By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In Massachusetts, a report to the state board of Elementary and Secondary Education shows that many low income districts place students in special education classes for mild and questionable disabilities, swelling the number to 163,000.

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The issue is — if those students are in special ed classes because of legitimate disabilities, or weak academic programs that cause them to fall behind, or because some teachers want unruly kids out of their classrooms.

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Thomas Hehir of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, one of the report’s authors, believes low income students might be diagnosed with disabilities at higher rates because they’re more susceptible to health problems caused by lead or poor prenatal care.

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Enrollment in special ed involves some level of subjective interpretation that is greater than specialists consider appropriate. While the problem is universal, officials are concerned that Massachusetts is second highest in the nation. Read the report at DOE.Mass.edu.