Speed Reads

Education

Students in the wealthiest districts are obtaining disability accommodations at much higher rates, report finds

Disability accommodations for schoolwork and testing are not distributed equally across the socioeconomic spectrum, The New York Times reports.

More students than ever in the United States are reportedly securing disability diagnoses, which often allow them to receive extra time for class work and tests, including standardized tests like the ACT and SAT which have bearing on college acceptance. The Times reports that in the country's wealthiest school districts students are obtaining 504 plans — a federal disability designation — at higher rates.

For example, while analyzing Department of Education data, the Times found that in the top 1 percent of wealthiest districts, 5.8 percent of students held a 504 plan, which is twice the national average. In some communities, like Weston, Connecticut, where the average annual income is $220,000, the rate was as high as 18 percent. Meanwhile, in the Cleveland Metropolitan School district, less than 1 percent of students had obtained a 504 plan. Further, a larger percentage of white students held a 504 plan than any other race.

The data does not include private schools, but in some areas, private school students reportedly are even more likely to qualify for accommodations.

The Times reports that while cases of outright fraud are rare, the system is vulnerable to abuse, in part because private mental health practitioners can operate with limited oversight. But speculation about gaming the system aside, the Times reports that the disparity more broadly represents unequal access to resources. Tim O'Donnell