How to Use the Data
How the details were measured
The data is reported as the percent of students with disabilities. The data cannot be broken down by race, ethnicity, or other student groups.
Limitations of the data
Districts vary widely in how they identify disabled students. Some rely heavily on subjective measures, while others use highly standardized tests and procedures. These differences can limit the reliability of the data. You should keep local definitions and programs in mind when comparing schools and districts.
Key Questions to Ask
Are minority students disproportionately enrolled in special education?
Research has shown that race plays a significant role in the placement of students in special education. Blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to be identified as intellectually disabled or emotionally disturbed compared to the rest of the school population. To ensure equity, you should evaluate your process for identifying disabled students and make sure that the process doesn’t overidentify certain groups of students.
To calculate total enrollment, Ed Data Express and Federal Education Budget Project rely on data from NCES’s Common Core of Data (CCD), a program that collects basic statistical information from every school in the nation. However, data from these websites may not always match exactly with CCD data, because states may submit changes and updates to their data. More information about the CCD system is available for downloading. You can also download the CCD data, although the CCD data may not always correspond with local data due to differences in data collection and reporting.
Under IDEA, schools must give children with disabilities an appropriate public education and attempt to mainstream them into general education classes whenever possible. Schools must also write an instructional plan (often referred to as an Individual Education Plan or IEP) for each student with a disability that includes learning objectives, mainstreaming procedures, and any related services. The law covers all types of disabilities, including students with mental retardation, physical impairments, emotional disturbances, and any other learning or health disability.
Because of the data requirements of IDEA, there is a lot of state and local data available on students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education puts much of its IDEA data online, including state-by-state information on the type of student disability by age. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights also collects data on the number of disabled students by state. Its data can be broken out by race and type of program.
Michigan district gets physical with reading—A special education teacher develops an imaginative system for teaching reading, which has provided this district with a successful formula for helping struggling students become better readers.