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ERIC Number: ED520416
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May
Pages: 25
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Shifting Trends in Special Education
Scull, Janie; Winkler, Amber M.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
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 their trajectories: (1) The population of students identified as having "specific learning disabilities," the most prevalent of all disability types, declined considerably throughout the decade, falling from 2.86 million to 2.43 million students, or from 6.1 to 4.9 percent of all students nationwide; (2) Other shrinking disability categories included mental retardation, which dropped from 624,000 to 463,000 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; and (3) Autism and "other health impairment" (OHI) populations increased dramatically. The number of autistic 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: (1) Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts reported the highest rates of disability identification in 2009-10; Rhode Island was the only state with more than 18 percent of its student body receiving special-education services; and (2) Texas, Idaho, and Colorado reported the lowest rates of disability identification in 2009-10. Adjusting 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. Appendices include: (1) Proportion of the National Student Population with Disabilities, 1976-77 to 2009-10/National Number of Students with Disabilities by Category, 2000-01 to 2009-10/National Number of Students with Disabilities by State 2001 to 229-10; and (2) Federal Disability Definitions. (Contains 31 endnotes.)
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Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute