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Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA
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National Impact of IDEA to Date

Today, due largely to the provision of IDEA-supported programs and services together with IDEA support for research, training, and dissemination, children with disabilities are achieving at levels that would not have been imagined in previous decades. Consider the following examples of our county’s accomplishments over the past 35 years:

More young children with disabilities receive high-quality early interventions that prevent or reduce the future need for services. IDEA-reported data indicate that rates of identification for young children with disabilities have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. For infants and toddlers ages birth through 2, the number receiving services under Part C of IDEA has nearly doubled, from 177,281 in 1995 to 321,894 in 2007. For children ages 3–5, the number receiving services under Part B of IDEA has increased by nearly 23 percent, from 548,588 in 1995 to 710,371 in 2007. These increases represent not only improved efforts to identify children at earlier ages, but also an improved capacity to serve these young children and help ensure that they enter school ready to learn. Also, the Department-funded Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study, which assessed almost 3,000 preschoolers who received special education services in school year 2003–04, found that approximately 16 percent stopped receiving those services each year over a two-year period because they no longer required special education services.

More children with disabilities are not only attending neighborhood schools but also are receiving access to the general education curriculum and learning a wide variety of academic skills. In 2008, IDEA-reported data indicate that 5,660,491 students with disabilities were educated in general education classrooms for at least part of the day, depending on their individual needs. Thus, 95 percent of all students with disabilities were educated in their local neighborhood schools. In addition, data from the Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrate increased proficiency over time in reading among fourth-grade students with disabilities. While achievement in reading for students without disabilities has improved only slightly since 2000, averaged scaled scores for students with disabilities increased by more than 20 points between 2000 and 2009. In addition, the percentage of students with disabilities who achieved at or above basic level of proficiency rose from 22 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2009. Furthermore, these increases have contributed to a reduction of the achievement gap in reading between students with and without disabilities. The gap has decreased from 50 points in 2000 to 34 points in 2009.

More youths with disabilities graduate from high school. In school year 2007–08, IDEA-reported data indicated that 217,905 students with disabilities, ages 14–21, graduated high school with a regular diploma. There has been a 16-point increase in the percentage of students with disabilities graduating from high school since school year 1996–97. Further, IDEA-reported data from 2007–08 indicate that only 90,766 students with disabilities, ages 14–21, dropped out of high school without graduating. There has been a 21-point decrease in the percentage of students with disabilities dropping out since school year 1996–97.

More youths with disabilities are enrolled in postsecondary programs. The rate at which youths with disabilities enrolled in postsecondary education rose from 14.6 percent in 1987 to 31.9 percent in 2005. Enrollment rates increased for both two-and four-year colleges, while enrollment rates decreased for postsecondary vocational, technical, and business schools.

More young adults with disabilities are employed. Trends in the postsecondary employment of youths with disabilities are positive, with an increase of about 15 points in the percentage of out-of-school youths with disabilities who have worked for pay since leaving high school. At the same time, however, the percentage of youths with disabilities who worked 35 hours per week or more decreased.

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Last Modified: 11/22/2010