A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of all Children with Disabilities - 1995

Summary and Implications

When considering the challenges of serving rural students with disabilities, it is important to remember the diversity that exists within rural America. Rural areas may differ in terrain, climate, population density, language, economic base, and culture. These differences must be considered when addressing the needs of students with disabilities in rural settings.

Approximately 475,000 students with disabilities reside in rural school districts. Rural and non-rural districts serve similar percentages of students with disabilities, and the distribution of students across disability groups is also similar. However, data suggest that rural districts serve a larger proportion of students living in poverty, which may affect educational performance.

Factors such as availability of appropriate assessment instruments, placement in the least restrictive environment, availability of appropriate personnel, and maintaining active parental involvement can present challenges to staff in rural areas. However, data suggest that a smaller percentage of students with disabilities in rural districts are placed in full-time special education classes compared to non-rural districts.

Data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study provide a great deal of information on services for secondary students with disabilities in rural, suburban, and urban schools. The data indicate that secondary students with disabilities spend over half the day studying academic subjects, such as language arts, mathematics, and science. In addition, 62 percent of secondary students with disabilities in rural schools took some type of vocational education in their most recent year of schooling. Despite the fact that a wide range of vocational education services are available in schools that students with disabilities attend, the percentage of students enrolling in such courses is fairly low. For those who did participate in vocational education, services averaged 150 hours per year.

In future special education studies, researchers should make every effort to collect data that can be analyzed for similarities and differences between rural and non-rural districts, as was done with the NLTS. In this way, researchers will ensure that the unique needs of rural schools and school districts are not neglected as service providers, administrators, and policy makers develop and implement programs for students with disabilities.


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