Access to General Education Contexts and Student Outcomes: Does Policy Matter?

This session presents findings from a study of state funding schemes and policies around evaluation, identification, and placement, and their relationships to highly inclusive states with positive outcomes for students with disabilities and highly segregated states and poor outcomes for students with disabilities. There is a wide range of rates of inclusion (defined by the US Department of Education as at least 80% of the school day in a general education setting) across the United States. For example, for students classified under the IDEA category of intellectual disability, the national average of inclusion is 17%, but states’ rates of inclusion range from a high of 57% in Iowa to a low of 4% in Hawaii. There is also variability in outcomes among the states. For example, the national high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is 54.6%, with a range among states from a high of 88% in Pennsylvania to a low of 19.7% in Alabama (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). There is a growing research base that shows that time in general education contexts is related to improved academic and social outcomes for students with disabilities, including students with complex support needs (Causton-Theoharis, Theoharis, Cosier, & Orsati, 2011; Cosier, Theoharis, & Causton-Theoharis, 2013; Matzen, Ryndak, & Nakao, 2010; Ryndak, Alper, Hughes, & McDonnell, 2012). However, a gap exists in the literature around policies, including funding schemes, and their relationship to time in general education contexts and improved student outcomes. In this study, the presenters examine what, if any, are the funding and policy differences between highly inclusive states with better outcomes for students with disabilities and highly segregated states with poor outcomes for students with disabilities.

After this session, participants will be able to:

  1. 1. Identify whether access to general education contexts improves outcomes for students with complex support needs;
  2. 2. Examine more inclusive states by their outcome data;
  3. 3. Distinguish funding and policy differences between highly inclusive states with positive outcomes for students with disabilities and highly segregated states with poor outcomes for students with disabilities.

Meghan Cosier, Julia White