The Effects of Special Education on the Academic Performance of Students with Learning Disabilities

Schwartz, Amy Ellen, Bryant Gregory Hopkins, Leanna Stiefel. (2019). The Effects of Special Education on the Academic Performance of Students with Learning Disabilities. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-86). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: http://www.edworkingpapers.com/ai19-86

Does special education improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities? There is surprisingly little evidence to guide policy and answer this question. This paper provides an answer for the largest disability group, students with learning disabilities. The researchers used data from the New York City schools to track the academic performance of more than 44,000 students with learning disabilities over seven years. Test scores for students with learning disabilities improve after they are classified into special education, and the gains are greatest for students who entered special education before they reached middle school. Overall, students who began special education services in grades 4 and 5 "were more likely to be placed, and remain, in less restrictive service settings" than students who began later, the researchers found. The findings suggest that support services that help students remain in the general education classrooms may be particularly effective for students with learning disabilities.

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