More Students Are Getting Special Help in Grades K-12

Douglas Belkin and Tawnell D. Hobbs:

More students are getting extra help for a range of issues including ADHD and anxiety, data show, with a disproportionate amount of those receiving support attending schools in wealthier districts.

From the 2009-10 school year to 2015-16, the number of public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade granted accommodations known as 504 plans more than doubled, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data.

504 plans are designed to level the academic playing field for K-12 students who face a variety of physical and emotional challenges by providing services such as extended time for tests, including college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.

The data show high rates of students receiving accommodations in wealthier districts and lower rates in poorer ones. In some wealthy schools, as many as one in five students receive this type of accommodation.

Awareness and diagnoses of mental-health issues have been rising in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factors in the lopsided growth include gaps in both resources at schools and information among parents about the plans, advocates say.