Data Update: Recent Years Show a Rising Share of Students with IEPs

As part of our DC KIDS COUNT project, we make periodic updates to our online data center when new data are available. We wanted to highlight some notable trends, discuss what’s important to know and of course, share new data with you.

Thirteen percent of public school students in DC have an individualized education program (IEP), a specially created plan that helps students with identified disabilities succeed in school. These plans establish goals and provide services and supports to meet the needs of individual students, and they can include elements that range from additional support when taking a test to more intensive special education programs.

The share of students with an IEP has increased slightly in recent years, rising two percentage points between 2008 and 2012. Though data show year-to-year fluctuations, children who have IEPs make up about 11% to 13% of all public school students in DC. In DC Public Schools (DCPS) 14% of students have IEPs, which is slightly higher than the overall rate and the rate of public charter school students. However, the share of charter students with an IEP has increased over the past decade.

Looking only at the numbers – which you can see and download in the DC KIDS COUNT Data Center – more than 10,600 DC students have an IEP. These numbers have been increasing in recent years, as overall enrollment has increased and DCPS has made an effort to bring students who attend non-public schools back into the DCPS system. (When a public school system cannot meet the needs of a student with a disability, federal law gives that student the right to attend a private school. The public school system pays for the private placements.) Through the Strong Start campaign, DC is also making an effort to identify very young children with developmental delays and disabilities, to better assist children and families in getting the help they need and ensure that supports are in place before children reach school age. In the coming years, we may see the number and percentage of students with IEPs increase slightly, as non-public placements decrease and identification of delays and disabilities among the youngest children increases.  

At DC Action, we write often about the importance of quality schools, and this need includes all students – those with IEPs and those without. We must make sure that students with IEPs have the supports they need to achieve success in school. For many children, those supports come from special education teachers. In the mayor’s fiscal year 2014 proposed budget for DCPS, the ratio of elementary and middle students with learning disabilities to special education teachers increases to 15:1 (it’s now 10:1), according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. On average one teacher would now have responsibility for managing the individualized education program of five more students.

Funding for early intervention and special education for young children is a mixed bag, with increases for Strong Start but a reduction for Early Stages, a DCPS program for young children who are eligible for special education. We will be paying attention to budget numbers in upcoming weeks, as the DC Council holds hearings to review each agency’s proposed budget and listen to the concerns of community members, advocates and other stakeholders.

To see the complete set of data, and many other indicators of child well-being, visit the DC KIDS COUNT Data Center.

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