The number of students receiving special education in public schools is rising, with about 13 percent of all students receiving such instruction, according to a recent study.
A Department of Education report, titled the Condition of Education 2018, states the number of students aged 3 to 21 receiving special education services increased from 6.6 million to 6.7 million from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year. Among those, 34 percent had specific learning disabilities, of which 20 percent had speech or language impairments and 14 percent had other health impairments.
Joel McFarland, lead author of the report, says despite a slight increase from the previous year, 13 percent is still within the range of special education representation seen in previous years.
"Thirteen percent is close to what we've seen in previous years," McFarland says. "We looked at 2000 to 2015, and the proportion of students receiving special education fluctuated during that time, but it hasn't changed dramatically."
Researchers, including McFarland, collected data at the federal level by looking at students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires schools to provide special education services to students in need. Students with autism, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and emotional disturbances each accounted for between 5 and 9 percent of students served under the act.
From school years 2000-2001 through 2004-2005, the number of students who received special education services increased from 6.3 million, 13 percent of total public school enrollment, to 6.7 million, or 14 percent of total public school enrollment. Both the number and the percentage of students served declined from 2004-2005 through 2011-2012.
The percentage of special education services received by students in 2015-2016 varied by race. The percentage of students with disabilities receiving services for certain learning disabilities was lower for Asian students, at 21 percent, students of two or more races, at 30 percent, and by white students, at 31 percent, than overall students at 34 percent.
Among students aged 6 to 21, a higher percentage of males, at 17 percent, than females, at 9 percent, received special education services.