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Report: N.J. Black

Report: N.J. Black
Students More Likely to Be Classified as Mentally Retarded

A national education report released recently found that Black students in New Jersey are 3.6 times more likely to be classified as mentally retarded than White students. That rate is higher than any other state.
But while there is great disparity between Black and White students being classified, the state had the lowest overall percentage in the nation of students who were designated mentally retarded, with 3.2 percent compared to the national average of  9.9 percent.
The findings come from the “Quality Counts” reports published each year by Education Week, a national education newspaper. The numbers are for the 2002-2003 school year. 
The study examined how the 50 states are complying with the federal law requiring all students, including those with disabilities, to perform at the “proficient level” on state tests.
While the state has made some progress in improving special education, the report raised concerns among educators and civil rights leaders who worry that students may not be getting resources they need.
“It’s a really complex thing that is linked to poverty more than anything else,” said Dr. William Behre, chairman of the special education, language and literacy department at The College of New Jersey. “School systems historically have treated Black kids poorly, particularly Black males.”
The report relies on federal and state education data but does not break down the information for specific school districts or factors that may have led to classifications, which may vary from state to state.
New Jersey uses strict guidelines based on intelligence tests and behavioral standards in the classification process, which explains the small percentage of students classified as mentally retarded.
Nationally, Black students are 2.3 times more likely to be classified as mentally retarded than Whites. Hispanic students in New Jersey are 2.3 times as likely to be classified than Whites.  
— Associated Press

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