the marked drop in prevalence rates of mild mental retardation with age. In a variety of social contexts and regardless of the specific definition employed, the number of children identified as mentally retarded reaches a maximum in the elementary and junior high school years and drops precipitously thereafter (Lapouse and Weitzner, 19701. About two-thirds of the individuals diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded may disappear into the normal population during late adolescence, losing the label once they leave school (Tarjan et al., 1973~. Since schools have always been the principal identifier of mildly mentally Theoretically and legally, an IQ test score alone does not define mental retardation. Low IQ scores may suggest intellectual subnormality, but mental retardation is expressed by both low IQ and low adaptive behavior scores. Much research, however, defines mentally retarded populations on the basis of IQ scores alone. 3The vast majority of children considered mentally retarded fall within the mild range (see the paper by Shonkoff in this volume). 4Much of the information in this section is based on the paper by Shonkoff in this volume.
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26 REPORT OF THE PANEL retarded children, and their single most salient characteristic is their fail- ure to meet the academic standards demanded by schools, these results are not surprising. Sex Boys outnumber girls in EMR classes by a ratio of 7:5. One would expect some sex differences since boys on the average show a greater degree of biological vulnerability (e.g., a higher rate of spontaneous abortions and neonatal deaths, a greater susceptibility to infectious diseases) than do girls. Yet the evidence from epidemiological studies is inconsistent with respect to sex differences in the prevalence of mild mental retardation. Rutter et al. (1970) reported in a British study that, although there is gen- eral agreement that severe mental retardation is somewhat more common in boys than in girls, the sex distribution for mild mental retardation as defined by IQ scores is fairly equal. Data from the Collaborative Perinatal Project of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (unpublished data from S. H. Broman) revealed that for whites, girls have a slightly higher rate of mild mental retardation (defined as a score of 50-69 on the WISC-R at age 7) than do boys (1.29 percent versus 1.03 percent) and that for blacks, boys have a higher rate than do girls (4.99 percent versus 4.24 percent). The greater tendency of boys to have reading problems and to exhibit disruptive behavior may in large part account for the greater proportion of boys than girls in special education classes. The panel was able to gather only limited data on EMR placements categorized by sex and race. The OCR does not collect sex-by-race cross tabulations, and other sources offer little information about sex-by-race placements. Where such data are available, however, they consistently indicate that the male-female ratio is larger among black children than white children. Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Sociocultural Factors However defined, the prevalence of mild mental retardation is correlated with the socioeconomic status of the family and the neighborhood in which a child lives (the lower the status, the higher the rate). As we have seen, mild mental retardation is also correlated with ethnicity; minority children have higher rates. The correlation of mild mental retardation with these factors is especially pronounced when IQ test scores alone are used as the diagnostic criterion (Lemkau et al., 1941, 1942; Mercer, 1973; Reschly and Jipson, 1976~.
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 27 A recent analysis of data on more than 35,000 seven-year-olds from the Collaborative Perinatal Project (Broman et al., 1975) investigated the re- lationship of race (black, white) and socioeconomic status (bottom 25 per- cent, middle 50 percent, top 25 percent) to the prevalence of mild mental retardation as defined by IQ scores. Among white children, the rates ranged from 3.3 percent for the bottom socioeconomic quartile, to 1.3 percent for the middle group, to 0.3 percent for the upper quartile. Rates for black children were 7.7 percent for the lower group, 3.6 percent for the middle group, and 1.2 percent for the upper group. The Collaborative Perinatal Project data also show that sociocultural factors, such as family structure and amount of formal schooling of parents, are related to men- tal retardation rates, even within particular ethnic groups (Broman et al., 1975). Biosocial Characteristics In contrast to most of the people who are characterized as more seriously mentally retarded, the frequency of observable abnormal medical condi- tions is negligible in most mildly mentally retarded persons. However, the lack of recognized specific relationships between biological factors and mental retardation cannot be taken as evidence that biological elements are not important. Biologically based insults to the brain can affect a child throughout the developmental period and can result in impaired intellec- tual functioning later. Many of these biological factors, such as intra- uterine viruses, malnutrition, and lead intoxication, are more frequently observed among poor and minority populations. (For a more extensive treatment of biological factors affecting intellectual performance, see the paper by Shonkoff in this volume.) While no empirical evidence has yet been uncovered that causally links such factors to the disproportions found in EMR programs, it is conceivable that future research might re- veal such causative relationships.5 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN SPECIAL EDUCATION ORIGINS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION The controversies that surround special education classes concern over the stigma associated with placement in a special class, questions about 5For cross-cultural variations in the meaning of biological factors in development, see Werner (1979) and Stewart (1981).
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28 REPORT OF THE PANEL the quality of education in separate classes, and the likelihood of return- ing from special programs to a regular class-have dominated discussions of special education practices since their inception. Many of these contro- versies are rooted in the origins of special classes. Separate classes for those who could not function adequately in the regular academic program permitted the adjustment of instruction to a level considered appropriate for these children. In so doing, poor, immigrant, and minority children were often segregated from those in regular classes. In particular, labeling a student "mentally retarded" allowed the school system to classify and sep- arate children on the basis of their intellectual functioning and performance. Before the introduction of special programs in public schools, the care and education of mentally retarded individuals were undertaken privately by families or in institutions. During the 19th century, mental retardation was considered a physiological condition, caused by the lack of social or- der and stability that were associated with urbanization and industrializa- tion. Institutions for the feeble-minded helped the inmates acquire the necessary habits and values that would lead to eventual adjustment to the changing environment (Leinhardt et al., in press). Although administrators of these institutions had hoped to work with those mentally retarded children who were most likely to benefit from training, large numbers of the more severe cases were institutionalized and care became almost entirely custodial rather than therapeutic. Thus, by the end of the 19th century, those who did not require custodial care were not being treated in institutions (Lazarson, 1975~. Excluded from residential institutions, large numbers of mentally re- tarded children fell under the purview of another institution the public schools. Two changes in the nature of public schooling, firmly entrenched by the beginning of the 20th century, caused this shift of responsibility for the care of mentally retarded individuals: the enforcement of compulsory attendance laws and an age-graded system of group instruction. Compul- sory attendance meant that children who formerly would have dropped out of school or who had never enrolled were now attending in large num- bers. An age-graded system altered views of individual differences, influ- encing the expectations of educators concerning children's performance. Children who could not meet these standards were considered to have some disability (Levine, 1976~. For a variety of reasons that were typically not differentiated (e.g., ill- ness, truancy, language problems), a large percentage of children were overage for their grade, perceived as unable to profit from regular instruc- tion, and unlikely to move through the normal grade sequence. In the early 20th century, it was children of various immigrant groups, notably south
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 29 em Italians, who were failing in school, scoring lower on IQ tests, and overrepresented in special education programs.6 The differential achievement of various groups was a subject of research and led to general hypotheses about the causes of mental retardation. Two competing theories about the causes of these group differences have re- mained at the center of current arguments concerning overrepresentation in special classes: (1) group differences are innate and are unlikely to change through educational intervention and (2) group differences are attributable to environmental factors. Justifications for special classes were economic, educational, and soci- etal. Of primary importance was the removal of the mentally deficient child from the regular classroom because he or she impeded the progress of the normal child and occupied an inordinate amount of the teacher's time. However, the segregated child was schooled under conditions deemed beneficial: He or she was instructed in a smaller class, was given more ef- fective teaching geared to an appropriate level, and was freed from de- moralizing comparisons with more competent peers. Although these smaller special classes increased costs, they saved the schools the expenses associated with children repeating the same grades. Long-range savings also were envisioned, since mentally retarded children receiving vocational education in the schools might obtain self-supporting jobs and thus not become burdens on society (Sarason and Doris, 1979~. INTELLIGENCE TESTING FOR PLACEMENT OF MENTALLY RETARDED STUDENTS The origins of the IQ test are well known. At the turn of the century, Alfred Binet was asked by the French minister of education to develop a means of identifying those children in public schools who could not meet the demands imposed by the regular classroom and who needed special programs. The purpose of Binet's test was, therefore, to provide guidance for educational planning; it was not, in Binet's view, a measure of innate potential or fixed capacity. The Binet-Simon scales were quickly adapted for use both in Europe and the United States. Although the establishment of special classes preceded the use of IQ tests in American public schools, the two soon became closely linked. The scientific development of intelligence testing 6Because black students were at that time largely excluded from the schools operated for native and foreign white students, their overrepresentation in special education was not yet recognized as a significant issue (Sarason and Doris, 1979).
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30 REPORT OF THE PANEL provided a rationale for the labeling and separation of mentally retarded children. National standardization of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test in 1916 influenced conceptions of intelligence for generations to come. A child's mental age was defined on a normative basis using samples of children at selected ages for standardizing a large number of short tests or items com- prising the final version of the instrument. Dividing the mental age by the chronological age and multiplying the ratio by 100 yielded the intelligence quotient the IQ. Subnormality was identified with IQs below 70, embracing about 3 percent of the total population.7 Large-scale IQ testing highlighted the number of subnormal children in the public schools, leading to public pressure for the control and regula- tion of socially deviant children. Intelligence testing was quickly adopted by the education system as an objective, expedient, and efficient method of identifying children deemed unsuitable for advanced academic studies as well as those children thought to have the greatest potential for rapid advancement (Lazarson, 19751. The increased use of IQ tests contributed to the expansion of the special education system, especially in urban schools. In 1914, 10,890 children were counted as enrolled in special classes for the mentally subnormal; in 1922, this figure had increased to 23,252. Only 10 years later, the count was an astounding 75,099 (Leinhardt et al., in press; Sarason and Doris, 19791. By then, the AAMD had succeeded in refining the traditional classification system to include a milder type of feeble-mindedness, the "moron," which was defined in terms of mental age. Thousands of in- dividuals previously unrecognized were now categorized and labeled as mentally retarded because their IQ scores fell below 70. While the more severely retarded the "imbecile" and the "idiot" could be identified without the assistance of an IQ score, intelligence testing led to the defini- tion and acceptance of a new category. Intelligence tests met the needs of an education system that valued effi- ciency, categorization, prediction, science, and the careful use of limited resources based on scientifically accepted procedures. Empirical studies of intelligence provided scientific evidence on a number of critical issues that were the focus of public attention. Such studies bolstered the belief that low intelligence was a cause of social deviance and legitimized the practice of differential treatment for different groups. These early studies of IQ tests were viewed as supporting the idea that intelligence was largely 7More current scoring practices derive an ~Q measure as a composite of multiple sublests usually scaled to have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 (or 16) in a large nor- mative sample.
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Historical Developments arid Current Procedures 31 inherited and unmodifiable and that it predicted (or even caused) later school achievement as well as future adaptation to social and occupational demands (Lazarson, 1975; Levine, 1976; Sarason and Doris, 1979~. Even in their heyday between the two world wars, IQ tests did not re- ceive untempered acclaim. Many questioned the assumptions underlying the tests and criticized the consequences of large-scale application of in- telligence testing, including placement in special classes. But most of the challenges raised by critics of the tests were largely overlooked. Intelli- gence tests were accepted by the public schools as efficient sorters of indi- viduals with different abilities and different future roles in society. DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION SYSTEM The emerging special education system was influenced by other forces in the later decades of the 20th century. The number of children entering special education programs rose dramatically. States began the process of defining new categories of and treatments for mentally handicapped children, based on the model of physical handicaps. The courts became increasingly involved in the conflicts surrounding placement, treatment, and outcome in special education. In response to these forces, federal sup- port for special education programs grew rapidly. After World War II, the baby boom flooded the schools with children. The number of children requiring special attention grew even faster as medical technology enabled more children with debilitating health prob- lems to survive than ever before. In addition, as a result of school desegre- gation and large migrations of Hispanic populations, schools were faced with serving a more diverse group of children. The growing concern of parents over the type of education provided to their children by public schools was a powerful force for upgrading and maintaining quality serv- ices, not only in the regular school program but also in special programs for the handicapped. Advocacy groups assumed an increasingly important role in this period, although their themes varied. Parent and advocacy groups for the handicapped, dominated primarily by the middle class, were demanding an expansion of the scope of special education and an in- crease in the quality of services provided by the public schools for handi- capped children. Groups representing blacks and other minorities were pressing not for separate special education services but for an expanded integration of the public school systems.8 These two themes persisted in later years. Actions brought by middle- and upper-income white parents have almost exclusively dominated the appeals process that is guaranteed by
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32 REPORT OF THE PANEL State after state instituted funding provisions to support programs for special students. State definitions of handicaps and methods of funding special services were adjusted in recognition of the increased number of children needing these services and the expanding variety of settings in which they could be provided. At the federal level, the years 1957-1966 saw the creation and initial development of national special education programs for which the political presence and influence of parent groups was at least partially responsible (Reynolds and Birch, 1977~. There was also a growing recognition of a group of children, distinct from the mentally retarded population, who had specific learning and perceptual problems. Rooted initially in neuropsychological research on people who had experienced traumatic brain damage, the term "specific learning disability" gained widespread public recognition when promoted by parent advocacy organizations. The category of learning disabled (LD) was defined to encompass children who exhibited a markedly uneven development of mental abilities compared with mentally retarded chil- dren, who demonstrated a more general deficiency. Typical would be the LD child who had severe problems learning to read (dyslexia) or doing simple arithmetic but who was otherwise normal in measured intelligence. Originally, LD children were considered members of a relatively small and well-defined population; however, as schools began to use the term "learning disabled" to identify larger numbers of children, the lines that separated EMR from LD groups were frequently difficult to discern (Grossman, 1977~. Parents and education researchers alike began to raise questions about the quality of special education classes and even the validity of the special education system itself. In part a reflection of broader social concerns such as the civil rights movement, much of the public debate centered on the appropriateness of placing poor and minority children in special classes for mildly mentally retarded students (Dunn, 1968~. The overrepresenta- tion of poor and minority children in special education classes was appar- ent as the system grew. At the same time there was increasing concern about the educational value of placement of handicapped children in sep- arate classes. Studies comparing the efficacy of regular versus separate class placements, although of generally poor quality, highlighted the fail- ure of special classes to improve the educational functioning of mildly mentally handicapped children. In the subsequent years, these two themes- P.~. 94-142, by demanding more specialized and expensive treatments than are offered by public schools. Minority groups have been more concerned about the overrepresentation of minority children in special programs and the segregative aspects of these programs.
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 33 discrimination in placement and the questionable quality of instruc- tion dominated most discussions of special education. DISPROPORTIONATE PLACEMENT OF MINORITIES AND COURT DECISIONS Most of the arguments raised for or against certain special education practices were not new, but with the rising concern for civil rights, these debates were increasingly shifted to the courts. The basis for claims against the segregation of minority children in special classes lies in the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that school segregation was a violation of constitutional guarantees. As a result of that decision, public schools were required to treat children equally, regardless of race. Previously segregated white school districts, faced with including large numbers of minority students in their schools, often implemented prac- tices designed to exclude blacks and other minorities. One device to screen out minority students, which relied heavily on intelligence tests, may have been special education, especially classes for mildly mentally retarded stu- dents. For example, the repeal of the law in California excluding Mexican- Americans from white schools coincided with the legislative creation of programs for EMR students (Mercer and Richardson, 1975~. A dispro- portionately high enrollment of minority students in the new EMR pro- grams accompanied their increased enrollment in the state's public schools. The debate over disproportionate special class placements first ques- tioned why those children were considered to be in need of special services. As the use of standardized intelligence tests became universal, they were increasingly blamed as the mechanism of identification and placement. Minority children, their advocates argued, were disproportionately over- represented in special classes, especially classes for EMR children, be- cause the tests used to place them failed to properly measure their mental ability. Other charges were raised against the use of intelligence tests: that they are biased against poor minority children because of differences in cul- ture, language, values, experience, or method of administration and there- fore are not appropriate measures by which to evaluate minority students. In 1969 the Association of Black Psychologists called for a moratorium on the use of mental ability tests standardized on white populations as the basis for placing black children in special education classes (Williams, 1972~. In Diana v. State Board of Education (1970), the use of stan- dardized intelligence tests for placement of Mexican-American children in EMR classes was challenged on the grounds that the tests had been stan
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34 REPORT OF THE PANEL dardized only on majority-group children and thus were culturally biased against minorities. As a result of this kind of litigation, states began to re- consider testing and evaluation procedures. The state of California, after Diana, suggested that districts test children in the language they were most familiar with and that they use multiple measures for evaluating children suspected of being mentally handicapped (Bersoff, in press). In 1972 a group of black children in EMR classes in the San Prancisco school system sued the district and the state, again challenging the use of standardized intelligence tests as a placement tool for minority children. As in Diana, it was claimed that the children's minority group blacks- was overrepresented in EMR classes. An attempt was made to prove that a reason for that overrepresentation was misclassification. By 1975, as a result of this ligitation (Larry P. v. Riles, 1972, 1974), California had removed the controversial IQ tests from the list of approved instruments for evaluation and placement of children in EMR classes. The Larry P. case became the focus of national attention. Between 1972, when the original complaint was filed, and 1979, when the decision was issued (Larry P. v. Riles, 1979), federal and state laws governing special education had changed considerably, and the relationship between racial and minority segregation and special education placement had become a subject of increasing national debate. The 1979 decision on the merits in Larry P. looked at the phenomenon of minority overrepresentation in EMR classes in terms of the appropri- ateness of the selection criteria and the outcome of placement in an EMR class. The decision noted that black children were substantially over- represented in EMR classes compared with the total black enrollment in California schools. Even as total enrollment in EMR classes declined over the years, the overrepresentation of blacks in EMR classes remained rela- tively constant. The history of EMR classes in California, wrote the judge, indicated that such classes were not primarily intended to help slow learners acquire the skills necessary to return to a regular program of instruction. Instead, EMR classes emphasized training to improve social adjustment and economic usefulness, rather than acquisition of academic skills and proficiencies. Thus, the judge decided that separate classes for EMR students were "dead-ends"; the children in these classes fall further and further behind children in regular programs and generally remain in separate classes until the end of their school career. As a result, there was a considerable disadvantage to being placed in the separate classes of an EMR program, especially for those children who might have had a better chance to learn in other programs. Court cases in other parts of the country also raised the problem of mi- nority overrepresentation in special classes. In most of these cases the
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 35 methods used to evaluate and place children suspected of being handicapped were the focus of keen attention. Sometimes the entire system of identifi- cation, evaluation, and placement was questioned as, for example, in Mattie T. v. Holliday, in which black children and advocacy groups pro- tested much of Mississippi's special education system. In other cases a particular evaluation method was challenged. For example, in Chicago, a group of minority students challenged the use of standardized intelligence tests to place black children in EMR classes, but the result of this litiga- tion was significantly different from the decision in Larry P. Like the plaintiffs in Larry P., the black children in Parents in Action for Special Education v. Hannon (1980) claimed that blacks were substantially over- represented in EMR classes as a result of the school system's use of what they considered to be culturally biased IQ tests. They demonstrated that some black children in those classes were of normal intelligence but had other learning problems that resulted in school failure. The court ruled that the tests were not unfair to minorities and that, when used with other assessment criteria as statutorially mandated, they did not discriminate against minority children.9 The outcome of this litigation has been a relatively intense scrutiny of the proper use of intelligence testing and an expanding search for new methods of assessment. MAINSTREAMING IN REGULAR CLASSES While the schools were confronting the relationship of segregation and special education placement, there was a growing realization that many of the legal and constitutional questions raised by minorities through the civil rights movement were also applicable to handicapped people. In- tegration of handicapped students into regular classes was seen by some educators as a way to avoid some of the purported ills of special educa- tion stigmatizing labels, dead-end curricula, and isolation (Dunn, 1968). In Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens [PARC] v. Penn- sylvania (1971, 1972) this "mainstreaming" movement for handicapped children gained legal endorsement. In that case, plaintiffs argued that mentally retarded children in state institutions were excluded from public schools without due process. The court in PARC required that educa- tion placement decisions for these children be made in light of the princi- ple that placement in regular public school programs is preferable to any 9 Subsequent voluntary action by the Chicago school board has discontinued the use of stand- ardized intelligence tests for special education placements.
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36 REPORT OF THE PANEL other type of placement. It was stated that all handicapped children should be moved into the mainstream of regular classes to the extent per- mitted by their handicaps. In a related decision, the right of all handicapped children to a free public education regardless of handicap or financial resources of the school district was supported by another court (Mills v. Board of Education, 1972~. Controversy over the concept of mainstreaming has continued. Many educators believe that mainstreaming was forced on them by judicial deci- sions and political pressure, and they doubt the wisdom of such policy (Sarason and Doris, 1979~. Resistance to mainstreaming is based on sev- eral arguments: (1) that the training of regular classroom teachers lags far behind the special demands that handicapped children place on them, to the detriment of all students; (2) that handicapped children are not ac- cepted by many of their peers; (3) that such children may receive less spe- cial attention and service as a result of their placement in regular classes; and (4) that their presence takes needed teacher attention from normal students. FEDERAL LEGISLATION AND TUB RIGHTS OF THE HANDICAPPED The rights of all handicapped persons were advanced appreciably when Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 of this act generally prohibits discrimination against "... otherwise qualified handi- capped individuals ... under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The final regulations implementing this legislation were published in 1977, requiring that a free, appropriate, public educa- tion must be given to every handicapped child. Specific requirements are stated for the evaluation and placement process to prevent misclassifica- tion, unnecessary labeling, and inappropriate placement. In addition, the regulations of Section 504 require that placement follows the principle of education in the least restrictive environment. In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), which provides both funding and detailed requirements for education programs for handicapped children.~° The purpose of the law was to ensure that handicapped children receive an education ap- propriate to their specific needs through the public school system. The act and its implementing regulations focus on the following six aspects of placement for EMR children: nonfederal funding of special education programs amounts to not more than 15 percent of the costs of special education. The remainder is provided by state and local governments (Hart- man, 1980).
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 37 1. Mental retardation is defined in terms of intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior, and school performance. 2. State and local education agencies are required to develop proce- dures to ensure that all children who are handicapped and in need of spe- cial education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated. 3. The education agencies must establish specific procedural safe- guards to protect the handicapped child's right to a free appropriate education. These regulations guarantee parents the right to review perti- nent educational records; to obtain an independent evaluation of the child; to receive written notice before a public agency initiates the place- ment process, including a full explanation of procedural safeguards available to the parent; and to demand a hearing before an impartial of- ficer if the placement is challenged. 4. The regulations require a full evaluation of a child's educational needs prior to any placement decision or action. The tests used must be validated for their intended use, given in the child's native language, and administered by trained personnel. Assessments must go beyond "single intelligence quotients" to include measures of "specific areas of educa- tional need," and no single procedure may be used as the sole criterion for placing a child. The assessment must be made by a multidisciplinary team, and the child must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability. The regulations further stipulate that the multiple data sources to be used in decision making include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social or cultural back- ground, and adaptive behavior. Reevaluations must be made at least every three years. 5. A written individual education plan (IEP) must be developed before a child is placed and must be updated annually. The IEP must contain in- formation on the child's current performance, annual and short-term goals, specific services to be provided, and objective criteria to be used in evaluating progress. 6. Children must be placed in the least restrictive environment com- patible with their handicap. Education agencies are required to provide a continuum of alternative placements (e.g., regular classes, special classes and schools, home instruction, etc.~. Placements are to be close to the child's home and, if possible, in the school the child would normally at- tend. Placement must be based on the IEP developed for the child. There has been some question recently whether the Education for All Handicapped Children Act will maintain its current form. The Reagan administration's proposed Elementary and Secondary Education Con- solidation Act of 1981 would have replaced categorical funding under P.L. 94-142 with block grants that would give broad discretion in the use of
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38 REPORT OF THE PANEL funds to local education agencies, would have left substantially monitor- ing and enforcement activities to the states, and would have repealed the substantive provisions of the statute. However, the proposed legislation was not passed, and P.L. 94-142 was not included in the education block grants, and it remains an independent, categorically funded program. The regulations implementing the new law, however, are currently under review, and the future of those provisions is uncertain. CURRENT PROCEDURES IN EDUCATIONAL PLACEMENT A DESCRIPTION OF THF: PLACEMENT PROCESS The intricate system of checks and balances mandated by Section 504 and P.L. 94-142 and their implementing regulations, the emphasis on decision making by multidisciplinary teams, the requirements of multiple tests and other assessment procedures, and the thrust toward placement in the least restrictive environment appear quite compatible in spirit with models of the placement process proposed by various educators (e.g., Jones, 1979; Oakland, 1977~. However, the degree of implementation of the law varies considerably among districts. In some cases, districts have accommodated their special education system to legal requirements; in others, little change is apparent. Although research has assessed the degree to which schools comply with the law, it has yet to demonstrate that adherence to required policies leads to effective educational practices. Children enter the placement process in one of two ways. Many are referred in response to "child find" campaigns conducted by states and school districts, largely initiated under the impetus of P.L. 94-142. Children may be referred by parents, teachers, doctors, counselors, social workers, or others. Most children are referred by their teachers because of repeatedly poor academic performance or poor social adjustment. Teachers have always been the single main source of referrals (Birman, 1979; Blaschke, 1979; Stearns et al., 1979; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979c), although others, such as school prin- cipals and social workers, appear to be assuming a larger role since the implementation of P.L. 94-142. IQ test scores, although significant in a later stage of the process, are not used as an initial screening device. Once children are referred, they must be evaluated in order to deter- mine their special educational needs. P.L. 94-142 and the Section 504 Tithe information in this section is based on the paper by Bicke] in this volume.
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 39 regulations are explicit and detailed in their prescriptions regarding evaluation procedures, who will be involved, and the types of data to be considered. Several studies have shown that states and school districts are gradually bringing their policies and practices into line with the law and its implementing regulations. For example, a longitudinal study of the im- plementation of P.L. 94-142 in 22 sites (Stearns et al., 1979) revealed a shift from assessment by a psychologist using a single intelligence test to procedures involving a wider variety of instruments and specialists, in which an attempt is made to tailor the assessment battery to the child's apparent skills and deficiencies. In spite of these improvements, the altered procedures may not be oper- ating as intended. A few individuals, usually school administrators or psy- chologists, tend to dominate the placement meetings in which decisions are made, and parents and teachers play a relatively passive role (Associa- tion of State Directors of Education, 1980; Thouvenelle and Hebbeler, 1978~. Occasionally, school personnel meet in advance to iron out dis- agreements and present a united front to parents (Poland et al., 1979; Thouvenelle and Hebbeler, 1978~. Although a variety of data are collected on each student, members of the team still rely heavily on IQ scores and achievement measures as a basis for labeling a child as mentally retarded (Poland et al., 1979; Thouvenelle and Hebbeler, 1978~. Once a child has been evaluated as belonging to the EMR category, deci- sions must be made concerning his or her placement and method of instruc- tion. Under the P.L. 94-142 regulations, an IEP must be devised to meet the child's particular needs. Placement in regular or special classes, full- or part-time, is determined by the requirements spelled out in the IEP. States have made considerable progress in adopting policies to ensure that IEPs are in fact written (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979b). Several implementation studies suggest, however, that despite conformity to the letter of the law the intent of the federal regula- tions is often not met in practice. Writing IEPs is a time-consuming task, provoking resistance by some teachers and administrators that leads to shortcuts. Often, a single brief meeting is held to classify the child, to set- tle on a placement, and to write a plan. Plans are often written prior to the meeting with little or no parental involvement. The content of IEPs often falls short of the ideal envisioned in the federal regulations; important de- tails are omitted, goals are ambiguous, and the procedures for evaluating achievement of goals are not specified. The plans themselves may be pro forma and may not be followed in fact (Alper, 1978; Blaschke, 1979; Marver and David, 1978; Schenk and Levy, 1979; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979c). Most important, the type of
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40 REPORT OF THE PANEL placement recommended and the nature of the IEP often are determined by the types of classes and resources available, not by the needs of the child (Stearns et al., 19791. FACTORS INFLUENCING THE PLACEMENT PROCESS One salient, consistent finding of research on the implementation of P.L. 94-142 is the extreme variability in practice from district to district and from state to state. Several factors can be identified at the state, district, and school levels that encourage this diversification of practice. One such cause of diversity, mentioned previously, is that the definition of educable mental retardation varies among states (see, for example, U.S. General Accounting Office, 1981~. States differ primarily in their choice of IQ cut- off scores- whether such scores are specified and what they are and re- quirements concerning measures of adaptive behavior. Policies regarding the dispensation of funds for special education also may influence the placement process. At a very basic level, the amount of money a school district can spend is a limiting factor influencing the quality and coverage of its special education programs. The availability of resources has a pervasive effect on referrals, evaluation, and placements. Referral rates are highest where services are plentiful. Rates of referral for specific types of problems tend to mirror the particular programs available. The amount of resources allocated to other programs, such as compensatory education classes, also may affect EMR referrals and sub- sequent placements, although such factors have not been specifically documented. The financing formulas that states use to transfer funds to local school districts influence various aspects of the placement process. Fiscal policies may influence a district's decisions concerning other factors that affect the placement of children the numbers of children classified as mentally (and physically) handicapped, the types of handicaps identified, the placement of children in mainstreamed settings, the quality and type of programs and services provided, and the size of classes. The incentives created by one such financing formula, the child-based formula, illustrate this point. States using child-based funding formulas reimburse local jur- isdictions for each child identified as handicapped; the more children so identified, the more state money received. In general, such formulas may provide a strong incentive to identify previously unserved children, at least in some categories. For those jurisdictions in which certain categories (usually the more severely handicapped) are reimbursed more generously than others, the incentive would be to classify more children in those cate- gories. In other versions of this formula, in which reimbursement is con
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 41 stant across categories, the incentive would be to classify more children as mildly mentally handicapped, since services for these problems are less costly per child than services for the severely handicapped. Child-based formulas provide an apparent incentive to increase class sizes and case loads as a means of maximizing reimbursement while minimizing costs to the local jurisdiction. Mainstreaming would also be encouraged, since full reimbursement may be provided despite less costly services. A final factor that may affect the placement process is the discretion ex- ercised by various participants in the system (see, for example, U.S. General Accounting Office, 19811. Even finely detailed regulations cannot eliminate the power of individuals to shape the system. Disproportionate representation of minorites in EMR classes could well arise from racial discrimination on the part of individual decision makers in the placement process, a possibility that could only be checked by monitoring a district on a case-by-case basis. THE EFFECTS OF THE PLACEMENT PROCESS ON MINORITY STUDENTS In what ways does the placement process affect minority and white students differentially? Minority children might conceivably have ex- periences that vary from those of white students in any or all of the steps in the placement process. They might be referred for evaluation more often than whites for both academic and behavior problems. Once referred, they might have a higher likelihood of being classified as EMR. Once labeled as EMR, they might be more likely than white children to end up in special programs or separate classes, rather than in regular classrooms. The bewildering variety of patterns suggests that conflicting claims about the effects of the placement process on minority students cannot be resolved easily. Nevertheless, on the basis of research to date, some procedural fac- tors that may affect the proportions of minorities enrolled in EMR pro- grams can be highlighted. Does the level of disproportion at the referral stage mirror the patterns found in actual enrollments in EMR programs, or are they higher, as some have suggested? Only limited data are available on this issue. The scattered evidence that documents the generally higher disproportion in referral rates cannot be easily generalized across districts because of the great variability in enrollment patterns and practices across the nation. A commonly held perception is that teachers more often refer black children because of disciplinary problems. Only one report was noted that investigated this hypothesis. A study of 355 students referred for psycho- logical services in an urban school system found that more minority children were referred, but the proportions of white and minority students
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42 REPORT OF THE PANEL referred for academic as opposed to disciplinary problems did not differ (Tomlinson et al., 1977~. Most of the attention in the controversies surrounding minority stu- dents and EMR placements has been directed to the evaluation process (see Chapter 3 for a discussion of the controversy over IQ testing). A number of studies have considered the kind of information that is most influential in EMR placement decisions and the importance assigned to various assessment measures by the decision makers. Using a variety of tech- niques, such as simulation of assessment decisions and interviews with participants in placement decisions, these studies have shown that aca- demic achievement, as measured by standardized tests or as reported by the teacher, and IQ scores are consistently among the most important consid- erations, especially for school psychologists (Berk et al., 1981; Matuszek and Oakland, 1979; Thurlow and Ysseldyke, 1980; Ysseldyke et al., 1979). Special education placement decisions other than those involving EMR classes use additional types of information; for example, decisions con- cerned with emotional disturbance rely heavily on the teacher's report of the child's social behavior in the classroom. Placement decisions concern- ing emotional disturbance or specific learning disabilities tend to be in- consistent independent experts disagree as to the proper classification of a given child. EMR decisions are among the most consistent of all, in part because of heavy reliance on clear-cut indicators such as IQ (Petersen and Hart, 1978~. The balance that is struck between IQ and other measures is likely to have significant consequences for the proportion of minority children placed in EMR classes, since minority children consistently score lower on standardized tests of ability than do white children. For blacks the typical estimate of average IQ across the nation is 85, about one standard devia- tion below the white mean of 100. The difference has stark consequences at the upper and lower ends of the distribution. If the cutoff point for the EMR category is set at 70 (a fairly typical criterion), two standard devia- tions below the white mean and one standard deviation below the black mean, then 2.3 percent of the white population will fall into the subnor- mal category, compared with 15.9 percent of the black population. If IQ tests were given to all children and IQ scores were applied mechanically as the sole criterion for EMR placement, the resulting minority overrepre- sentation would be almost 8 to 1. Actual figures for EMR placement as reported in OCR's survey data are 1.1 percent for whites and 3.7 percent for blacks, a disproportion of 3.4 to 1. Two conclusions follow inescapably from these considerations. First, the use of IQ scores as placement criteria will tend to maintain a dispro
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Historical Developments and Current Procedures 43 portionate representation of minority children in EMR classes. IQ testing may not be the cause of disproportion; conceivably it might even reduce the high disproportion evident in teacher referrals, as Lambert (1981) has argued. IQ testing will certainly protect some children from EMR placement children with IQs above the EMR cutoff who have been re- ferred as candidates for EMR placement. Nevertheless, given the almost 8 to 1 difference in the proportion of blacks and whites falling in the rele- vant IQ range, as long as IQ scores play a role in decision making, some disproportion will undoubtedly remain in EMR placements. The second conclusion follows from the discrepancy between actual EMR placement rates and the rates that would theoretically prevail if IQ alone was the placement criterion. Elements other than testing, which are part of the chain of referral, evaluation, and placement, must also be operating to reduce both the overall proportions of children placed in EMR classes and the disproportion between minority children and whites. As already noted, federal law and regulations require evaluations to in- clude several kinds of information in addition to IQ test scores. Available research suggests that the use of such information, particularly informa- tion on adaptive behavior outside school, dramatically reduces the propor- tion of all children placed in EMR classes, although there is a greater reduction for minority students (Fischer, 1977; Reschly, 19791. Additional information often available in the child's placement dossier may include the child's race, socioeconomic status, family situation, and classroom deportment. Does knowledge of a child's race by the school psy- chologist bias his or her decision about classification of a child as EMR? Research on this question is not consistent; some studies indicate that black children are more often labeled as EMR than are white children, even when profiles are identical for the two groups (e.g., Pickholtz, 1977~; some show the reverse pattern (e.g., Amira, et al., 1977~; and others find no relation at all between race and psychologists' decisions (Berk et al., 1981~. In the final step of the process of referral, evaluation, and placement, there is no evidence that minority children are affected differentially. The few studies available do not indicate that placement decisions and IEPs result in the segregation of minority students. Few EMR students are as- signed to a placement that blocks all contact with the mainstream (Thou- venelle and Hebbleler, 1978~.~2 While the data are limited, available in ~2Contradictory evidence is provided by MacMillan and Borthwick (1980), who note that the EMR category in California now includes children who are more seriously disabled than previous populations of EMR children. Most of the EMR children in their sample did not receive instruction in integrated settings.
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44 REPORT OF THE PANEL formation suggests that minority students are either assigned to special classes at the same rate as are whites (Ashurst and Meyers, 1973; Matuszek and Oakland, 1979) or are placed in less restrictive settings than are white students (Tomlinson et al., 19771. One element of the placement process that has not been considered is the role of parent involvement and parental rights to due process. P.L. 94-142 regulations guarantee parents access to full information, prior ap- proval of evaluation activities, participation in placement decisions and the writing of IEPs, and the right to appeal unsatisfactory decisions and to demand independent evaluation of the child. In theory, minority parents might make use of this right to appeal, contesting EMR placement deci- sions. Appeals could become a significant factor offsetting disproportion arising in referral or evaluation. In actual practice, however, due process hearings have rarely been used by minority parents for this purpose. The appeals process has been used almost exclusively by middle- and upper- income white parents who often request more specialized and expensive treatment e.g., private school placement than education agencies are prepared to provide.
Representative terms from entire chapter: