ERIC Identifier: ED340154
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and
Gifted Children Reston VA.
Delivering Special Education: Statistics and Trends. Revised.
ERIC Digest #E463.
The 1990 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly the
Education of the Handicapped Act) guarantees "that all children with
disabilities have available to them...a free appropriate public education which
emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their
needs..." In order to fully meet these goals, IDEA has: 1) Expanded the
definition of "special education" to include "instruction conducted in the
classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings;
and instruction in physical education" and 2) extended "related services" to
include "social work services" and "rehabilitative counseling." In addition, the
term "handicap" has been replaced throughout the Act with the term "disability,"
and terminology using "people first" has been utilized.
HOW ARE CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES DEFINED?
disabilities previously addressed by law are listed in the table below. Major
additions from IDEA are the inclusion of "autism" and "traumatic brain injury"
as separate categories under the definition of children with disabilities.
Eligibility is based on the fact of a child's condition "adversely affecting the
child's educational performance."
Eligibility under IDEA still establishes a two-pronged criterion. First, does
the child actually have one or more of the disabilities listed? Secondly, does
the child require special education and/or related services?
Not all children who have a disability require special education; many are
able, and should, attend school without any program modification.
WHO ARE THE STUDENTS SERVED?
According to the THIRTEENTH
ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EDUCATION OF THE HANDICAPPED
ACT (1990), 4,687,620 children with disabilities were served during the
1988-1989 school year. Of these, 94.2% were served under EHA. This was an
increase of 2.2% over the 1987-1988 data and is the greatest increase since
1980-81. The number and percentage of each handicapped condition served under
Chapter 1 of the Education and Consolidation Improvement Act--State Operated
Programs (ECIA-SOP) and IDEA Part B are shown in the following table.
The overall picture is that the population of students served with learning
disabilities has grown, while the number of students served with speech or
language impairments and mental retardation have declined.
WHERE ARE THESE STUDENTS RECEIVING THEIR SPECIAL
During the 1988-1989 school year, the majority of children and
youth with handicaps received special education and related services in settings
with nonhandicapped students. Over 31% received special education primarily in
regular classes. More than 37% received special education and related services
primarily in resource rooms, while 24% received special education and related
services in separate classes within a regular education building. These three
settings accounted for over 93% of the placements; thus, most students with
handicaps were being educated in buildings with their nonhandicapped peers. The
remaining children and youth were educated in public/private separate day school
facilities (5.2%) (which is a decrease of 12,448 pupils), public/private
residential facilities (0.8%), and homebound or hospital environments (0.9%).
HOW MANY TEACHERS ARE NEEDED?
During 1988-1989, 286,546
special education teachers reportedly served children with handicaps. This was
an increase of about .1% over the 1987-1988 school year. Furthermore, an
additional 27,977 teachers were needed to fill vacancies, especially in the
areas of learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, and
speech or language disabilities. These four categories, together with
cross-categorical teachers account for 97% of all teachers needed. Approximately
9% of the teachers were needed for the categories of other health impaired, hard
of hearing and deaf, multihandicapped, orthopedically impaired, visually
handicapped, and deaf-blind.
PAST AND PRESENT TRENDS--WHAT EFFECT ON THE FUTURE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION?
In the early years following enactment of Part B, rapid growth
in the number of children served as disabled was primarily due to new Federal
categories of children with disabilities (e.g. children with specific learning
disabilities), and to program development and implementation. Certain factors,
however may decrease the future growth in the number of children served. A
number of states have implemented pilot programs and other restructuring efforts
to educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom environment. One
successful method has been using prereferral interventions, (modifications of
teaching strategies, instructional practices and classroom management) prior to
referral for special education evaluation. By effectively accommodating the
needs of "difficult to teach" students in the regular classroom (Fuchs, Fuchs,
Bahr, Fernstrom & Stecker, 1990) there may be a significant decrease in the
growth of children served as disabled. Prereferral activities typically include
school-based, problem-solving consultation teams which provide assistance and
recommendations to the regular education teacher regarding strategies aimed at
mainstreaming "difficult to teach" students in the regular classroom.
There are several possible explanations for the continuing and dramatic
decrease in prevalence of students with mental retardation. First, criteria used
for identification of mental retardation have become significantly more
restrictive. More stringent criteria for mental retardation may have contributed
to the growing incidence rates of specific learning disabilities; that is,
children and youth with mild to moderate cognitive deficits who would have
previously been classified as having mental retardation may now tend to be
classified as having learning disabilities. Litigation may also have been a
factor in the decrease in the incidence of mental retardation identification. It
is highly probable that many States, in response to court rulings, have taken
action to reduce over-representation of minority students with mental
retardation. In addition, some observers believe that in recent years, many
professionals and parents have tended to substitute labels such as learning
disability, developmental delay, or developmental disability for the mental
Other factors, however, could increase the number of children served. There
is emerging evidence (Greer, 1990), for example, that substantial numbers of
pregnant women are using alcohol and/or other drugs. Many specialists believe
that these children are likely to have significant learning and behavioral
disabilities that may require specialized school services. One other factor that
is increasing the number of children served is the mandate of the 1986
Amendments to EHA, now IDEA, focusing on the needs of young children with
disabilities through two programs--the Preschool Grants Program for 3- through
5-year-olds and the Infants and Toddlers Program for children from birth to age
2. However, even without these mandates, these young children would very likely
have been identified at a later age. Moreover, early identification and
intervention may result in the remediation of some of the disabilities of these
young children. Such remediation may, in turn, result in a decreased need for
services for these children later on.
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