Are We Meeting the Needs of Students in Special Education

Detroit News reports that Michigan is the only state identified by the United States Departement of Education as needing intervention in special education. As mentioned in a previous post in this blog, "Access to Literacy Is a Fundamental Right", a district court judge in Michigan also ruled months ago that basic education is not a right guaranteed explicitly by the United States Constitution. News regarding basic education from Michigan do appear dismal but one must note that compliance dictated by the Federal government is truly a low bar to meet and that other states still need to address the needs of students with disabilities. In this aspect, for instance, the state of Virginia, although looking good (it is purple in the map below) is no exception.

Above copied from EducationWeek

Most states need assistance while Virginia is among the score of states that apparently meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The graduation rate among special education students in Virginia in 2016 is about 54%, which is actually lower than the rate in Michigan, 63%. Virginia, however, has a much lower dropout rate, less than 2% while Michigan has 29%.

What is especially troubling with basic education in Virginia is its disproportionate disciplinary action against special education students. And throughout the recent years, the situation does not seem to be improving.

Above copied from
VA annual performance report 2016

Actually, including only those districts that meet the required size for the calculations, the percent of school districts punishing students with disabilities disproportionately is 46%. Almost half of the school districts in Virgina are treating students with disabilities unfairly. Indeed, purple-colored states in the map shown above, like Virginia, do need a closer look.

The negative relationship between suspensions and learning outcomes is of course expected as described in a previous post, "Why Students with Disabilities Are Performing Poorly". Not surprisingly, the state of Virginia has consistently failed to meet the IDEA requirements for proficiency:

Above copied from
VA annual performance report 2016

Students with disabilities in Virginia do perform far better than those in Michigan. The proficency rate in both math and reading in Virginia is about twice as high as those in Michigan, but in more realistic terms, Virginia is still failing half of its special education students.


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