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Study Says Special Education Programs Boost Math Performance of Learning Disabled Students
Emotionally Disturbed Children Also Benefit Significantly
RICHARDSON, Texas (Dec. 2, 2002) - A study performed by researchers from Stanford University, Amherst College and The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) conclusively demonstrates that special education programs on average significantly boost the mathematics achievement of those enrolled in them, particularly children classified as learning disabled or emotionally disturbed.
The study, entitled "Inferring Program Effects for Specialized Populations: Does Special Education Raise Achievement for Students With Disabilities?" was conducted by Dr. John F. Kain, director of the Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society at UTD; Dr. Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research; and Dr. Steven G. Rivkin, economics professor at Amherst. Hanushek and Rivkin both also have research appointments at UTD.
A paper resulting from the study was published in the November issue of the Review of Economics and Statistics.
Kain, Hanushek and Rivkin point out that despite the fact that a disproportionate amount of school funding goes to the education of handicapped children - perhaps as much as one-fifth of total current spending for slightly more than 10 percent of students - before their study "extraordinarily little evidence (had been) accumulated about the effectiveness of special education programs in raising achievement."
Their paper concludes that not only do special ed programs usually have a salutary effect on the academic performance of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children, particularly in the area of mathematics, but that the existence of such programs does not have a negative impact on the non-special education population. Quite at odds with much of the general discussion on the subject, Kain, Hanushek and Rivkin reported they found no evidence that the "mainstreaming" of special-education students adversely affected regular education students.
Kain, Hanushek and Rivkin acknowledge that their study does not "constitute a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of special education," and they admit that their findings apply conclusively only to the subjects of their study - "the special education population taking the standardized Texas tests."
But their paper does not equivocate in its conclusion: special education programs "on average have a significantly beneficial effect on performance, boosting the math scores of students in such programs "by roughly 0.1 standard deviations over what would be expected in the absence of the intervention" and by even more in the case of students classified as learning disabled or emotionally disturbed.
"For good reason, previous discussions of special education have concentrated on issues related to costs," the paper says. "Yet the focus on costs has often obscured the fact that there is educational purpose in special education, and the benefits to special education students may well justify the costs."
About the Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society
Created in 1992, the Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society promotes more effective use of science and technology in understanding and remediating problems that threaten the global future. The center provides an institutional setting in which experts can engage in focused cross-disciplinary research and analysis. Center research programs and invited speakers reflect the center's commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to achieving solutions to society's most pressing problems. This exchange of ideas across disciplines and types of organizations has been a driving force behind many of the philanthropic activities of Cecil Green, a founder of The University of Texas at Dallas, and his late wife, Ida.
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 13,000 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's Web site at www.utdallas.edu.
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This page last updated June 05, 2012