the direction of requiring additional supports for more students, some policy changes exert countervailing pressure. Proposed 2001 congressional reauthorizations of Title I and other sections of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would affect the delivery of services to students at high risk of educational failure through the inclusion of new emphases on reading and limitations on bilingual education. The availability of additional resources for compensatory and bilingual education allows for the needs of more students to be addressed in the general education context, reducing pressure to expand the numbers of students requiring special education.
The impact of the standards movement and high-stakes testing on disproportionality in identification of and services for gifted students remains to be seen. The imposition of high-stakes testing may reduce the amount of time that is devoted to teaching high-end learning that will stimulate the talent and thinking of the gifted student, particularly in classes in which many students struggle to meet the standards.
Our first task as a committee was to look at the data on students assigned to special education and gifted education by racial/ethnic groups to determine whether and to what extent disproportion exists. We present our analysis of the available data in Chapter 2. Part II of the report looks at early experience. To understand the observed disproportion, we address our first question in Chapter 3: “Is there reason to believe that there is currently a higher incidence of special needs or giftedness among some racial/ethnic groups?” We look at influences in the early childhood period that may affect the cognitive and behavioral development of children in ways that raise the probability of later special education placement—or lower the probability of being identified for gifted and talented programs. In Chapter 4 we look at early intervention programs designed to improve the developmental trajectory of disadvantaged children.
In Part III we look at the school experience, beginning with general education and then special and gifted education. In Chapter 5 we address our second question: “Does schooling independently contribute to the incidence of special needs or giftedness among students in different racial/ ethnic groups through the opportunities that it provides?” The chapter spans issues of educational resources, potential bias toward minority students, and instructional and classroom management practices that may be helpful in placing at-risk students on a path to school success.
In the next three chapters we look at referral and assessment practices in special and gifted education. Here we address our third question: “Does the current referral and assessment process reliably identify students with special needs and gifts? In particular, is there reason to believe that the