Office for Civil Rights Annual Report to Congress FY 2003

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Putting Reading First

One of the goals set by No Child Left Behind is that all children will read on grade level by the third grade. The Department has determined that, to reach this goal, reading instruction must be based on sound scientific research. Research has established a link between ineffective reading instruction and unusually high numbers of referrals for special education. Survey data have long shown that minority students in particular may be mislabeled in certain special education categories. Students inappropriately placed in special education often do not receive the same curriculum content as regular education students and may face barriers in their later efforts to obtain a regular high school diploma, pursue postsecondary education, and prepare for employment.

"My Administration will continue to promote policies that expand educational opportunities for Americans from all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds."

President George W. Bush
June 23, 2003

Therefore, OCR emphasizes the importance of implementing high quality research-based reading programs to reduce the number of students who are misidentified and inappropriately placed in special education. Through its investigative outreach and technical assistance activities, OCR helps ensure that all children have equal access to high quality education.

In April 2003, OCR launched nationwide compliance reviews in 37 school districts around the country on the issue of the misidentification of minority students in special education. The reviews focus on school districts' possible misidentification of minority students and language minority students as disabled and their placement in special education programs. Where OCR identifies civil rights violations, it will work with districts to determine whether existing reading programs are effective or are contributing to the inappropriate referral of minorities. As necessary, OCR provides technical assistance to school districts in identifying effective, research-based reading programs.

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Last Modified: 09/25/2018