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Journal Issue: Special Education for Students with Disabilities Volume 6 Number 1 Spring 1996

Identification and Assessment of Students with Disabilities
Daniel J. Reschly

Components of a ProposedFunding System

One of the critical purposes of the current classification system involves funding. Classification of a student as disabled produces markedly greater educational resources. A variety of bases for funding additional services have been discussed for many years. (See the article by Parrish and Chambers in this journal issue.) The funding system suggested below is consistent with the system reforms described in this article.

Number of Deficits

The number of deficits exhibited by the student could be one of the bases for generation of additional monies. Students with significant discrepancies over greater numbers of functional dimensions typically require more special education services, as well as services of greater complexity or intensity. However, such a determination should not be written in stone. Students with a smaller number of deficits but with persistent problems likely to influence their future employment and other adult goals may benefit from intensive services.

Degree of Discrepancy

A second funding variable could be the degree of discrepancy on each of the dimensions in which deficits exist. Larger discrepancies typically indicate greater need, requiring greater resources for effective intervention. At the same time, this should not be used as a justification for giving low priority to early intervention for students whose deviations from the norm are not yet great.

Complexity of Intervention

The complexity dimension involves at least two components: the skills or competencies of professionals who work with students and the need for special equipment or special environments to carry out effective interventions. For example, an intervention with a student exhibiting what now could be called a behavior disorder might involve the addition of a classroom aide over a period of several weeks during certain periods of the day for the purpose of implementing and monitoring a behavioral intervention. The cost of this intervention may be considerably less than an intervention that requires a fully certified teacher with a master's degree working with a very small group of students over the entire year.

Intensity of Intervention

Intervention intensity includes at least two components: the amount of time required to carry out an intervention over a typical school day and the length of the intervention. Interventions requiring greater intensity should receive more resources than interventions requiring less intensity.

The four funding variables suggested here might be regarded as weighting factors in a regression equation that would yield a total amount of dollars available to support the special education of a particular student. These kinds of analyses, using quite different variables, were suggested by Hobbs,51 who noted that gross categories for funding were obsolete. The advantages of a funding system that focused on variables such as number of deficits over functional dimensions, degree of discrepancies, complexity of interventions, and intensity of interventions could be a well-integrated classification system with a consistent philosophy that could be implemented at all stages, including screening, prereferral intervention, classification, programming, and funding.

On the other hand, such changes should be accompanied by evaluation of the revised system. The current system has been criticized for spending a substantial amount of special education's resources on evaluation. Would the revised system proposed here require more or fewer resources for evaluation of students? Would it give adequate priority to prevention and early intervention efforts? Would it create unintended incentives to classify students in certain ways? These questions should be addressed by those who implement revised funding and evaluation systems.