School & District Management

Wide Background Disparities Found in Those With ADHD

By Christina A. Samuels — April 11, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A white boy who lives in the city and has an older teacher is more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than a black girl who lives in the South and has a white teacher, according to a study of thousands of elementary school students that was published in the April issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In addition, children are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, a condition characterized by inattentiveness or impulsivity, in states with strong state-level school accountability laws, the study adds.

The study developed a scale of four measures of accountability: state school report cards, school ratings, rewards for schools based on test scores, and sanctions based on scores. A child in a state with one such accountability measure was 1.32 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than a child in a state with none, and the likelihood increased as accountability measures were added.

“Who Receives a Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States Elementary School Population?” is posted by the journal Pediatrics.

Such a correlation was expected, said Helen Schneider, a visiting professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and one of the study’s co-authors. But “it was a little bit surprising how significant it was,” she said.

Ms. Schneider and Daniel Eisenberg, an assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, gathered their data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a U.S. Department of Education-funded data-collection effort on thousands of children across the country. The data are made available to researchers for a variety of studies.

The authors studied a cohort of children who started kindergarten in fall 1998, and the same children in spring 2002. Most of the students were in 3rd grade, unless they skipped or repeated one or more grades. The sample size ranged from 5,998 children to 9,278 children, depending on what variables were being measured.

By the time the children had reached 3rd grade, about 5.4 percent of them had a diagnosis of ADHD, according to the study. Several factors were found to give children a significantly higher chance of receiving that diagnosis, including being male, white, living in an urban location, or being born to parents from the United States.

Greater Vigilance?

Accountability standards played a role, the researchers suggested, because teachers and schools in those states with tougher standards could have an extra incentive to recommend evaluation if it led to treatment that improved academics and reduced problematic behavior.

The researchers also found a correlation between being born in the summer, possibly because those children are younger than others in the same grade and therefore appear to be more impulsive and immature than their older classmates, Ms. Schneider said.

George A. Giuliani, the co-director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers, in Washington, said such research will prompt more conversation about accountability standards and their role in schools and ADHD evaluations.

“It’s good we’re taking notice, because this is definitely an issue that teachers are facing,” said Mr. Giuliani, who is an education professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, an adviser to Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a Landover, Md., group, said the study found some interesting correlations. The research could be suggesting that in states with strict accountability standards, “there might be greater vigilance or a lower threshold for diagnosis,” he said.

But it is no surprise that a variety of factors play a role in the diagnosis of ADHD. “You could probably show this for anything,” said Dr. Adesman, the chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Diagnosed asthma, for example, is not randomly distributed throughout the population, he said. Just as with ADHD, some of the variability in reported frequency of that condition is related to differences in rates of diagnosis and availability of treatment, he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Wide Background Disparities Found in Those With ADHD

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Medicaid Changes Could Provide a Big Boost to School Mental Health Services
A new law could make it easier for schools to bill Medicaid for services like counseling and health screenings.
6 min read
A boy sits on a small wooden chair, leaning over a small wooden table to color as he talks to a woman who sits across from him on a low grey sofa.
mmpile/E+
School & District Management Opinion Start the School Year With Purpose. Here Are 5 Priorities
Despite the challenges educators face, they know how to improve schools for students and teachers, writes an education professor.
Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of public school opening for a new school year
sangaku/iStock/Getty
School & District Management School Leaders With Disabilities: 'It's Important to Share That You're Not Alone'
Educators say their own experience gives them insight into the needs of students with disabilities and how to support them.
14 min read
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He says the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder. On June 24, 2022, he starts his day in the Media Studio as fifth-grader Anna Villa prepares for the morning newscast.
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He said the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder.
Christopher Capozziello for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You're an Educator. What Can You Stop Doing This Year?
Teachers and education leaders often feel stretched for time. Here are 9 ways to rethink your schedule.
5 min read
CartoonStock 543822 CS458303
Cartoon Stock