The Need to Believe in the Ability of Disability

  • Scientific Director, The Imagination Institute

    Our society has clear expectations regarding students who don’t fit the norm. In a 2004 national survey reported in Education Week, 84 percent of 800 surveyed special and general education teachers did not believe that students in special education should be expected to meet the same set of academic standards articulated for students without disabilities. These beliefs are important, as they guide policies that either encourage or hinder students with disabilities from receiving the same opportunities to flourish as everyone else.

    The diversity among those receiving disability-related educational services is enormous. But regardless of this diversity, the majority of these students often share one common experience: their classification involves the use of an IQ test. To be sure, even the harshest critics of IQ testing acknowledge that IQ scores are related to academic achievement. On average, IQ test scores account for 40 to 50 percent of academic achievement — which is very high in psychological and educational research. This also means that 50 to 60 percent of student achievement is related to within-child factors beyond IQ, such as specific abilities, creativity, grit, motivation, emotional and cognitive self-regulation, passion and inspiration, as well as external variables such as community, school, and instructional characteristics.

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