NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Not to be Left Behind: Students With Disabilities

January 8, 2004

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires states to raise test scores for nearly all groups of students to the level of "proficient" by the 2013-14 school year. Students with disabilities must also meet that goal, but their scores on accountability tests suggest this will be a difficult task.

According to a national study released by Education Week yesterday:

  • On 4th grade reading tests, 30 of the 39 states with complete data had achievement gaps of 30 percentage points or more between special and general education students.
  • In Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Vermont, the gaps were more than 50 percentage points.
  • Only five of the 39 states --Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas -- reported achievement gaps under 30 percentage points.
  • On high school reading exams, 32 of 36 states reported achievement gaps larger than 30 percentage points.
  • Roughly 67 percent have specific learning disabilities or speech or language impairments.
  • Fewer than 12 percent have disabilities associated with significant cognitive impairments, such as mental retardation or traumatic brain injury.

According to the report, there are concerns that minority students are overrepresented in some special education categories and that many children are misidentified for special education simply because they had not received effective instruction.

Source: "Quality Counts 2004: "Count Me In: Special Education in an Era of Standards," Education Week, January 7, 2004.


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