Tag: Georgia


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The Special Ed Crisis By The Numbers: Atlanta Public Schools


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Special education is the place where graduation doesn’t happen.

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Special education is the place where graduation doesn’t happen. Less than one-fifth of students ever graduate. Seventy-three percent of students with learning disabilities or emotional disturbances will end up being arrested and incarcerated over time. Yet despite evidence that overdiagnosis of learning disabilities is leading to more labeling of students, especially black and white males, there is ample fiscal incentive for school districts to engage in the gamesmanship.

A look at Atlanta’s public school district offers some clues as to what is happening to far too many young men and women, especially black and poor whites:

2,181: Number of special ed students in Atlanta’s public schools in 2005-2006, as funded by the Georgia state government. This doesn’t include kindergartners or elementary school students who are special ed, but are served under the state’s program for early intervention. About 3,035 students in Atlanta schools are diagnosed with a learning disability.

$7,550: The amount given for each special ed student by the State of Georgia. The state just provides $2,181 for each student in regular academic programs and $2,705 for every student in gifted and talented programs.

49: Percentage of special education/learning disabled students who spend 60 percent or more of their time outside regular classes, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Essentially, they are not likely to participate in academic courses that lead to college and beyond.

1,515: Number of special ed students (all served under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or other federal laws) either suspended, expelled or subject to corporal punishment  in 2005-2006. The more often children are suspended, the less likely they are to graduate from school.

9: Percentage of black males labeled with a specific learning disability — and likely in special education classes; this is three times higher than the likely occurrence of such disabilities.  Three percent of black females are labeled.

4: Percentage of white males labeled with a specific learning disability. Just slightly above the likely occurrence of such disabilities. Only two percent of white females were labeled.

92: The percentage of the labeled learning-disabled enrollment who are black; blacks make up 86 percent of all student enrollment overall in Atlanta public schools. Whites account for three-hundredths of one percent of learning-disabled students, despite making up eight percent of overall enrollment.

42: The percentage of Atlanta’s gifted and talented program students who are white; that is eight times higher than their overall enrollment. Blacks do account for 53 percent of students in the gifted and talented program; but that is below their overall enrollment in the school district.

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The Read


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Reports and observations inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day: Doesn’t get it: Joseph Brown of the Tampa Tribune, horrified about Florida’s low graduation rate…

A white male dropout who lands in prison has a one-in-six chance of landing in prison, according to Princeton University researcher Bruce Western. A black male dropout has a three-in-five chance of heading into prison. No matter the disparity, it's disheartening. Photo courtesy of Adobe Systems.

THE PRICE OF DROPPING OUT: A white male dropout who lands in prison has a one-in-six chance of landing in prison, according to Princeton University researcher Bruce Western. A black male dropout has a three-in-five chance of heading into prison. No matter the disparity, it's disheartening. (Photo courtesy of Adobe Systems.)

Reports and observations inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day:

  1. Doesn’t get it: Joseph Brown of the Tampa Tribune, horrified about Florida’s low graduation rate for black males (as analyzed by the Schott Foundation), argues that dropouts “fail to see the connection between education and a good job” and “apparently neither do their parents.” He isn’t completely wrong about that. However, Brown doesn’t address the underlying causes of the dropout crisis that have little to do with parents or their children, including low-quality public school curricula and teachers that aren’t well-prepared to teach in urban school systems.
  2. And sometimes, parents can be the problem: Education officials in Georgia finally did something right and reformed its woeful math curriculum standards. Achieve Inc. rates the standards among the highest of the “early adopter” states it is monitoring as part of its American Diploma Project. And now the standards must be applied to 9th-grade students. So what are suburban Atlanta parents doing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution? Complaining (naturally) about the fact that their children are failing exams based on those new standards. They’re likely worried that the kids won’t get into the University of Georgia, the college of first choice for most Peach State parents. What they should be doing is complaining about the quality of instruction in their school districts. And yes, get their kids some tutoring.
  3. The end of old-school black politics: Over the past few years, I have discussed the growing conflict between old-school black politicians — who emerged out of the Civil Rights era of the 1960s by parlaying political machines, race-baiting, appeals to black pride and doling out welfare to poor constituents — and an iconoclastic new generation of young black politicians — middle-class, highly-educated, unburdened by the memories of Jim Crow segregation — who are looking to deal with the woeful economic and social status of their communities. Now, Matt Bai profiles the divide in The New York Times Magazine. The real chasm between the two generations, from where I sit, will really manifest themselves in discussions about improving urban schools, largely because they are largely-controlled by old-school black politicians and school officials who are less than attentive to their woeful performance.
  4. No wonder why D.C. residents want self-government: The Washington Post notes the latest round of shenanigans surrounding re-authorization of the District’s five-year-old voucher program. The city’s mayor, Adrian Fenty — once an opponent of the program — must “clearly explain” to Congress how the voucher program is helping children escape the city’s atrocious dropout factories and academic failure mills at the elementary- and junior high school level in order for the program to survive another year.
  5. They’re the tops — but not outside America: At Eduwonkette, skoolboy checks out Fordham’s Educational Olympics and notes the dismal performance of America’s top students versus the rest of the world. Ten countries have top high school sophomores that perform better on the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) than our nation’s top 10th-graders. Not good at all.
  6. Can the kids be taught? Ken DeRosa and Charles Murray (he of the infamous Bell Curve and more recent inanities about education) have a back-and-forth on teaching students of modest IQ levels.
  7. Teach For America and its professional development: Alexander Russo reports on the alternative teacher training group’s response to critics about its support for new teachers.

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