Executive Summary OSERS 23rd Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the IDEA
Archived Information

Executive Summary

In the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Congress directed the U.S. Department of Education to undertake a national assessment of activities carried out under the Act (§674(b)). This volume of the Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes a number of modules reporting on the results of the National Assessment, as stipulated in Section 674(b)(4)(B) of the IDEA Amendments of 1997. For this reason, the format of this report varies somewhat from that of other recent volumes.

Section I—Results

The results section includes five modules. The first module presents State-reported data on high school graduation rates for students with disabilities. The second provides information about the participation and performance of students with disabilities in State assessment systems. It also discusses alternate assessments. The third module describes challenges to providing secondary education and transition services to youth with disabilities and presents strategies for meeting those challenges. Outcomes for Students with Problem Behaviors in School is the fourth module. It examines trends and outcomes for students with problem behaviors and describes effective prevention practices. The last module in this section presents data from the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS).

High School Graduation Among Students with Disabilities

  • Graduation rates for students age 14 and older with disabilities have climbed steadily since 1993-94. During this same time, the dropout rate among this population has declined.
  • Graduation rates for students age 14 and older with disabilities varied by disability category; students with visual impairments had the highest graduation rate, while students with emotional disturbance had the lowest graduation rate.
  • Graduation rates also varied by race/ethnicity, ranging from 63.4 percent among white students to 43.5 percent among black students.

Participation and Performance of Students with Disabilities in State Assessment Systems

  • According to public reports collected from States in 1999, participation rates in State assessments varied from 33 percent to 97 percent of students with disabilities. The performance levels of students with disabilities also varied widely.
  • The assessment participation rates of students with disabilities have increased in over half of the States and remained the same in another 25 percent of States. Only one State reported participation rates that are lower than in previous years.
  • Differences in data collection and management systems may contribute to difficulties in reporting data for students with disabilities.

Challenges To Providing Secondary Education and Transition Services for Youth with Disabilities

  • Individual education program (IEP) teams must work to ensure that high expectations are maintained and students with disabilities are afforded opportunities to develop skills through a wide range of curricular options, including vocational education, service learning, community work experience, and adult living skills.
  • Diversity in graduation requirements is complicated by an increasingly diverse set of possible diploma options within individual States. In addition to the standard high school diploma, some States offer special education diplomas, certificates of completion, occupational diplomas, and others.
  • Because of the critical role that parents play in assisting their children in making the transition from school to adult life, additional attention must be given to establishing strategies and methods needed to actively engage them in discussions and decisions concerning school and postschool options.

Outcomes for Students with Problem Behaviors in School: Issues, Predictors, and Practices

  • About 50 percent of students identified under IDEA as having emotional and behavioral disorders drop out of school. Once they leave school, these students lack the social skills necessary to be successfully employed; they consequently suffer from low employment levels and poor work histories.
  • Poverty is the single greatest predictor of academic and social failure in America’s schools.
  • For students with problem behavior, positive behavioral supports help to prevent many of the predictable behavior problems that typically begin a pattern of escalating academic and social failures.
  • Results Experienced by Children and Families Entering Early Intervention
  • Data on physical health indicate that many parents of children entering early intervention reported their child’s health to be very good or excellent; however, the proportions were smaller than those reported for the general child population under age 5.
  • Children who begin early intervention at less than 12 months of age are much more likely to have a diagnosed condition or a risk condition.
  • In NEILS, several different long-term outcomes for former recipients of early intervention are being examined, including the need for future services, physical health, developmental attainments, academic skills, memberships in groups such as being a member of a sports team, and interpersonal relationships such as friendships.

Section II—Student Characteristics

This section contains information about the characteristics of children and students receiving services under IDEA. The populations reported are children and families entering early intervention, preschoolers, students ages 6 through 21, and limited-English-proficient (LEP) students with disabilities.

Characteristics of Children and Families Entering Early Intervention

  • In 1999-2000, 205,769 children and their families in the United States received early intervention services under Part C of IDEA. This figure represents 1.8 percent of the Nation’s infants and toddlers.
  • Among the children receiving early intervention, there was a high incidence of children of very low birth weight in all racial/ethnic groups, but the proportions differed by race/ethnicity.
  • Families of nearly all children in early intervention reported that their children had a place to go for regular medical care and were covered by health insurance.

Preschoolers Served Under IDEA

  • States reported serving 588,300 preschool children with disabilities during the 1999-2000 school year, or 5 percent of all preschoolers who lived in the United States and Outlying Areas during the year.
  • State-reported data for 1999-2000 indicate that 67 percent of preschoolers who received services under IDEA were white, 16 percent were black, 14 percent were Hispanic, 2 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native.
  • The racial distribution of preschool children served was generally comparable between 1998-99 and 1999-2000. From 1998-99 to 1999-2000, the proportion of Hispanic preschoolers served grew by 1.7 percent, while the proportion of white preschoolers served declined 1.6 percent.

Students Ages 6 Through 21 Served Under IDEA

  • The number of students ages 6 through 21 with disabilities served under Part B of IDEA reached 5,683,707, a 2.6 percent increase over the 1998-99 school year.
  • Specific learning disabilities continued to be the most prevalent disability among this population, representing half of the students with disabilities served under IDEA.
  • Black students with disabilities exceeded their representation among the resident population. The most striking disparities were in the mental retardation and developmental delay categories.

Limited English Proficient Students with Disabilities

  • The Office for Civil Rights estimated that 174,530 students with disabilities needed services for limited English proficiency in 1997.
  • Although LEP students in the United States come from a variety of national, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, the majority are from Spanish-speaking homes. Spanish was the first language of almost 73 percent of LEP students.
  • Researchers believe that culturally and linguistically diverse students may be disadvantaged in the assessment and evaluation process.

Section III—Programs and Services

The five modules in this section examine some of the programs and services available within schools for children with disabilities and their families and include preliminary results on programs and services from the National Assessment Program studies. The module on educational environments contains State-reported data on the settings in which children receive services. The second module presents data on family involvement and elementary and middle school students from the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS). Special Education Teacher Recruitment and Hiring is the third module. It provides data and analyses from the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE). The fourth module uses NEILS data to describe the services received by children and families entering early intervention. The last module in this section describes SLIIDEA (State and Local Implementation of IDEA) and presents preliminary findings.

Educational Environments for Students with Disabilities

  • The percentage of students ages 6 through 21 with disabilities served in both regular schools and in regular education classes within those schools has continually increased.
  • Of the students ages 6 through 21 served outside the regular classroom for less than 21 percent of the school day, approximately 70 percent were white, 14 percent were black, 12 percent were Hispanic, 2 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native.
  • Students with emotional disturbance, mental retardation, and multiple disabilities were more likely to receive services outside the regular classroom for more than 60 percent of the school day.

Family Involvement in the Education of Elementary and Middle School Students Receiving Special Education

  • Information from the first SEELS family interview portrays several dimensions of family involvement for students with disabilities and their variation for students with different disabilities, ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and household incomes.
  • Participation in parent information, support, or training sessions was fairly consistent across income levels.
  • Families that expressed reservations about their level of involvement in the individualized education program process were disproportionately from black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander families and from low-income households.

Special Education Teacher Recruitment and Hiring

  • SPeNSE was designed to address concerns about nationwide shortages in the number of personnel serving students with disabilities and the need for improvement in the qualifications of those employed.
  • As of October 1, 1999, there were 12,241 funded positions left vacant or filled by substitutes because suitable candidates could not be found. While administrators were able to hire only some of the new teachers they needed, they felt that 85 percent of all newly hired teachers and service providers in the last three years were excellent at the time they started.
  • Two additional barriers to hiring cited by administrators are the district’s geographic location and insufficient salary and benefits. Both were cited as great or moderate barriers to hiring by 50 percent or more of the administrators.

Services Received by Children and Families Entering Early Intervention

  • Most families receiving services under Part C received between two and six different services.
  • The most common types of early intervention providers were service coordinators, speech and language therapists, occupational and physical therapists, child development specialists, and special educators.
  • Service providers gave positive progress ratings for the majority of children receiving services under Part C.

Using Implementation Data To Study State, District, and School Impacts

  • SLIIDEA’s charge is to understand both the implementation and the impact of policy changes made in the IDEA Amendments of 1997 at the State, district, and school levels.
  • It is expected that SLIIDEA will show evidence that States and localities have to various degrees addressed issues such as service coordination, accountability systems, and procedural safeguards needed to achieve the goals of IDEA.
  • States can use legislation, written requirements, or guidance and inducements such as incentives, rewards, sanctions, technical assistance, financial assistance, and accountability through public reporting to influence special education activities at the local level.

Section IV—Policies

This section of the annual report contains three modules. The modules describe State improvement and monitoring activities, the planning process used to develop the Part D National Activities Program, and the National Assessment Program.

State Improvement and Monitoring

  • Many of the States that OSEP has monitored during the past three years do not yet have effective systems for identifying and correcting noncompliance with Part C requirements.
  • OSEP found that some States have gone beyond the Part C requirements to develop especially strong linkages between parents, the Part C system, and school districts to support smooth and effective transition.
  • In the past three years, OSEP has found that noncompliance regarding transition requirements persists in many States. Although more IEPs for students age 16 or older now include transition content, the statements of needed transition services do not meet Part B requirements.

The Comprehensive Planning Process for the IDEA Part D National Activities Program: Challenge and Opportunity

  • OSEP conducted long-term planning sessions with staff, gathering information about the lessons learned from prior planning efforts and recommendations for the new process.
  • The process incorporates collaboration with regular education and other Federal offices and agencies as well as direct input from grassroots consumers at the family, school, community, and State levels.
  • OSEP looks upon the expert-based opinion provided by the five panels thus far in the National Activities Program planning process as the beginning of an ongoing conversation between the agency and stakeholder representatives.

The Office of Special Education Programs’ National Assessment Program

  • The National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) looks at infants and toddlers and their families who are receiving early intervention services through Part C of IDEA. The study will describe the characteristics of program participants, the type and level of services they are receiving and who is providing them, the outcomes realized by children and families during Part C participation, and the association of characteristics of the participants and services with outcomes.
  • PEELS (Pre-elementary Education Longitudinal Study) will study children ages three to five. Study focuses will include an examination of the critical transition between preschool and kindergarten and of outcomes achieved by students who participated in preschool special education programs.
  • The Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) will follow a nationally representative sample of students as they move from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school.
  • The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2) will collect data on students ages 13 to 16 to determine their individual and household characteristics; achievement scores on standardized assessments; secondary school performance and outcomes; and early adult outcomes in the employment, education, independence, and social domains.
  • SPeNSE (Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education) focuses on the adequacy of the workforce and will attempt to explain variation in workforce quantity and quality based on State and district policy.
  • The State and Local Implementation of IDEA (SLIIDEA) study was designed to evaluate the implementation and impact of IDEA with a focus on implementation issues in six cluster areas.
  • SEEP (Special Education Expenditure Project) examines how Federal, State, and local funds are used to support programs and services for students with disabilities.

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Last Modified: 07/19/2007