‘Disabled’ but capable

Most students labeled disabled are not severely handicapped and are capable of performing at grade level, writes Erin Dillon of Education Sector.

The LD (learning disabled) diagnosis is intended to provide students with the supports they need to reach grade-level standards. Similarly, students with disabilities that fall into the categories of “emotional disturbance,” “speech or language impairments,” and “other health impairments” (which includes attention deficit disorder or ADD) can be expected to overcome or compensate for the disability with appropriate services. Over 80 percent of students enrolled in special education fall into these four categories.

Only 9 percent of special education students are mentally retarded.

In 1977, 8 percent of U.S. students were considered disabled; that’s soared to nearly 14 percent. All these students may need extra help to succeed but are they really disabled?

Currently, about 30 percent of special education students can be tested with alternate assessments or held to lower standards under No Child Left Behind, Dillon writes. She sees no need to exempt more students from NCLB’s accountability standards.

About Joanne


  1. Elizabeth says:

    Can any one define for me the definition of proficient and advanced? At what point in the proficient category is a student at grade level? Or does that ever happen? Is advanced the only measure of grade level and above? Does each state set its own cut scores for these levels?

    I am so concerned that school district keep pointing out how many students are proficient but I know that proficient does not necessarily mean a child is at grade level and truly comprehends (and can demonstrate comprehension) of the subject matter tested.

    Thank you —


  2. I have 2 sons with ADHD and learning disabilities. They do not test well and it will be a nightmare getting them to pass the high school exit exam. They both have strengths that will serve them well once they get out of school, but the school system is going to make that very difficult. The older one cannot tolerate the ADHD drugs, and has a difficult time concentrating deep enough to solve math problems. Long homework assignments send him into a panic attack. Extra help in school starts out strong in elementary school and dimishes with age. While he is slated to go to Gunn High School in Palo Alto, his doctor does not advise going there as he will have to fight the whole way to get through the system. I am convinced that he would do fine in a less competitive environment. So, we pay lots of money for therapists, tutors, and small private schools.

  3. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    All the term “emotionally disturbed” means is that the student is insane. It is, IMO, the world’s first PC term.

  4. Proficient is defined to be whatever level allows 99% of students to “pass” a test in 2014.


  1. […] that most students in special education are capable of achieving; only nine percent are mentally retarded. Under NCLB, schools can give easier tests or no tests at […]