Kentucky special education ID rate higher than national average, but down from where it used to be

08/17/2016 09:22 AM

FRANKFORT – The Commonwealth of Kentucky is still above the national average in the special education identification rate for persons between the ages of 3-5, but that percentage has dropped significantly since 2005.

That was the message from Office of Educational Accountability Analyst Brenda Landy to members of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee on Tuesday as her office submitted their 2016 Special Education Report.

Landy told committee members that it’s hard to identify why Kentucky’s rate is still above the national average.

“It would be difficult to be sure whether this represents over identification in Kentucky, or under identification by other states, but what we do know is that even small differences and small changes have quite an impact on revenue, staffing and expenditures,” Landy said. “Another possible factor is Kentucky has a slightly higher rate of low birth rates which is associated with developmental disabilities.”

The report also showed that the graduation rate for students with disabilities in the commonwealth has risen from 64 percent in 2005 to 76 percent in 2014, compared to a rate of 83 percent for all students in 2005 to 89 percent in 2014. The states special ed students performed at or slightly above the rest of the country on national assessments.

One of the biggest negatives is the gap between special ed students and all students when it comes to college and career readiness.

The percentage of special ed college and career readiness in 2012 was 13.9 percent in 2012 compared to 47.2 percent for all students for a gap of 33.3 percent.

In 2015, college and career readiness percentage for special ed students increased to 25.8 percent compared to 66.9 percent for all students which results in a gap increase to 41.1 percent.

“Though readiness has been increasing, the gap has increased slightly each year,” Landy said. “However, at least we are monitoring this. Kentucky is one of the few states that has its own college and career readiness measure.”

There are a number of new components which have been implemented at the federal level in relation to special education, and Landry admits that the full effects of those components are still unknown.

“In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s monitoring of special education shifted its focus from compliance only to both compliance and student outcome,” Landy said. “Even with this change, Kentucky has continued to meet IDEA requirements but it does raise the importance of closing achievement gaps.”

The report also indicated that work needs to be done with many special education teachers themselves because of the fact that some do not always have the needed content knowledge and skills.

A 2012 Education Professional Standards Board task force was formed to address the issue but did not reach on consensus on recommendations.

Special co-ops do currently offer training, but it’s up to local leaders to ensure that staff take it.

It’s currently estimated that 99,000 Kentuckians between the ages of 3 and 21 are enrolled in special education classes throughout the commonwealth.

Trey Eckerle

Trey Eckerle joined cn|2 in June 2013. A graduate of WKU, Trey grew up in Louisville and enjoys having a front row seat as Director to Kentucky sports and politics. He can be reached at 502-792-1106 or trey.eckerle@charter.com

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