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Rebuttal to the National Academy Press Report
"Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education" (2002)
Karen R. Effrem, M.D.
Maple River Education Coalition Board of Directors

July 12, 2002

This report does a thorough job verifying the problem of over-identification of minority students in special education. It does not, however, explain that this is a problem created by federal and state government interference into local schools and misguided government anti-poverty measures that have been a dismal failure. As is typical for education "reform" efforts, the proposed solutions call for even more draconian interference based on false premises that will only further cement government control of education and make the problem worse. This report joins an ever-louder chorus of voices calling for government control of children from birth. As with School to Work and Small Learning Communities, these big government programs start with the most vulnerable poor and minority students because these families have the fewest resources to resist. The main conclusions and recommendations of the report will be discussed and alternative recommendations will be given.

1. "There is substantial evidence with regard to both behavior and achievement that early identification and intervention is better than later identification and intervention."

This is wrong on both counts. Identifying achievement problems too early, especially in boys is dangerous. Abundant evidence exists that boys' aural and visual pathways do not mature until they are eight to eleven years old. Identifying and labeling a boy with special needs because of early problems with reading and writing that often improve with age could be very damaging, especially if he is wrongly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and placed on medications like Ritalin. This concern is laid out very well by Ray Moore who found many problems with screening, preschool, Head Start, etc. in his classic book Better Late than Early.

Identifying behavior and emotional problems in children when they are too young is also fraught with problems. The criteria are very vague and include standards like "inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances" (NCES Student Data Handbook, 2000 as well as Minnesota student data handbook and state of Washington IDEA criteria)

Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Surgeon General have stated in major reports that the normal process of development in children can easily be confused with mental illness. For example WHO said in the World Health Report (fall of 2001), "Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal." (See the Report.)

Normal children, especially boys, are all too often labeled with a disorder and placed on dangerous drugs like Ritalin or Prozac. Current estimates are that 7 million children are on the stimulant drugs like Ritalin alone.

2. "Among the most frequent reasons for referral to special education are reading difficulties and behavior problems."

The behavior problems most often stem from the reading difficulties, and the reading difficulties are due to the lack of teaching phonics, which this report does not even mention. If children were properly taught how to read, write and do mathematics, the vast majority of children in special education would be those with definable physical diagnoses like blindness or cerebral palsy.

A pediatrician has shown time after time that by having children taught to read using phonics, their diagnoses of ADD and LD disappear.

The federally mandated "high standards" that this report praises exacerbate these problems. The loss of academics to behavior modification through Goals 2000/IASA and teaching of job skills via STW/WIA is creating many bored and restless children that are being classified as emotionally disturbed or ADD.

Labeling children has two benefits for the states and schools. First, each school gets $400-500 per child per year for every child with a label and an individualized education plan.

Secondly, children with IEPs do not have to take the state assessments or the NAEP or can have accommodations. This makes each state's scores look better and thereby, increases the amount of federal funds a state receives for adequate yearly progress.

Here is a graph showing Minnesota's amazing rise in children labeled with Other Health Impairment after the 1991 changes to IDEA to include mental and emotional disorders like ADD. This is a 937% increase since those 1991 changes.

Katherine Kersten of the Center for the American Experiment in her paper discussing the problems with Minnesota's implementation of these "standards" said that being "bereft of home-based resources, disadvantaged children must rely on the schools to close the knowledge and vocabulary gap with which they begin life..." Poor children are not receiving that knowledge and vocabulary from the schools, because the schools are more concerned about inculcating attitudes and job skills than on teaching children to read.

Michael Brunner put it very well when he said in his book Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential, "What brings about the delinquency is not academic failure per se, but sustained frustration which results from continued failure to achieve selected academic goals. When frustration can find no resolution into constructive or productive activity, one response...is aggressive, antisocial behavior....The antisocial aggression that Pavlov was able to create in the laboratory is being created in tens of thousands of classrooms across America..."

Not teaching any child the basics is a terrible crime, but it is particularly heinous to deprive inner-city children of this knowledge, because they often will not receive it at home. It is even more heinous when academic knowledge is being replaced with psycho-behavioral mush or students are spending precious academic time going to job sites for various work-based learning activities. All of our children are at risk from this type of education, but the poor will suffer the most.

3. "There are currently no mechanisms in place to guarantee that students will be exposed to state of the art reading instruction or classroom management before they are identified as having a "within child" problem."

This is very true for the reasons just described under conclusion number two above. In order to have children instructed properly, the federal government needs to be out of the education business. The tax money for Title I and IDEA needs to be returned to the states to let each local district set their own standards and be accountable to the parents and taxpayers via locally elected school boards. Right now, schools, parents, and states are accountable to the federal government bureaucracy.

4. "Referral for the high-incidence categories of special education currently requires school failure. However, screening mechanisms exist for early identification of children at risk for later reading and behavior problems. And the effectiveness of early intervention in both these areas has been demonstrated to be considerably greater than the effectiveness of later, post-failure intervention."

As the screening and identification of children with emotional problems was challenged, the effectiveness of early interventions must also be questioned. The report discusses several types of programs that need response:

Early Home Visiting - The 1999 study by the National Physician's Center for Family Resources examined infant home visiting programs all over the nation in a study called The Parent Trainers: A Nationwide Study of Home Visitation Programs. Despite the enthusiasm for these programs in the NAP report, National Physicians' Center found in six control group studies, that there was no decrease in child abuse rates and that even spending $47,000 per family would not improve cognitive development for the child. In addition, there were many other concerns with these programs, such as review of private medical records without permission, lack of informed and voluntary consent for participation, as little as five days of training for the visitors, potential for false or biased information from the visitors, and massive data collection on children and families.

Child Development Programs - The report said that the programs such as the Abecedarian Project and the Infant Health and Development Program had the greatest improvements in cognitive and social development because the interventions began at birth. However, as discussed by John Bruer in The Myth of the First Three Years, these programs were very expensive, costing between $12,000 and $20,000 per child per year, the improvements in IQ were indistinguishable in a normal classroom, and that most of the improvements were related to the mother's educational attainment.

Head Start - The best that this report could say for Head Start is that it showed some positive effects when non-experimental data is examined. That is a very poor showing for 37 years, $44 billion, 17 million children and more than 600 evaluations of this program.

The other major problem is that every Head Start center with more than 20 children has to have a teacher with a CDA (Child Development Associate) credential. The Council on Professional Recognition, which awards this credential was created by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC's professional development standards and curricula are very anti-academic and politically correct.

For example, the civics and social relations standard says, "Become a participating member of the group giving up some individuality for the greater good." This is Marxist and flies in the face of our constitutional system of individual rights. It also is almost identical to the Council on Civic Education's definition of civic virtue, which says, "Civic virtue requires the citizen to place the public or common good above private interest." (Emphasis added). CCE is the organization funded in HR 6 and HR 1 to develop the national standards in civics and government.

Even worse than the anti-academic standards, are the multicultural anti-bias standards. The Council for Professional Recognition uses principles from NAEYC's Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tool for Empowering Young Children in teaching the CDA. For example, standards for children from birth to kindergarten include defining homophobia and discussing homosexuality, engendering a healthy sexual identity and having preschoolers do anatomically correct drawings. They teach religious diversity by discussing witchcraft, and they discuss history from a diverse perspective by describing the first Thanksgiving as "hypothetical" and racist against Native Americans. An entire chapter is devoted to social activism projects with young children. (See Attachment A for quotes).

Early Head Start - There is no proof that this program is effective either, but they continue to develop more ways to monitor children from the womb onward. Hopefully, they will not take 37 years of government funding before they come to the conclusion that the program is worthless.


1. "Recommendation SE.1: The committee recommends that federal guidelines for special education eligibility be changed in order to encourage better integrated general and special education services. We propose that eligibility ensue when a student exhibits large differences from typical levels of performance in one or more domain(s) and with evidence of insufficient response to high-quality interventions in the relevant domain(s) of functioning in school settings. These domains include achievement (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics), social behavior, and emotional regulation. As is currently the case, eligibility determination would also require a judgment by a multidisciplinary team, including parents, that special education is needed."

Integration is not needed. Good instruction in the general classroom is needed. This means teaching phonics and not teaching the NCTM type of fuzzy, "integrated" mathematics. To the extent the committee means to improve general classroom instruction to teach real academics instead of the dumbed-down standards required by Goals 2000, HR 6 and HR 1, we agree.

If academics are taught and taught well, there will be few problems with "social, behavior, and emotional regulation." The vague criteria for identifying social and emotional problems are becoming politicized as the purpose of education is changing, due to these federal mandates, from imparting knowledge that will maintain a free society to minimum academic competencies and entry-level job skills.

The Ithaca, New York Schools are an excellent example of this. According to The Cornell Review as reported by Fox News, "School officials in Ithaca, N.Y., are requiring that first- and second-graders there be graded on their tolerance, reports the Cornell Review. The kids will get grades based on how well they 'respect others of varying cultures, genders, experiences, and abilities.' The grade will appear on report cards under the heading 'Lifelong Learning Skills.' It appears well before social studies, science, reading, or writing." Understand that Lifelong Learning Skills are a part of School to Work.

We strongly recommend a section in IDEA containing this proposed legislation, which says in part "(1) The school district shall be liable for payment to the parent or legal guardian of all legal costs associated with a complaint resulting in a determination of non-compliance; (2) The school district shall be liable for payment to the parent or legal guardian of all medical costs incurred by a student for withdrawal from school-mandated psychiatric drugs; (3) The school district shall be liable for payment to the parent or legal guardian for any permanent harm to a student resulting from the administration of school-mandated psychiatric drugs or physical and mental examinations." (See http://mredcoPAC.org/update46.htm) At the very least, schools should lose their federal education funds when they label and drug children.

2. "Recommendation SE.2: The committee recommends that states adopt a universal screening and multi-tiered intervention strategy in general education to enable early identification and intervention with children at risk for reading problems."

This would not be necessary if phonics were universally taught instead of whole language.

3. "Recommendation SE.3: The committee recommends that states launch large-scale pilot programs in conjunction with universities or research centers to test the plausibility and productivity of universal behavior management interventions, early behavior screening, and techniques to work with children at risk for behavior problems. Research results suggest that these interventions can work. However a large-scale pilot project would provide a firmer foundation of knowledge regarding scaling-up the practices involved."

This is an appallingly bad idea for all of the reasons described. If academics would be taught and tested, instead of attitudes indoctrinated and assessed, there would be far fewer behavior problems in the schools. And the only way to find "children at risk for behavior problems" is to continue and expand the invasive psychosocial evaluations and data collection that are already happening in the schools. This recommendation should be rejected out of hand and the Anti-Coercion legislation described above should be adopted and implemented IMMEDIATELY.

4. "Recommendation SE.4: While the United States has a strong tradition of state control of education, the committee recommends that the federal government support widespread adoption of early screening and intervention in the states."

This is yet another organization that wishes to ignore the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution and further cement federal control of education.

5. "Recommendation TQ.1: State certification or licensure requirements for teachers should systematically require:

Competency in understanding and implementing reasonable norms and expectations for students, and core competencies in instructional delivery of academic content;
The delivery of academic content is the only thing a teacher should be doing.
Coursework and practicum experience in understanding, creating, and modifying an educational environment to meet children's individual needs;
This should be done only to the extent that it is not interfering with the entire class being presented and tested on the required ACADEMIC content.

Competency in behavior management in classroom and non-instructional school settings;
This should only be to maintain the academic learning environment of all the students in the class.
Instruction in functional analysis and routine behavioral assessment of students;
The only time a child should be behaviorally assessed is if he is not meeting the academic requirements of the class or if he is interfering with the learning of others, and then only with the written informed consent of the parents. As stated in the Anti-Coercion Proposed Legislation, "If agreement between the school and the parent or guardian cannot be reached concerning disciplinary measures, decisions of the parent or legal guardian shall take precedence over the recommendations of school staff and administrators. An exception can be made in cases where the pupil poses a physical threat to school staff or other students, or demonstrates an ongoing pattern of disruption that makes it impossible for teachers to meet the learning needs of other students, and for routine in-class and after-school detention for minor infractions of school rules."

Instruction in effective intervention strategies for students who fail to meet minimal standards for successful educational performance, or who substantially exceed minimal standards.
Intervention should be for academic achievement problems or for behavior that interferes with others, and with parental input and decisions as stated above.
Coursework and practicum experience to prepare teachers to deliver culturally responsive instruction. More specifically, teachers should be familiar with the beliefs, values, cultural practices, discourse styles, and other features of students' lives that may have an impact on classroom participation and success and be prepared to use this information in designing instruction."
If true academic instruction were taking place to educate responsible American citizens to understood the heritage and culture of the United States and that all cultures are not equivalent, culturally responsive teacher training would not be necessary.

6. "Recommendation TQ.2: State or professional association approval for educator instructional programs should include requirements for faculty competence in the current literature and research on child and adolescent learning and development, and on successful assessment, instructional, and intervention strategies, particularly for atypical learners and students with gifts and disabilities."

Far fewer children would be labeled with disabilities, obviating the need for teacher training in their assessment and education, if they were taught and tested on academic knowledge instead of indoctrinated, screened and assessed on their attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors about job skills, multiculturalism, and a one-world society run by the United Nations, as evidenced by the CCE standards and the NAEP. The NAEP and CCE standards are mandated and funded by HR 1.

7. "Recommendation TQ.3: A credential as a school psychologist or special education teacher should require instruction in classroom observation/assessment and in teacher support to work with a struggling student or with a gifted student. These skills should be considered as critical to their professional role as the administration and interpretation of tests are now considered."

School psychologists would not be needed in near the numbers they are now to interpret the tests if students were taught academic knowledge. A psychologist is not needed to grade an objective test of knowledge, but is needed to interpret the psychological assessments that are currently given or to further divert the mission of schools from academics to behavior modification.

8. "Recommendation TQ.4: The committee recommends that a national advisory panel be convened in an institutional environment that is protected from political influence to study the quality and currency of programs that now exist to train teachers for general, special, and gifted education."

It is impossible to have an "environment that is protected from political influence" to discuss teacher training. Education, teacher licensing, and assessments, have all been put under federal control because of the ESEA, Goals 2000, School to Work, and the Workforce Investment Act, which were all very political processes. The only way to accomplish this recommendation is to close the Department of Education and return all the federal money to states as block grants and let each school district decide its standards for teacher training as is constitutionally proper.

9. "Recommendation EC.1: The committee recommends that all high-risk children have access to high-quality early childhood interventions."

"For the children at highest risk, these interventions should include family support, health services, and sustained, high-quality care and cognitive stimulation right from birth."
These services are expensive, intrusive and not very effective in the long run. The degree of government control over families is too great a cost for a very small or no benefit.
"Preschool children (ages 4 and 5) who are eligible for Head Start should have access to a Head Start or another publicly funded preschool program. These programs should provide exposure to learning opportunities that will prepare them for success in school. Intervention should target services to the level of individual need, including high cognitive challenge for the child who exceeds normative performance."
The folly of this recommendation is aptly demonstrated by Edward Ziglar, one of the co-founders of Head Start and director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University, who said in 1987, "This is not the first time universal preschool education has been proposed. . . . Then, as now, the arguments in favor of preschool education were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores, and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates. . . . Preschool education will achieve none of these results."

"The proposed expansion should better coordinate existing federal programs, such as Head Start and Early Head Start, and IDEA parts C and B, as well as state-initiated programs that meet equal or higher standards."
Federal pre-school programs should not be expanded and integrated - they should be eliminated. As stated above, there is little or no evidence of their effectiveness, but great cost, massive data collection, and intrusive government control over families.

"Recommendation EC.2: The committee recommends that the federal government launch a large-scale, rigorous, sustained research and development program in an institutional environment that has the capacity to bring together excellent professionals in research, program development, professional development, and child care/preschool practice for students from all backgrounds and at all levels of exceptional performance."

The need for what is recommended here is based on two false premises.

The first is that the brains of children who do not have intensive and high quality childcare and preschool will not develop properly. Here are several of many possible quotes from neuroscientists and educators that disprove that notion:

"What neuroscientists know about synaptogenesis does not support a claim that zero to three is a critical period for humans. ... Finally, there is no evidence, or even the suggestion, that specific kinds of learning experiences or early childhood environments influence the rate, duration, or outcome of synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning." - Dr. John Bruer, director, James McDonnell Foundation, Education Researcher, November, 1997

"Available evidence indicates that such critical periods are more exceptional than typical in human development… Assertions that the die has been cast by the time the child enters school are not supported by neuroscience evidence and can create unwarranted pessimism about the potential efficacy of interventions that are initiated after the preschool years." - Jack Schonkoff and Deborah Phillips, ed., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 216

"The new scientific research doesn't say that parents should provide special 'enriching' experiences to babies over and above what they experience in everyday life." - Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, and Patricia Kuhl, The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1999, p.182

The other false premise is that children arrive at kindergarten unprepared intellectually to be there. Yet, the Department of Education's own study belies that concept as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Study "America's Kindergartners," (NCES 2000-070, February, 2000):
94% are proficient at recognizing numbers, shapes, and counting to ten
92% are eager to learn
97% are in good health

Darcy Olson, early childhood policy analyst for the Cato Institute, explained another way why federally controlled early childhood programs are not needed:

"It's also in the early years when American students are most competitive internationally. Consider France, England, Denmark, Spain and Belgium where more than 90 percent of 4-year-olds attend public preschools. International tests show that by age 9, when the benefits of preschool should be most apparent, American children outscore nearly all of their universally preschooled peers on tests of reading, math, and science." - National Center of Education Statistics, "Elementary and Secondary Education: An International Perspective," Department of Education, March, 2000, pp. 50-56 as quoted by Darcy Olsen, Cato Institute, in Human Events, 9/1/2000

It is not until they have had 8-12 years of fuzzy, non-academic, outcome based teaching that American students slide to the bottom of the heap in international tests. If this push for early education is not stopped, the second graders will be joining their eighth and twelfth grade counterparts.

The following two recommendations concern data collection and will be considered together:
10. "Recommendation DC.1: The committee recommends that the Department of Education conduct a single, well-designed data collection effort to monitor both the number of children receiving services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or through programs for the gifted and talented, and the characteristics of those children of concern to civil rights enforcement efforts."
11. "Recommendation DC.2: The committee recommends that a national advisory panel be convened to design the collection of nationally - representative longitudinal data that would allow for more informed study of minority disproportion in special education and gifted and talented programs."

There is already an amazing and appalling amount of data collected on America's children and families. One look at the Student Data Handbook of the NCES as well as the demographic questions on the NAEP and other standardized tests, the data collected by home visitors, early childhood family educations programs, Head Start, Early Head Start, surveys, etc. show how very difficult it is to believe that there is not already more than enough data to answer whatever questions anyone might have. This committee seems to agree with Paul Popenoe, of the American Eugenics Society and editor of the Journal of Heredity, when he said in 1926, "The educational system should be a sieve, through which all the children of the country are passed...It is very desirable that no child escape inspection..."

12. "Recommendation RD.1: We recommend that education research and development, including that related to special and gifted education, be substantially expanded to carry promising findings and validated practices through to classroom applicability. This includes research on scaling up promising practices from research sites to widespread use."

Special education is the most heinous outcome of what is described as the illiteracy cartel by Beverly Eakman, author of Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. The teacher's unions want more pupils for their teachers to teach. The state and federal bureaucrats want more people to control and more stupid drones who won't resist the centrally planned system they are setting up, and the drug companies want more profits and so are always seeking more patients labeled with fictitious disorders.

Instead of millions of children placed on dangerous medications like Ritalin and deprived of a good education, those that would be deprived of control and profits are the teachers' unions, the state and federal bureaucrats, the central planners, and the drug companies. Our liberty and sovereignty would be restored. What a refreshing change that would be.


Anti-Bias Curriculum - Tools for Empowering Young Children (Derman-Sparkes, NAEYC, Washington D.C., 1989

That's Not Fair! - A Teacher's Guide to Activism with Young Children. (Pelo and Davidson, Redleaf Press, St. Paul, MN, 2000)