I’ve been writing over the past few days about a report on Kentucky’s special education programs that was given to the legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education on Monday. Until now, my comments have focused on data slides directly discussed in the meeting. However, as I read through the companion report I was absolutely awestruck by a huge imbalance in the different rates of special education enrollment for boys versus girls. Whether we are talking about mental retardation (MR), speech language problems (S/L), emotional behavioral disorders (EBD), other health impairment (OHI), specific learning disability (SLD), multiple disabilities (MD), or development delay (DD) doesn’t matter. As this table, which is an extract from Table 2.4 in the report shows, boys greatly outnumber girls in special education enrollment.
For example, among all students identified as having mental retardation (MR) in Kentucky, 58.5 percent are boys and only 41.5 percent are girls. In most of the disability categories, males are more than twice as likely to be identified as females. For autism, the rate of identification is more than 5.5 times higher for males – a way out of balance situation.
Can it really be that boys face so many more education challenges? Are we grossly under-identifying girls? Is our education system hostile to boys? What’s going on here? Someone better start asking some serious questions.