The Consequences of Overidentification in Special Education

May 24, 2023
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The issue of special education and the rights of people with disabilities is one of the most debated topics in the United States. A significant problem in special education is overidentification, which occurs when students are incorrectly labeled as having a disability and are placed in special education programs. This issue has serious consequences, such as limiting opportunities for students who do not require special education programs, as well as increasing the costs of special education. This essay will discuss the problem of overidentification in special education and its impact on the rights of people with disabilities.

One of the major reasons for overidentification is the reliance on subjective measures to identify students with disabilities. Often, students are identified as having a disability based on subjective evaluations by educators, which may be influenced by biases, stereotypes, or lack of proper training. For instance, students who may be struggling academically may be automatically identified as having a disability when they only need additional academic support. Overidentification leads to the misallocation of resources and may restrict opportunities for students who genuinely require specialized services.

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Moreover, overidentification can negatively affect students who are unnecessarily placed in special education programs. According to the National Council on Disability, students who are overidentified often receive less rigorous academic programs and lower quality instruction. As a result, they may have lower graduation rates, fewer opportunities for post-secondary education or employment, and face stigmatization due to being placed in a separate environment from their non-disabled peers. This, in turn, can impact their social and emotional development.

The problem of overidentification also has financial implications for special education programs. When students are overidentified, schools may be required to provide unnecessary special education services, which can be costly. The National Council on Disability estimates that providing special education services to students who are overidentified costs over $1 billion annually in the United States. These funds could be better utilized in providing quality services to students who actually require specialized support.

To tackle the issue of overidentification in special education, there are several strategies that educators and schools can adopt. Firstly, educators should receive training on how to accurately identify students with disabilities, which includes the use of objective measures such as standardized assessments. Secondly, schools should implement a multi-tiered system of support that offers targeted interventions to all students who are struggling academically, not just those who are identified as having a disability. This would prevent unnecessary referrals to special education programs. Finally, schools should ensure that students who are placed in special education programs receive high-quality instruction and are integrated with their non-disabled peers as much as possible.

In conclusion, overidentification in special education is a multifaceted issue with serious implications for students, schools, and society at large. It is essential to address this problem to ensure that students with disabilities receive the services and support they require to excel academically and socially. By using evidence-based strategies to accurately identify students with disabilities and provide appropriate support, we can guarantee that special education programs are effective and cost-efficient, while respecting the rights of people with disabilities.

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The Consequences of Overidentification in Special Education. (2020, September 28). WritingBros. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
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