Some Schools Get More Testing Accommodations

It's no secret that some wealthier schools and parents have learned to game the special education system, but this Diane Rado Tribune story shows that the abuses -- and the inequities -- continue to grow, with both full IEPs and easier to get Section 504 accommodations being used at schools at rates that probably reflect savvy rather than actual need.

"When it comes to individual schools, Chicago's Edison and Lenart regional gifted centers topped the list for special accommodations in the six-county region. About 9.4 percent of students had 504 plans at Edison, 7.6 percent at Lenart."

Is this happening at your school?  Are there ways to combat it, or at least to make the accommodations more widely available throughout the city?

From the Tribune's Diane Rado via the UofC UEI twitter feed.


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  • thanks for the comment and i like your intensity but it's hard to read the article and get any other impression.

    why else are the referral rates so different from school to school?

  • As a special education teacher, I'm really insulted by the implication that the special education system exists to be "gamed" and that the accommodations offered to students with special needs provide them with "unfair advantage" in some way. Students get IEPs and 504s because they need them, and because they deserve them - not because the students or their families are looking to 'game the system.' Shame on you for such incendiary and frankly, ignorant 'gamesmanship' of your own.

  • In reply to Anon:

    I hate to break it to you but there are plenty of parents who are gaming the system. I have seen quite a few 504 plans for kids who just need to get their act together. The issue these parents are paying thousands of dollars to get an outside evaluation and then bring it to the school and say "I want my kid to get special treatment." It's common practice and I don't hear people hiding it either. They think a kid with average grades and a 504 has a better chance at high school.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    While it is certainly true that some parents will agitate more than others there are criteria for both IEPs and 504 plans that must be met. A child has to have some sort of diagnosed condition that impacts their academic performance in some way. If the child meets the criteria then the child should get services. If the child does not meet the criteria then the LEA can easily deny services. The data is what it is at the end of the day regardless of how loudly a parent might squawk. It's up to the LEA to determine how to service (or not).

  • In reply to Anon:

    Simple - parents in poor areas do not have the education and savvy, themselves, to advocate for their children. I teach in an impoverished inner city school, and I give my students accommodations because I know that's what they need. These students often don't live with their parents - some live with grandparents or aunts caring for the children of their incapacitated/incarcerated loved ones, and quite a few are fending for themselves on the streets. Let's not even talk about students in foster care. As with everything else in this world, opportunity in all of its forms comes down to money and privilege, which together equal access.

  • The article is one big "DUH." Parents in higher SES schools are quicker to notice problems, seek evaluations, and get treatment for their children. By far most 504's are for ADHD and food allergies, neither of which the school can diagnose on its own. Poor families may not have access to medical care and so their children with ADHD may go undiagnosed. It's not like they don't need a 504 - they just don't get it because the school doesn't provide those particular diagnostic services. Again, DUH. The author seems to be saying that just because poor children have fewer 504's than rich children, the rich kids must be cheating to get them. Um, no. That is like saying that poor kids aren't starving - rich kids are just eating too much. Schools with higher rates of 504's should be applauded for getting their students the accommodations they need.

  • Let's not join the bandwagon to limit services to children. The services are all ready too limited as it is. So many students get no services at all even when they really need them.

  • "the abuses -- and the inequities -- continue to grow, with both full IEPs and easier to get Section 504 accommodations being used at schools at rates that probably reflect savvy rather than actual need."

    You've got to be kidding me. The gap between real needs and provided accommodations in CPS is yawningly huge. To position parents as "savvy" and "gaming" the sped/ADA system is just sick. Man, I would trade you my kid's disabilities & his IEP for your kid's neurotypical brain in a red-hot minute.

  • One reason Edison and Lenart regional gifted centers have such a high percentage of students with section 504 plans is simply because in general these students have high overall composite IQ scores. These students are commonly called in the parlance of special education twice-exceptional students. This issue needed to be examined in depth and not just the issue relating to gaming the testing system.

    Getting a very high functioning student identified as learning disabled or even as autistic, in the case of students with huge math skill that have Asperger's syndrome or pervasive developmental disorders, is no easy thing even with a psychiatric diagnosis. I have myself been involved in getting 504 plans for these students as a way to avoid a due process situation. Due process cases of this type are extremely difficult to win because it is not always easy to show what is called adverse educational impact.

    There are students currently attending the private Hyde Park and Cove day schools, which specialize in learning disabilities that were found legally not to be disabled by school districts because they were so overall intelligent. Last week on Friday I was on WBEZ's program Afternoon Shift actually discussing one young student who had significant dyslexia, but who also had off the charts verbal and math skills that is currently attending Hyde Park day school. I see these complex type of students' families regularly in my advocacy work.

    Rod Estvan

  • This "article" is making some ridiculous assumptions. There are so many students who could use help who are denied IEPs and 504 plans and they are sidelined by RTI - which can on indefinitely - which does not have federal law to cite when things go badly for the student... then, when you finally do get the IEP, made with the best intentions by all, the IEP is not followed - these are the issues that should be discussed. Just because a student with dyslexia or Asperger's syndrome may have a gifted-level IQ in one area, they might be severely impaired in another. (This is the case with my son.) Or they might have a psychological disorder (such as anxiety or bi-polar) that may require testing accommodations. Why prevent children from doing well when they can? That's what education should be about, not high test scores=money.

  • That original story in the Trib was biased, insulting and full of stupid assumptions. Ignorant. Sad.

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