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Shifting Trends in Special Education Essay

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute. is. the. nation’s. leader. in. advancing. educational. excellence. for. every. child. through. quality. research,. analysis,. and. commentary,. as. well. as. on-the-ground. action. and. advocacy. in. Ohio.. It. is. affiliated. with. the. Thomas.. B.. Fordham. Foundation,. and. this. publication. is. a.. joint. project. of. the. Foundation. and. the. Institute… For. further. information,. please. visit. our. website. at. www. edexcellence. net. or. write. to. the. Institute. at.. 1016. 16th. St.. NW,. 8th. Floor,. Washington,. D. C.. 20036…

The. Institute. is. neither. connected. with. nor..sponsored. by. Fordham. University. A. big. thank. you. goes. out. to. the. whole. Fordham. team. for. their. assistance. on. this. project,. especially. Michael. Petrilli. and. Chester. E.. Finn,. Jr.. for. their. project. guidance. and. astute. feedback,. to. Daniela. Fairchild. for. production. management,. to. ©istockphoto. com/ AnithaCumming. for. the. snappy. cover. image,. and.. to. Amy. Fagan. for. dissemination.. The. smart. layout. design. is. the. work. of. Alton. Creative. and. the.. “Ed. Shorts”. logo. of. Laura. Elizabeth. Pohl. Conclusion.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Appendix A.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Figure. A1:. Proportion. of. the. National. Student.. Population. with. Disabilities,. 1976-77. to. 2009-10. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Table. A1:. National. Number. of. Students.. with. Disabilities. by. Category,. 2000-01. to. 2009-10. . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Table. A2:. Students. with. Disabilities. by. State,.. 2000-01. to. 2009-10. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18. Appendix B. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Federal. Disability. Definitions.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Endnotes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21. SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > EXECUTIVE SUMM ARY Executive Summary Special. education. is. a. field. in. flux.. After. decades. of. steady. increases,. the. population. of. students. with. disabilities. peaked. in. 2004-05. with. 6. 72. million. youngsters,. comprising. 13. 8. percent. of. the. nation’s. student. population..

The. following. year. marked. the. first. time. since. the. enactment. of. the. Individuals. with. Disabilities. Education. Act. (IDEA). that. special-education. participation. numbers. declined—and. they. have. continued. to. do. so,. falling. to. 6. 48. million. students. by. 2009-10,. or. 13. 1. percent. of. all. students. nationwide.

This. report. examines. trends. in. the. number. of. special-education. students. and. personnel. at. both. the. national. and. state. levels. from. 2000-01. to. 2009-10.. It. finds. that. the. overall. population. of. special-education. students,. after. decades. of. increases,. peaked. in. the.2004-05. school. year. and. has. declined. since..

But. within. this. population,. individual. categories. of. students. with. disabilities. differed. markedly. in. thei r. trajectories: ». . he. population. of. students. identified. as. having. “specific. learning. disabilities,”. the. most. prevalent. of. all. T dis. bility. types,. declined. considerably. throughout. the. decade,. falling. from. 2. 86. million. to. 2. 43. million. a students,. or. from. 6. 1. to. 4. 9. percent. of. all. students. nationwide. ». . ther. shrinking. disability. categories. included. mental. retardation,. which. dropped. from. 624,000. to. 463,000.

O students,. or. from. 1. 3. to. 0. 9. percent. of. all. pupils,. and. emotional. disturbances,. which. fell. from. 480,000. to. 407,000. students,. or. from. 1. 0. to. 0. 8. percent. ». . utism. and. “other. health. impairment”. (OHI). populations. increased. dramatically.. The. number. of. autisA tic. students. quadrupled. from. 93,000. to. 378,000,. while. OHI. numbers. more. than. doubled. from. 303,000. to. 689,000.. Even. so,. autistic. and. OHI. populations. constituted. only. 0. 8. and. 1. 4. percent,. respectively,. of. all. students. in. 2009-10. In. addition,. state-level. special-education. trends. varied. dramatically: ».. hode. Island,. New. York,. and.

Massachusetts. reported. the. highest. rates. of. disability. identification. in. 2009R 10;. Rhode. Island. was. the. only. state. with. more. than. 18. percent. of. its. student. body. receiving.. special-education. services. ». . exas,. Idaho,. and. Colorado. reported. the. lowest. rates. of. disability. identification. in. 2009-10.. Adjusting.. T for. overall. population. size,. Texas. identified. just. half. as. many. students. with. disabilities. as. Rhode. Island:. 9. 1. percent. of. its. total. student. body. States. also. varied. in. their. special-education. personnel. practices,. so.

much. so. that. the. accuracy. of. the. data. they. report. to. Washington. is. in. question.. Nationally,. schools. ostensibly. employed. 129. special-education. teachers. and. paraprofessionals. for. every. thousand. special-education. students. in. 2008-09,. up. from. 117. per. thousand. in. 2000-01.. At. the. state. level,. this. ranged. from. a. reported. 320. per. thousand. in. New. Hampshire,. to. thirty-eight. per. thousand. in. Mississippi.. (We. appreciate. the. implausibility. of. these. numbers,. which. come. from. the. only. available. official. source. )

1 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > I NTRODUCTION Introduction Last. summer,. New. Jersey’s. Star-Ledger. ran. a. hard-hitting. piece. about. the. condition. of. education. finance. in. the. Garden. State.. It. bemoaned. a. dismal. school-system. budget. in. which. teachers. had. been. laid. off,. extracurricular. activities. scrapped,. and. free. transportation. curtailed.. But. one. budgetary. category. had. been. spared:. special. education. “This. is. an. area. that. is. completely. out. of. control. and. in. desperate. need. of. reform,”. said. Larrie.

Reynolds,. superintendent. in. the. Mount. Olive. School. District,. where. special-education. spending. rose. 17. percent.this. year.. “Everything. else. has. a. finite. limit.. Special. education—in. this. state,. at. least—is. similar. to. the. universe.. It. has. no. end.. It. is. the. untold. story. of. what. every. school. district. is. dealing. with. ” 1 And. so. it. is.. Special. education. consumes. a. hefty. slice. of. the. education. pie,. comprising. an. estimated. 21. percent. of. all. education. spending. in. 2005.. That. slice. is. growing,. too..

Forty-one. percent. of. all. increases. in. education. spending. between. 1996. and. 2005. went. to. fund. it. 2 As. Superintendent. Reynolds. indicated,. special. education. is. a. field.in. urgent. need. of. reform.. Not. only. is. its. funding. widely. seen. as. sacrosanct—due. to. federal. “maintenance. of. effort”. requirements,. strong. special-education. lobbies,. nervous. superintendents,. entrenched. traditions,. and. inertia,. as. well. as. a. collective. sense. that. we. should. do. right. by. these. kids—but. America’s. approach. to. it. is. also. antiquated..

Despite. good. intentions. and. some. reform. efforts,. the. field. is. still. beset. by. a. compliance-oriented. mindset. that. values. process. over. outcomes.. Thirty-six. years. after. Congress. passed. the. Education. for. All. Handicapped.

Chil dren. Act. (now. the. Individuals. with. Disabilities. Education. Act. or. IDEA),. the. rigidities. and. shortcomings. of. yesterday’s. approach. have. become. overwhelming,. as. have. the. dollar. costs.. There. has. to. be. a. better. way. We. at. the. Thomas. B.. Fordham. Institute. seek. to. help. chart. a. different. path,. doing. right. by. children. with. special. needs. while. recognizing. both. that. every. youngster. is. special. in. some. way. and. that. the. taxpayer’s. pocket. is. not. bottomless.. This. is. the. first. of. several. special-education. eye. openers. that. we’re. undertaking.

3. Ten. years. ago,.we. dipped. our. toes. into. the. turbid. waters. of. special-education. policy. via. a. set. of. thought-provoking. papers. in. a. volume. titled. Rethinking Special Education for a New Century. 4. The. fundamental. shift. from. compliance. to. outcomes. that. we. advocated. in. that. volume. has,. for. the. most. part,. not. come. to. pass. (though. we. may. see. a. glimmer. of. hope. in. the. implementation. of. Response. to. Intervention. [RTI]. programs).. Still,. someday—probably. after. the. delayed. reauthorization. of. the. Elementary. and. Secondary. Education. Act—Congress. will. again. take. up. IDEA..

Methodologypecial-education. student-population. data. (referred. to. in. federal. reporting. requirements. as. “child. count”). and. personnel. data. were. drawn. from. the. Data. Accountability. Center,. funded. by. the. Office. of. Special. Education. Programs. in. the. U. S.. Department. of. Education. and. located. at. ideadata. org. 5. Child-count. totals. are. reported. each. year. by. states. and. include. all. children. ages. three. to. twenty-one. identified. with. disabilities.

6. Thus,. the. term. “students. with. disabilities”. in. this. report. refers. to. the. number. of. students. that. the. education. system. recognizes.as. having. disabilities.. Variation. among. the. states’. disability. incidence. rates. almost. surely. has. more. to. S do. with. how. a. state. defines. and. identifies. special-needs. students. (i. e. ,. whether. a. state. over-. or. under-identifies. disabilities). than. with. the. true. population. of. disabled. children. in. that. state. .

To. calculate. each. state’s. disability. incidence. rate,. child-count. numbers. were. divided. by. total. state. enrollment. figures. 7. State. enrollment. data. were. drawn. from. the.

Digest of Education Statistics.. Total. student. enrollment. data. for. the. 2009-10. school. year.had. not. been. released. as. of. publication;. thus. 2009-10. figures. are. based. on. projections. published. in. the. Digest. 2 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > I NTRODUCTION It’s. our. hope. that. the. next. iteration. of. that. law. will. benefit. from. fresh. thinking. amid. changed. realities. But. that. day. has. not. yet. dawned.. And. before. we. can. seriously. re-imagine. the. field. of. special. education. and. how. it. should. be. funded,. we. need. a. basic. understanding. of. the. state. of. special. education. today—and. how. it’s. changed. over. the. past. decade..

Many. are. aware,. for. instance,.that. the. number. of. students. who. received. specialeducation. services. rose. steadily. between. IDEA’s. enactment. in. 1975. and. the. turn. of. the. century.. But. is. this. population. still. growing?. Are. particular. types. of. disabilities. responsible. for. overall. trends?. What. types. of. personnel. do. schools. employ. to. teach. these. students?. Accurate. descriptive. data. on. questions. like. these. are. a. scarce. commodity. (more. on. that. later),. but. we. desperately. need. them. if. we’re. to. wrestle. with. the. more. complex. questions. that. vex. the. field,. such. as:.

Have. rising. numbers. of.special-education. students. driven. up. costs?. Which. states. are. spending. more. and. which. are. spending. less. per. special-education. student. than. others?. Are. states. correctly. identifying. students. and. providing. them. with. appropriate. services?. What. types .of. interventions. are. most. effective. with. special-needs. children? This. report. sets. forth. the. number. of. children. identified. with. disabilities. in. our. nation’s. schools. by. disability. type,. nationally. and. by. state,. examining. how. those. patterns. have. changed. over. the. past. decade.. It. also. addresses: ».

Which. states. have. the.largest. and. smallest. proportions. of. children. judged. to. have. disabilities; ». The. extent. to. which. the. numbers. of. students. with. specific. learning. disabilities. have. changed. over. the. last. ten. years;. and ». The. number. of. special-education. personnel. employed. nationally. and. how. this. varies. by. state. We. also. dig. into. a. couple. of. outliers—Massachusetts. and. Texas—and. attempt. to. explain. why. their. data. look. like. they. do.. We. close. with. a. few. takeaways. and. next. steps.. 3 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS Findings Students with Disabilities across America.

After. decades. of. steady. increases,. the. population. of. students. with. disabilities. peaked. in. 2004-05. with. 6. 72. million. youngsters,. comprising. 13. 8. percent. of. the. national. student. body. (see. Figure. 1).. The. following. year. marked. the. first. time. since. the. enactment. of. IDEA. in. 1975. that. special-education. participation. numbers. declined.. (For. a. long-term. trend. analysis. of. the. special-education. population,. see. Appendix. A. ).

Since. then,. the. number. and. proportion. of. students. with. disabilities. has. decreased. steadily,. falling. to. 13. 1. percent. of. the. national. student.body. by. 2009-10,. or. 6. 48. million. students.. 1 13. 8 13. 6 13. 4 13. 2 13. 0 Proportion of the National Student Population with Disabilities, 2000-01 to 2009-10 This. national. trend. is. driven. by. shifting. populations. of. particular. disability. types..

The. federal. government. requires. all. states. to. report. studentpopulation. numbers. across. twelve. categories. of. disability. (the. reporting. of. a. thirteenth,. termed. “developmental. delay,”. is. optional):. autism;. deafblindness;. emotional. disturbance;. hearing. impairments;. mental. retardation;. multiple. disabilities;. orthopedic. impairments;. other.health. impairments;. specific. learning. disabilities;. speech. or. language. impairments;. traumatic. brain. injuries;. and. visual. impairments.. (For. the. full. federal. definition. of. each. category,. see. Appendix. B. ). 1 2 4 6 7 3 5 8 9.

Much. of. the. recent. decrease. in. the. overall. specialeducation. population. can. be. attributed. to. the. shrinking. population. of. students. identified. with. specific. learning. disabilities. (SLDs).. After. decades. of. growth,. the. proportion. of. students. with. SLDs. peaked. in. 2000-01. and. declined. thereafter,. falling. from. 2. 86. million. to. 2. 43. million. students.between. 2000-01. and. 2009-10,. or. from. 6. 1. to. 4. 9. percent. of. the. national. student. body. 8. -0 -0 -0 -0 -0 07 -0 -0 -0 00 -0 04 02 06 03 05.

Other. disability. categories. declined. as. well.. The. population. of. students. with. mental. retardation. dropped. from. A Caveat on Disability Types T he. federal. government. requires. states. to. report. child-count. numbers. across. twelve. disability. categories. each. year. (a. thirteenth. category. is. optional),. but. does. not. require. that. states. actually. use. those. categories. for. their. own. within-state. identification. and. data-collection. purposes.. Thus,.state-specific. nuances. in. disability. definitions. abound..

For. example,. many. states. employ. their. own. unique. definitions. for. each. of. the. thirteen. categories. and/or. combine. and. eliminate. categories.. At. least. one. state. goes. so. far. as. to. identify. no. individual. categories,. opting. instead. for. a. single. “eligible. individual”. classification. for. students. with. disabilities. (see. Iowa’s SLD Trend: True or False? ).. To. meet. federal. reporting. requirements,. these. states. must. estimate. the. number. of. students. with. disabilities. within. each. federal. category..

And. in. some. cases,.federal. reporting. requirements. allow. states. to. report. one. category. within. another—for. example,. seven. states. report. students. with. multiple. disabilities. in. their. primary-disability. categories. rather. than. in. the. “multiple. disabilities”. 08 09 01 -10 category.. The. lack. of. consistency. in. defining. and. reporting. data. across. all. fifty. states. renders. any. state-level. comparison. of. students. with. disabilities. inherently. imprecise. . Take,. for. example,. recent. categorization. changes. in. Ohio.. Prior. to. 2007-08,. preschoolers. (three-. to. five-yearolds). with. disabilities. in. the.

Buckeye. State. were. lumped. together. in. a. single. disability. category.. In. that. year,. however,. Ohio. first. required. preschoolers. to. be. sorted. into. distinct. categories.. To. ease. the. transition,. districts. classified. all. existing. preschoolers. with. disabilities. as. having. developmental. delays;. thereafter,. all. new. preschoolers. with. disabilities. were. to. be. categorized. by. disability..

As. could. be. expected,. the. number. of. students. with. developmental. delays. reported. to. the. federal. government. suddenly. grew. from. 0. to. 19,000. in. 2007-08,. and. then. fell. by. half. in. 2008-09.and. again. slightly. in. 2009-10. 9. Such. inconsistencies—this. is. just. one. example. of. myriad. state. eccentricities. and. idiosyncrasies—confuse. trend. analyses. at. both. the. state. and. national. level. 4 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS 624,000. to. 463,000. in. that. time,. or. from. 1. 3. percent. to. 0. 9. percent. of. all. students..

The. number. identified. with. emotional. disturbances. fell. from. near. 480,000. in. 2000-01. to. 407,000. by. 2009-10. (after. peaking. at. 489,000. students. in. 2003-04),. or. from. 1. 0. to. 0. 8. percent. of. all. students..

Offsetting. a. portion. of.the. decline. in. these. disability. categories. were. sharp. increases. in. the. populations. of. students. with. autism. and. other. health. impairm ents. (OHIs). over. the. last. decade.. The. number. of. autistic. students. quadrupled. between. 2000-01. and. 2009-10,. rising. from. 93,000. to. 378,000,. while. the. number. of. OHI. students. more. than. doubled. from. 303,000. to. 689,000.. Still,. the. autistic. and. OHI. populations. constituted. only. 0. 8. and. 1. 4. percent,. respectively,. of. all. students. in. 2009-10.

The. category. of. developmental. delay,. which. often. serves. as. a. general. disability. category.for. young. students. (typically. ages. three. to. five. or. three. to. nine),. grew. as. well,. from. 213,000. students. in. 2000-01. to. 368,000. in. 2009-10,. or. from. 0. 5. to. 0. 7. percent. of. all. students. The. incidence. of. other. disability. types. (which,. other. than. speech. or. language. impairments,. comprise. a. small. fraction. of. the. total). either. remained. stable. or. declined. slightly. during. this. time.. Figure. 2. shows. in. “pie. chart”. form. how. the. composition. of. the. special-education. population. has. changed. over. the. past. decade..

While. SLD. students. constituted. 45. 4. percent. of.all. students. with. disabilities. in. 2000-01,. that. percentage. had. shrunk. to. 37. 5. percent. by. 2009-10.. Autism,. on. the. other. hand,. increased. from. 1. 5. percent. of. all. identified. disabilities. to. 5. 8. percent.. OHI. identifications. doubled. from. 4. 8. to. 10. 6. percent,. while. cases. of. both. emotional. disturbance. and. mental. retardation. decreased. relative. to. other. identifications. 2 Special-Education Population by Disability 2000-01 and 2009-10 3. 4% 1. 5% 4. 8% 5. 3% 7. 6% 9. 9% 5. 1% 5. 8% 21. 8% 5. 7% 10. 6% 6. 3% 37. 5% 7. 1% 22. 0% 45. 4% n = 6. 30 million students ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

1. 5% 3.4% 4. 8% 7. 6% 9. 9% 45. 4% 22. 0% 5. 3% Autism Developmental Delay Other Health Impairment Emotional Disturbance Mental Retardation Specific Learning Disability Speech or Language Impairment Other Disabilities ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 2000-01 n = 6. 48 million students 5. 8% 5. 7% 10. 6% 6. 3% 7. 1% 37. 5% 21. 8% 5. 1% Autism Developmental Delay Other Health Impairment Emotional Disturbance Mental Retardation Specific Learning Disability Speech or Language Impairment Other Disabilities 2009-10 Note:.

The. special-education. population. in. 2009-10. was. slightly. larger. in. raw. numbers. than. it. was. in. 2000-01,. but. the. proportion.of. students. with. disabilities. among. all. students. declined. from. 13. 3. percent. in. 2000-01. to. 13. 1. percent. in. 2009-10.. 5 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS Students with Disabilities by State The. national. figures. mask. stark. variation. among. the. states.. As. Figure. 3. shows,. Rhode. Island,. New. York,. and. Massachusetts. topped. the. list. with. the. highest. rates. of. disability. identification. in. 2009-10;. Rhode. Island. was. the. only. state. to. have. more. than. 18. percent. of. its. student. body. enrolled. in. special. education.. At. the. other. end. of. the. spectrum. were.

Texas,. Idaho,. and. Colorado.. Texas’s. rate. of. disability. identification. was. less. than. half. of. Rhode. Island’s,. at. just. 9. 1. percent. (see. Figure. 4. for. complete. state. identification. rates).. These. vast. disparities. call. into. question. the. extent. to. which. true. incidences. of. disability. vary. among. state. populations,. or. to. which. some. states. over-identify. or. under-identify. students. with. disabilities. 10 3 Identification Rates of Students with Disabilities, by State 2009-10 WA MT OR ID WY NE NV CA UT CO KS IA IL MO TN AR MS TX LA FL AL GA SC IN OH WV KY NC AZ NM OK VA SD ND MN WI NY MI PA.

VT ME NH MA RI CT NJ DE MD D. C. ? 9. 0? –? 10. 99% ? 11. 0? –? 12. 99% ? 13. 0? –? 14. 99% ? 15. 0? –? 16. 99% ? 17. 0? –? 18. 99% AK US AVERAGE HI About. half. of. the. states. saw. increases. in. their. rates. of. special-education. identification. between. 2000-01. and. 2009-10,. while. the. other. half. saw. decreases. (see. Figure. 5).. The. national. proportion. of. students. with. disabilities. rose. and. fell. over. that. time. period,. landing. 0. 2. percentage. points. lower. in. 2009-10. (at. 13. 1. percent). than. in. 2000-01. (at. 13. 3. percent).. Texas’s. rate. of. identification. fell. from. 12. 1. percent. to.

9. 1. percent—in. raw. numbers,. a. decrease. of. about. 47,000. students.. Pennsylvania,. on. the. other. hand,. saw. an. increase. in. students. with. disabilities. from. 13. 4. percent. of. the. student. body. in. 2000-01. to. 16. 7. percent. in. 2009-10—or,. in. raw. numbers,. an. increase. of. 52,000. students. 6 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS 4 Identification Rate of Students with Disabilities, by State 2009-10 18. 68 17. 80 17. 36 17. 25 17. 16 Massachusetts Maine Rhode Island New York 5 Percentage-point Change in Identification Rate, by State 2000-01 to 2009-10 3. 29 2. 39 2. 05 1. 80 1. 80 1.76 1. 35 1. 16 1. 14 1. 12 1. 72 2. 53.

Pennsylvania Wyoming Vermont West Virginia Vermont Pennsylvania Indiana New Jersey Wyoming New York Minnesota Ohio 16. 66 16. 84 16. 55 16. 52 15. 60 15. 55 15. 57 15. 74 South Dakota North Dakota Kentucky New Hampshire Delaware Kentucky Illinois New Hampshire Michigan Massachusetts Nebraska South Dakota Oklahoma Wisconsin Missouri Ohio 14. 80 14. 75 14. 71 14. 97 15. 04 Oklahoma Indiana Alaska Delaware Kansas 0. 99 0. 98 0. 71 0. 71 1. 10 Minnesota 14. 66 Mississippi Washington Oregon Illinois D. C. 14. 64 14. 34 14. 15 14. 58 0. 46 0. 52 Wisconsin Arizona Utah 0. 39 0. 38 0. 14 0. 42.

North Dakota Oregon Kansas 14. 26 14. 12 Nebraska California New Jersey Maine 0. 09 0. 08 0. 03 0. 07 South Carolina Michigan Alaska Iowa Florida 14. 09 14. 06 13. 98 13. 79 13. 55 13. 14 13. 99 13. 94 United States -0. 04 -0. 26 -0. 28 -0. 53 -0. 61 -0. 61 -0. 20 New Mexico Arkansas Virginia Montana Nevada Arkansas Colorado United States Mississippi Louisiana 13. 42 13. 03 12. 53 12. 30 12. 25 11. 94 11. 28 11. 28 11. 13 11. 17 12. 21 12. 41 12. 57 Maryland Missouri Virginia Iowa Louisiana -0. 60 Washington Connecticut Tennessee Maryland -0. 70 -0. 74 -0. 85 -0. 85 -1. 03 -1. 03 -1. 43 -1. 43 -1. 54 -1. 72 -1. 41 -0. 75 -0. 72 D.

C. North Carolina Hawaii Utah Montana West Virginia Georgia Florida Rhode Island Connecticut Alabama Arizona Nevada California 10. 67 Colorado Georgia 10. 45 10. 27 9. 89 9. 13 10. 58 South Carolina Hawaii Idaho North Carolina Tennessee Idaho Texas 0 5 10 15 20 New Mexico Texas Alabama -2. 32 -2. 98 -3. 5 -1. 75 0 1. 75 3. 5 -2. 52 -2. 01 DISABILITY IDENTIFICATION RATE (%).

PERCENTAGE-POINT CHANGE IN IDENTIFICATION RATE 7 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS Specific Learning Disabilities As. the. most. prevalent. of. all. disability. types,. the. category. of. specific. learning. disabilities. (SLDs). provides.a. unique. look. into. shifting. disability. populations..

The. nationwide. population. of. students. with. specific. learning. disabilities. shrank. at. a. notable. rate. over. the. decade. leading. to. 2009-10:. SLD. numbers. fell. from. 2. 86. million. students. and. 6. 1. percent. of. the. national. student. body. in. 2000-01. to. 2. 43. million. students. and. 4. 9. percent. of. the. student. body. in. 2009-10. 11. Some. of. this. drop. was. likely. due. to. an. increasing. national. awareness. of. autism. and. a. subsequent. shift. from. incorrect. SLD. identification. to. autism. identification..

A. few. other. hypotheses.are. worth. mentioning.. First,. growing. populations. of. students. with. developmental. delays,. which. may. in. some. states. substitute. for. autism. diagnoses. of. three-. to. five-year-olds,. and. with. OHIs,. which. has. become. somewhat. of. a. “catch. all”. category,. may. be. responsible. for. some. of. the. SLD. decrease,. in. addition. to. growth. in. autism.. Second,. SLD. numbers. may. have. dropped. due. to. the. proliferation. of. Response. to. Intervention. (RTI)—a. method. of. providing. targeted. assistance. to. young. children. who. have. difficulty. learning—and. other. early-reading. interventions. (see.

Response to Intervention).. Lastly,. the. identification. of. SLDs,. though. strictly. outlined. in. policy,. appears. more. subjective. and. prone. to. human. error. than. the. identification. of. most. other. disabilities;. thus,. SLD. identification. is. perhaps. more. affected. by. related. changes. in. policy,. budget,. personnel,. etc. Rates. of. SLD. identification. varied. across. the. fifty. states. in. 2009-10.. As. shown. in. Figure. 6,. just. 2. percent. of. the. student. body. in.

Kentucky. was. labeled. SLD. in. 2009-10,. while. over. 8. 4. percent. o f. Iowa’s. student. body. was. classified. as. such.. Similarly,. in.2009-10,. Kentucky’s. SLD. students. comprised. only. 13. 1. percent. of. the. state’s. entire. special-education. student. body,. while. in. Iowa. they. accounted. for. 60. 4. percent..

Across. the. entire. United. States,. SLD. students. comprised. 4. 9. percent. of. all. students. and. 37. 5. percent. of. all. students. with. disabilities. in. 2009-10.. Massachusetts. saw. the. greatest. percentage-point. decrease. in. its. SLD. population. between. 2000-01. and. 200910.. There,. SLD. students. fell. from. 9. 8. to. 5. 9. percent. of. all. students. during. that. time.. As. a. slice. of. the. specialeducation. pie,. in. fact,.

Massachusetts’s. SLD. students. went. from. 58. 7. percent. of. all. special-education. students. to. just. 33. 3. percent.. Despite. this. declining. proportion,. however,. Massachusetts. still. identifies. the. second. overall. highest. rate. of. disability. in. the. nation. (see. Behind the Numbers in Outlier States. on. page. 13). Response to Intervention esponse. to. Intervention. (RTI). is. a. method. of. providing. targeted. and. increasingly. intensive. assistance. to. young. children. who. have. difficulty. learning.. RTI. began. to. gain. ground. with. the. enactment. of. the. No. Child. Left. Behind. Act. (NCLB). in.

2001,. which. provided. schools. with. Reading. First. grants. to. introduce. it. and. other. early-reading. strategies. into. general. education.. But. the. program. spread. more. rapidly. in. the. aftermath. of. the. 2004. reauthorization. of. IDEA,. which. allowed. districts. to. spend. 15. percent. of. the. law’s. Part. B. funds. on. RTI. and. other. early-intervening. services,. and. to. use. RTI. as. one. part. of. a. comprehensive. evaluation. process. for. identifying. students. with. SLDs.. In. 2007,. just. 24. percent. of. R districts. reported. that. they. had. implemented. or. were. in. the. process. of. implementing.

RTI;. by. 2010,. this. had. risen. to. 61. percent. of. districts. 12 . Indeed,. SLD. may. be. the. disability. population. most. affected. by. early. interventions. like. RTI,. because. such. interventions. can. help. prevent. the. misidentification. and. mislabeling. of. struggling. students—who. may. simply. learn. better. with. enhanced,. tailored. instruction—as. students. with. SLDs.. At. the. same. time,. modifications. in. pedagogical. approach. and. lesson. planning. can. help. to. offset. the. challenges. faced. by. those. students. with. true. but. mild. SLDs.. 8 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS 6.

SLD as a Proportion of All Students and All Students with Disabilities, by State 2009-10 ALL STUDENTS Iowa 8. 42 7. 63 7. 41 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Nevada Iowa 60. 37 47. 47 45. 06 42. 92 42. 78 42. 73 42. 11 42. 74 44. 25 45. 81 48. 11 Pennsylvania Rhode Island New Jersey Delaware Oklahoma New York 6. 43 6. 29 6. 17 6. 85 Pennsylvania Alabama Arizona Delaware Iowa’s SLD Trend: True or False? New Hampshire South Carolina D. C. 6. 05 5. 99 5. 96 5. 92 5. 85 5. 73 5. 95 5. 97 South Carolina Oklahoma California Texas Utah I Florida Massachusetts Illinois Florida 42. 40 42. 09 41. 87 41. 21 Alaska Ohio Hawaii Montana Alaska D. C.

New Mexico South Dakota Alabama Nevada Indiana 5. 48 5. 36 5. 13 5. 11 New Mexico New Hampshire United States New Jersey Ohio Illinois 40. 92 38. 88 38. 46 38. 16 37. 51 38. 87 39. 76 Michigan Montana 5. 03 5. 03 4. 97 5. 01 5. 05 Wyoming United States Arizona Oregon Utah Kansas Maine Rhode Island Tennessee New York Colorado 36. 68 Nebraska Hawaii 4. 89 4. 92 4. 93 4. 95 36. 43 36. 28 35. 53 36. 11 Michigan Washington 4. 82 4. 82 4. 75 Virginia South Dakota Oregon Kansas 34. 94 34. 53 33. 25 32. 06 31. 93 31. 36 31. 51 33. 16 34. 15 34. 57 35. 07 35. 22 West Virginia Vermont Virginia 4. 69 4. 59 4. 61 Massachusetts North Carolina Indiana.

North Dakota Washington Wisconsin Missouri Tennessee California 4. 50 4. 38 4. 11 4. 47 4. 52 4. 31 North Dakota Mississippi Wisconsin Arkansas Vermont Georgia Maine Idaho Connecticut Maryland Nebraska North Carolina Connecticut Mississippi Maryland Arkansas 4. 08 4. 00 3. 99 3. 85 3. 70 3. 74 3. 87 4. 04 29. 99 29. 94 29. 36 29. 02 29. 15 29. 81 30. 63 Minnesota Colorado Texas Wyoming Louisiana Georgia Idaho 3. 60 3. 07 2. 97.

West Virginia Minnesota Kentucky Louisiana Missouri 28. 69 28. 66 27. 86 13. 10 28. 94 owa. was. a. notable. exception. to. the. general. SLD. trend,. as. one. of. only. four. states. that. reported. an.increase. in. its. proportion. of. SLD. students. from. 2000-01. to. 2009-10.. The. Hawkeye. State. illustrates. the. extent. to. which. data. reporting—rather. than. actual. shifts. in. disability. incidence—may. affect. the. numbers. reported. to. the. public.. . At. 8. 4. percent,. Iowa. had. the. highest. rate. of. SLD. in. the. nation. for. 2009-10..

However,. the. state. does. not. assign. particular. disability. categories. to. its. specialeducation. students;. instead,. it. uses. a. single. “eligible. individual”. designation. for. all. students. with. disabilities.. To. meet. federal. disability. reporting. requirements,.which. call. for. population. counts. disaggregated. by. disability. category,. Iowa. examines. a. random. sample. of. Individualized. Education. Programs. (IEPs). each. year.. Reviewers. decide,. based. on. the. services. described. therein,. which. type. of. disability. is. likely. being. served. 13. Thus. Iowa’s. high. rate. of. SLD. relative. to. other. states. may. result. from. judgment. errors. made. by. IEP. reviewers,. who. examine. student. services. rather. than. symptoms..

Further. inaccuracy. could. arise. from. outdated. expectations. that. SLD. students. should. comprise. a. large. proportion. of. all. students.with. disabilities:. Beyond. Iowa’s. high. SLD. rate,. the. state. also. reports. low. rates. of. autism. and. OHI,. and. each. of. these. rates. has. remained. relatively. stable. in. the. state. over. the. last. decade.. Given. that. national. SLD. numbers. have. been. dropping. considerably,. while. autism. and. OHI. numbers. are. rising. quickly,.

Iowa’s. incidence. rates. may. simply. be. based. on. old. assumptions. Kentucky 0 2 4 6 8 10 2. 04 25. 25 0 20 40 60 80 SLD IDENTIFICATION RATE (%) SLD IDENTIFICATION RATE (%) 9 SH I FTI NG TREN DS I N SPECIAL EDUCATION > FI N DI NGS Personnel As. special-education. numbers. have.increased. over. the. last. few. decades,. only. recently. declining. for. the. first. time,. the. cost. of. educating. these. students. has. continued. to. increase. at. a. fast. rate.

14. Because. 85. percent. of. special-education. spending. supports. personnel,. special-education. staff. is. obviously. the. main. source. of. swelling. expenditures. 15 Schools. employ. a. diverse. range. of. professionals. to. teach,. support,. and. assist. their. students. with. disabilities.. In. addition. to. special-education. teachers. and. paraprofessionals—employees. who. might. provide. one-on-one. tutoring,. assist. with. classroom. management,. conduct. parental-involvement. activities,. or. provide. instructional. support. under. the. supervision. of. a. teacher—a. school. might. retain. a. number. of. more. specialized. professionals. such. as.

Audiologists,. speech. and. language. pathologists,. psychologists,. occupational. therapists,. physical. therapists,. social. workers,. and. more. 16. Because. shifts. in. these. populations. are. difficult. to. trace. over. time. (mostly. due. to. changes. in. federal. reporting. requirements),. this. analysis. focuses. on. teachers. and. paraprofessionals,. which. together. constitute. over. 80. percent. of. all. special-education. personnel.

17 The. ratio. of. teachers. to. students. fluctuated. over. the. last. decade,. reaching. its. peak. in. 2005-06. and. declining. quickly. thereafter. (see. Figure. 7).. Public. schools. employed. sixty-five. special-education. teachers. per. thousand. special-education. students. in. 2000-01—or. 412,000. teachers. overall;. that. ratio. rose. to. seventy. per. thousand. in. 2005-06,. and. then. fell. to. sixty-three. per. thousand—or. 405,000. teachers. overall—by. 2008-09.. (Personnel. data. were. not. available. for. 2009-10. as. of. publication. ) In. contrast,. the. number. of. special-educati.


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