A recent report commissioned by the Pittsburgh Public Schools concludes that it identifies too many students as eligible for special education. The report was conducted by evaluators of the Council of The Great City Schools, an association of very large school districts. A news article on the report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is available here . You can read the entire report here .
The report authors noted that "...that too many teachers and staff members were using special education as an escape hatch when they did not know what else to do with students who were experiencing learning or behavioral problems..." The evaluators found that 19.2% of Pittsburgh students are identified as eligible for special education. This contrasts with a rate in the country as a whole of 12.1%.
One category of eligibility was noted in particular, emotional disturbance. 16.9% of Pittsburgh students were found eligible under this category. Nationwide the rate is 7.4%. Interestingly, nearly a third of the students referred for ED evaluations were from just seven schools.
It is interesting first of all that the Pittsburgh school board paid a lot of money to obtain this study. That has to be a good sign. Now that the problems are identified, the question is how they will be addressed.