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Equitable Access to High-Quality Curricula and Instruction DomainEquitable Access to High-Quality Curricula and Instruction Domain

Disparities in Equitable Access to High-Quality Academic Supports

Last Updated: August 2023 | Suggested Citation

This indicator examines disparities in equitable access to high-quality academic supports by exploring access to and participation in special education services and services for English learners (ELs). Group differences in this indicator are examined by disability type, race/ethnicity, sex, state, locale, grade level, and language spoken.

Access to and Participation in Special Education Services

Enacted in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates the provision of a free and appropriate public school education for eligible students ages 3–21. Eligible students are those identified by a team of professionals as having a disability that adversely affects academic performance and as being in need of special education and/or related services. Data collection activities to monitor compliance with IDEA began in 1976. This indicator uses IDEA data to examine participation in special education services under IDEA. Although this is an imperfect proxy for access to special education services, it still provides an important understanding of the inequity surrounding these services. While the NASEM report includes access to and participation in formalized systems of tutoring, this report includes data available for the other types of academic supports, including special education services and services for English learners. The number of students ages 3–21 receiving IDEA services in the United States increased from 6.4 million in school year 2010–11 to 7.3 million in school year 2021–22.35 Taken as a percentage of total public school enrollment, this equates to an increase from 13 to 15 percent of students.36

During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of students receiving IDEA services dropped by 1 percent between 2019–20 and 2020–21 (from 7.3 to 7.2 million students), marking the first time this number had decreased since 2011–12. In 2021–22, IDEA enrollment largely rebounded to its 2019–20 pre-pandemic level (7.3 million students). Meanwhile, total public school enrollment dropped by 3 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2020 and then remained around the same number in fall 2021 (see Public School Enrollment). As a result, the percentage of public school students who were served under IDEA continued its upward trend each year during the pandemic and was higher in 2021–22 (15 percent) than in 2019–20 (14 percent).

Trends in access to general classes: Educational environment data are also available for school-age students served under IDEA.37, 38 Of the school-age children served under IDEA in fall 2021,

  • 95 percent were enrolled in regular schools;
  • 2 percent were enrolled in separate schools (public or private) for students with disabilities;
  • 2 percent were parentally placed in regular private schools;39 and
  • 1 percent were homebound or in hospitals, in separate residential facilities (public or private), or in correctional facilities.

Students served under IDEA who attended regular schools spent different percentages of time during the school day in general classes, and these percentages changed over time. Between fall 2010 and fall 2021,40 among all school-age students served under IDEA, the percentage who were in regular schools and spent various amounts of time in general classes changed as follows:

  • the percentage who spent 80 percent or more of their time in general classes increased from 61 to 67 percent;
  • the percentage who spent 40 to 79 percent of their time in general classes decreased from 20 to 16 percent; and
  • the percentage who spent less than 40 percent of their time in general classes decreased from 14 to 13 percent.

Figure 14. Among school-age students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), percentage who spent various amounts of time during the school day in general classes in regular schools: Fall 2010 through fall 2021

Figure 14. Among school-age students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), percentage who spent various amounts of time during the school day in general classes in regular schools: Fall 2010 through fall 2021

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia only. Totals include imputations for states for which data were unavailable. Prior to 2019, "school-age children" included in this figure were students ages 6 to 21. Due to changes in reporting requirements in the fall 2019 data collection, the number of 6- to 21-year-olds served may include some 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten. Starting in the fall 2020 data collection, school-age children include 6- to 21-year-olds and 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://data.ed.gov/dataset/idea-section-618-data-products-state-level-data-files. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.60.

Data are also available for students ages 14–21 served under IDEA who exited school41 during school year 2020–21.

  • Approximately 435,000 students ages 14–21 served under IDEA exited school in 2020–21. Of these students, 75 percent graduated with a regular high school diploma, 14 percent “dropped out,”42 10 percent received an alternative certificate,43 1 percent reached the maximum age44 to receive special education and/or related services, and less than one-half of 1 percent died.

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Among students ages 3 through 21 who received special education and/or related services under IDEA in school year 2021–22, the disability types45 with the largest reported percentage of students were

  • specific learning disabilities (32 percent);46
  • speech or language impairments (19 percent);47
  • other health impairments (15 percent);48 and
  • autism (12 percent).

Students with developmental delays,49 intellectual disabilities, and emotional disturbances each accounted for between 5 and 7 percent of students served under IDEA. The percentage of students served under IDEA was 2 percent or less for each of the following disability types: multiple disabilities,50 hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, traumatic brain injuries, and deaf-blindness.

Figure 15. Percentage distribution of students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by selected disability type: School year 2021–22

Figure 15. Percentage distribution of students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by selected disability type: School year 2021–22

1 A specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

2 Speech or language impairment is defined as a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

3 Other health impairments include having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes.

4 Although federal law does not require that states/entities and local education agencies categorize children according to developmental delay, if this category is required by state law, they are expected to report these children in the developmental delay category.

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia only. Percentages by disability type indicate the specific disability for which a child is receiving services under IDEA. If a child has multiple types of disabilities but is receiving services under IDEA for only one type of disability, then the child is categorized under that specific disability. If a child is receiving services for more than one type of IDEA-defined disability, then the child is categorized under “multiple disabilities.” Orthopedic impairment, visual impairment, traumatic brain injury, and deaf-blindness are not shown because they each account for less than 0.5 percent of students served under IDEA. Due to categories not shown, detail does not sum to 100 percent.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://data.ed.gov/dataset/idea-section-618-data-products. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.30.

In fall 2021, more than two-thirds of students ages 3 through 21 with the following disabilities spent 80 percent or more of their time during the school day in general classes:

  • speech or language impairments (88 percent);
  • specific learning disabilities (75 percent);
  • other health impairments (70 percent);
  • developmental delays (70 percent); and
  • visual impairments (70 percent).

Less than one-third of students with the following disabilities spent 80 percent or more of their time during the school day in general classes:

  • deaf-blindness (30 percent);
  • intellectual disabilities (20 percent); and
  • multiple disabilities (15 percent).

Among students ages 14–21 served under IDEA who exited school in school year 2020–21, the percentages who graduated with a regular high school diploma, received an alternative certificate, and “dropped out” also differed by type of disability.

  • The percentage of exiting students who graduated with a regular high school diploma was highest for students with speech or language impairments (87 percent) and lowest for students with multiple disabilities (44 percent).
  • The percentage of exiting students who received an alternative certificate was highest for students with multiple disabilities and intellectual disabilities (36 percent and 34 percent, respectively) and lowest for students with speech or language impairments (4 percent).
  • The percentage of exiting students who dropped out was highest for students with emotional disturbances (28 percent) and lowest for students with deaf-blindness (4 percent).

In school year 2021–22, the number of students ages 3 through 21 served under IDEA as a percent of total enrollment was highest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (19 percent) and Black students (17 percent) and was lowest for Pacific Islander students (11 percent) and Asian students (8 percent).

Figure 16. Percentage of students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by race/ethnicity: School year 2021–22

Figure 16. Percentage of students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by race/ethnicity: School year 2021–22

NOTE: Based on total public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12 by race/ethnicity. Data in this figure are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as a small (but unknown) number of students from other jurisdictions. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://data.ed.gov/dataset/idea-section-618-data-products; and National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2021–22. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.50.

The percentage distribution of students ages 3 through 21 receiving special education and/or related services for various types of disabilities differed by race/ethnicity in school year 2021–22. For most racial/ethnic groups, specific learning disabilities and speech or language impairments were the two most common types of disabilities, accounting for at least 41 percent of students receiving IDEA services.

  • Among Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander students ages 3–21, specific learning disabilities and speech or language impairments together accounted for more than 50 percent of those who received special education and/or related services.
  • In contrast, although these two disabilities accounted for 41 percent of Asian students receiving IDEA services, the most common disability for Asian students was autism (29 percent). The percentage of students from other racial/ethnic backgrounds receiving IDEA services for autism ranged from 8 to 13 percent.

Among students ages 14–21 served under IDEA who exited school in school year 2020–21, the percentages who graduated with a regular high school diploma, received an alternative certificate, and “dropped out” differed by race/ethnicity.

  • The percentage of exiting students who graduated with a regular high school diploma was highest for White and Asian students (78 percent each) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (69 percent).
  • The percentage of exiting students who received an alternative certificate was highest for Asian students (14 percent) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (4 percent).
  • The percentage of exiting students who “dropped out” was highest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (26 percent) and lowest for Asian students (6 percent).

Figure 17. Among students ages 14–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) who exited school, percentage who exited for selected reasons, by race/ethnicity: School year 2020–21

Figure 17. Among students ages 14–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) who exited school, percentage who exited for selected reasons, by race/ethnicity: School year 2020–21

1 Received a certificate of completion, modified diploma, or some similar document but did not meet the same standards for graduation as those for students without disabilities. Includes 419 students from four states who exited an educational program through receipt of an alternate diploma.

NOTE: Data in this figure are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as a small (but unknown) number of students from other jurisdictions. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Section 618 Data Products: State Level Data Files. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://data.ed.gov/dataset/idea-section-618-data-products-state-level-data-files. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 219.90.

Data on special education and/or related services by sex were available for all students ages 3–21, whereas data on special education services by sex and type of disability were available only for school-age students.  Therefore, findings by sex are presented for school-age students only.51

  • As a percentage of K–12 students enrolled in public schools in school year 2021–22, more male students (18 percent) than female students (10 percent) received special education and/or related services under IDEA.
  • In addition, the percentage distribution of school-age students who received special education and/or related services for various types of disabilities differed by sex. For example, the percentage of students served under IDEA who received services for specific learning disabilities was higher for female students (42 percent) than for male students (30 percent), while the percentage who received services for autism was higher for male students (15 percent) than for female students (6 percent).

In school year 2021–22, across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the percentage of students served under IDEA ranged from 11 to 20 percent of total public school enrollment.52 The number of students receiving IDEA services was equivalent to

  • 20 percent of total public school enrollment in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maine; and
  • less than 12 percent of total public school enrollment in Idaho, Texas, and Hawaii.

In other U.S. jurisdictions in 2021–22, the number of students ages 3–21 who received special education and/or related services under IDEA was equivalent to 31 percent of total public school enrollment. The number of students receiving IDEA services was equivalent to

  • 34 percent of total public school enrollment in Puerto Rico;
  • 11 percent of total public school enrollment in the Northern Mariana Islands;
  • 10 percent of total public school enrollment in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and
  • 6 percent of total public school enrollment in Guam.53

Additionally, 17 percent of students in Bureau of Indian Education schools received special education and/or related services under IDEA.

Figure 18. Students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as a percentage of public school enrollment, by state and jurisdiction: School year 2021–22 

Figure 18. Students ages 3–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as a percentage of public school enrollment, by state and jurisdiction: School year 2021–22

— Not available.

NOTE: The U.S. average is for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Percentages are calculated and categorized using unrounded data. For Louisiana, data on 3- to 5-year-olds served under IDEA are for 2020–21 instead of 2021–22 because 2021–22 data for this age group were not available for this state.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://data.ed.gov/dataset/idea-section-618-data-products. National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2021-22. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022,table 204.70.

Services for English Learners

Students who are identified as English learners (ELs) can participate in language assistance programs to help ensure that they attain English proficiency and meet the academic content and achievement standards expected of all students. Participation in these types of programs can improve students’ English language proficiency, which in turn has been associated with improved educational outcomes.47 Data on ELs include students with a current EL identification, but not students who were formerly identified as ELs and no longer are. Note also that data on ELs enrolled in public schools have changed over time. For fall 2014 and earlier years, EL data include only those ELs who participated in EL programs. Starting with fall 2015, data include all currently identified ELs, regardless of program participation. However, the proportion of ELs who participate in EL programs is large. For example, in the 2020–21 school year, 98 percent of identified ELs were served by EL programs. Comparisons over time should be interpreted with caution due to this change in the data reported. While the data discussed in this section do not directly capture EL students’ access to or participation in services, it does provide insight into the number of students who would potentially need access to these programs and services. This indicator uses Common Core of Data (CCD) to examine Percentage of English learners (ELs).

The percentage of public school students in the United States who were ELs increased overall between fall 2010 (9.2 percent, or 4.5 million students) and fall 2020 (10.3 percent, or 5.0 million students).48  However, this upward trend was disrupted between fall 2019 and fall 2020—during the first school year of the coronavirus pandemic—when EL enrollment fell from 5.1 to 5.0 million students (from 10.4 to 10.3 percent of public school enrollment).56 In general, a higher percentage of public school students in lower grades than of those in upper grades were EL students in fall 2020. This is consistent with the expected pattern if students, who are identified as ELs in early grades, tend to obtain English language proficiency by the time they reach the upper grades.57

In fall 2020, EL students represented 10.0 percent or more of public school students in 12 states and the District of Columbia.58

  • The states were Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. Texas reported the highest percentage of ELs among its public school students (20.1 percent), followed by California (17.7 percent) and New Mexico (16.0 percent).
  • An additional 20 states identified at least 6.0 but less than 10.0 percent of their students as ELs, and 13 states identified at least 3.0 but less than 6.0 percent of their students as ELs.
  • The percentage of students who were ELs was less than 3.0 percent in 5 states: New Hampshire (2.9 percent), Wyoming (2.7 percent), Montana (2.5 percent), Vermont (2.3 percent), and West Virginia (0.7 percent).

The percentage of public school students who were ELs was higher in fall 2020 than in fall 2010 in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and lower in the remaining 9 states.59 From fall 2010 to fall 2020, the largest positive percentage point change occurred in Rhode Island (7.3 percentage points higher in 2020) and the largest negative percentage point change occurred in Nevada (7.2 percentage points lower in 2020).

Figure 19. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by state: Fall 2020 

Figure 19. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by state: Fall 2020

NOTE: U.S. average is for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data on ELs and ELs as a percent of enrollment exclude students who are enrolled in prekindergarten. Categorizations are based on unrounded percentages.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 141, Data Group 678, extracted March 31, 2021; and Common Core of Data (CCD), “Local Education Agency Universe Survey,” 2020-21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.20

In fall 2020, the percentage of public school students who were ELs was higher for school districts in more urbanized locales than for those in less urbanized locales. EL students constituted an average of 13.7 percent of total public school enrollment in cities, 10.0 percent in suburban areas, 7.2 percent in towns, and 4.4 percent in rural areas.

Figure 20. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by locale: Fall 2020

Figure 20. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by locale: Fall 2020

NOTE: Data in this figure represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data are based on locales of school districts. Data on ELs and ELs as a percent of enrollment exclude students who are enrolled in prekindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 141, Data Group 678, extracted December 10, 2021; and Common Core of Data (CCD), "Local Education Agency Universe Survey," 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 214.40.

In general, a higher percentage of public school students in lower grades than of those in upper grades were EL students in fall 2020. For example, 12.9 percent of kindergarteners were ELs, compared with 9.9 percent of 6th-graders, 8.1 percent of 8th-graders, and 5.6 percent of 12th-graders. This is consistent with the expected pattern if students, who are identified as ELs in early grades, tend to obtain English language proficiency by the time they reach the upper grades.60

  • For the majority of grade levels, the percentage of public school students who were ELs was higher in fall 2020 than just before the pandemic in fall 2019.
  • However, the percentage of ELs was lower in fall 2020 than in fall 2019 in kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 5, and 9. The difference was largest in kindergarten. Specifically, from fall 2019 to fall 2020, the percentage of EL kindergarteners declined by 2.1 percentage points (15.0 to 12.9 percent), compared with changes of half of a percentage point or less in every other grade.

Figure 21. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by grade level: Fall 2020

Figure 21. Percentage of public school students who were English learners (ELs), by grade level: Fall 2020

1 Ungraded students can include elementary/secondary school students of any age. Also includes students reported as being enrolled in grade 13.

NOTE: Data in this figure represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data on ELs and ELs as a percent of enrollment exclude students who are enrolled in prekindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 141, Data Group 678, extracted October 10, 2022; and Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education," 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.27.

  • Spanish was the most commonly reported home language of EL public school students in fall 2020 (3.7 million students), representing 75.5 percent of all ELs and 7.8 percent of all public school students.  
  • Arabic was the second most commonly reported home language (spoken by 128,600 students).
  • English was the third most common home language for EL students (124,900 students), which may reflect students who live in multilingual households or students adopted from other countries who were raised speaking another language but currently live in households where English is spoken.
  • The next most commonly reported home languages of ELs in fall 2020 were Chinese (93,300 students), Vietnamese (73,100 students), Portuguese (43,400 students), Russian (37,200 students), Haitian (30,100 students), Hmong (28,700 students), and Urdu (25,200 students).
  • The prevalence of each of these reported home languages among ELs changed between school year 2009–10 and fall 2020. The largest percent change was in the number of ELs whose reported home language was Portuguese, which nearly tripled from 15,200 to 43,4000 students over this period.61

Table 1. Number and percentage distribution of English learner (EL) students in public schools and number of EL students as a percentage of total public school enrollment, by the 10 most commonly reported home languages of EL students: Fall 2020

Home language Number of EL students Percentage distribution of EL students1 Number of EL students as a percent of enrollment
Spanish, Castilian 3,745,460 75.5 7.8
Arabic 128,641 2.6 0.3
English2 124,917 2.5 0.3
Chinese 93,339 1.9 0.2
Vietnamese 73,075 1.5 0.2
Portuguese 43,426 0.9 0.1
Russian 37,159 0.7 0.1
Haitian, Haitian Creole 30,063 0.6 0.1
Hmong 28,719 0.6 0.1
Korean 25,192 0.5 0.1

1 Detail does not sum to 100 percent because not all home language categories are shown.

2 Examples of situations in which English might be reported as an English learner's home language include students who live in multilingual households and students adopted from other countries who were raised speaking another language but currently live in households where English is spoken.

NOTE: Data in this table represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data on ELs and ELs as a percent of enrollment exclude students who are enrolled in prekindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 141, Data Group 678, extracted October 10, 2022; and Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education," 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, table 204.27.

In fall 2020, more than three-quarters of ELs were Hispanic.62 Specifically, the racial/ethnic composition of ELs was

  • 77.1 percent Hispanic (3.8 million students);
  • 10.2 percent Asian (503,800 students);
  • 6.3 percent White (314,800 students);
  • 4.3 percent Black (213,700 students);
  • 0.8 percent Two or more races (37,600 students);
  • 0.7 percent American/Indian Alaska Native (36,400 students); and
  • 0.6 percent Pacific Islander (31,700 students).

In addition, 800,600 ELs were identified as students with disabilities in fall 2020, representing 16.1 percent of the total EL student enrollment. In comparison, students with disabilities made up 14.5 percent of total public school enrollment in 2020–21.

Findings in this indicator come from Student With Disabilities and English Learners in Public Schools in the Condition of Education. For more information see tables 204.20, 204.27, 204.30, 204.50, 204.60, 204.70, and 219.90. from the Digest of Education Statistics 2022.

35 Totals presented in this indicator include imputations for states for which data were unavailable. See reference tables in the Digest of Education Statistics for more information.

36 The number of children served as a percentage of total enrollment is based on total public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12. However, not all students served under IDEA receive education services in public school environments.

37 Educational environment data provide information on where a student with disabilities is served. Educational environments include, but are not limited to, public schools, private schools, correctional facilities, home, or hospitals.

38 For fall 2010 through fall 2018, school-age students include students ages 6–21. Due to changes in reporting requirements in the fall 2019 data collection, the number of 6- to 21-year-olds served may include some 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten in that year. Starting in the fall 2020 data collection, school-age students include 6- to 21-year-olds and 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten.

39 Refers to students who are enrolled by their parents or guardians in regular private schools and have their basic education paid for through private resources but receive special education and/or related services at public expense.

40 For fall 2010 through fall 2018, school-age students include students ages 6–21. Due to changes in reporting requirements in the fall 2019 data collection, the number of 6- to 21-year-olds served may include some 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten in that year. Starting in the fall 2020 data collection, school-age students include 6- to 21-year-olds and 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten.

41 School year 2020–21 data for students ages 14–21 served under IDEA who exited school are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as a small (but unknown) number of students from other jurisdictions. Data from prior years included data for students from Bureau of Indian Education schools, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

42 “Dropped out” is defined as students who were enrolled at some point in the reporting year, were not enrolled at the end of the reporting year, and did not exit for any of the other reasons described.

43 Refers to students who received a certificate of completion, modified diploma, or some similar document but did not meet the same standards for graduation as those for students without disabilities. In school year 2020–21, the number of students who received an alternate certificate includes 419 students from four states who exited an educational program through receipt of an alternate diploma.

44 Each state determines its maximum age for receiving special education and/or related services. At the time these data were collected, the maximum age across states generally ranged from 20 to 22 years old.

45 Disability type refers to the specific disability for which a child is receiving services under IDEA. If a child has multiple types of disabilities but is receiving services under IDEA for only one type of disability, then the child is categorized under that specific disability. If a child is receiving services for more than one type of IDEA-defined disability, then the child is categorized under “multiple disabilities.”

46 A specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

47 Speech or language impairments is defined as a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

48 Other health impairments include having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes.

49 Although federal law does not require that states/entities and local education agencies categorize children according to developmental delay, if this category is required by state law, they are expected to report these children in the developmental delay category.

50 Multiple disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness or intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness.

51 Starting in the school year 2020–21 data collection, school-age students include 6- to 21-year-olds and 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten.

52 Throughout this indicator, percentages are calculated and categorized using unrounded data.

53 Data were not available for American Samoa and Palau.

54 Genesee, F., Lindholm-Leary, K., Saunders, W., and Christian, D. (2005). English Language Learners in U.S. Schools: An Overview of Research Findings. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 10(4): 363–385. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327671espr1004_2.

55 For fall 2014 and earlier years, EL data include only those ELs who participated in EL programs. Starting with fall 2015, data include all currently identified ELs, regardless of program participation. However, the proportion of ELs who participate in EL programs is large. For example, in the 2020–21 school year, 98 percent of identified ELs were served by EL programs. Comparisons over time should be interpreted with caution due to this change in the data reported.

56 Total public school enrollment also decreased during the first school year of the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, see Public School Enrollment.

57 Saunders, W. M., and Marcelletti, D. J. (2013). The Gap That Can’t Go Away: The Catch-22 of Reclassification in Monitoring the Progress of English Learners. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(2): 139–156. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0162373712461849.

58 Categorizations are based on unrounded percentages.

59 For 2014 and earlier years, data on the total number of EL students enrolled in public schools and on the percentage of public school students who were ELs include only those EL students who participated in EL programs. Starting with 2015, data include all EL students, regardless of program participation. Due to this change in definition, comparisons over time should be interpreted with caution. For all years, data do not include students who were formerly identified as ELs but later obtained English language proficiency.

60 Saunders, W.M., and Marcelletti, D.J. (2013). The Gap That Can’t Go Away: The Catch-22 of Reclassification in Monitoring the Progress of English Learners. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(2): 139–156. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0162373712461849.

54 School year 2009–10 data include all EL students enrolled at any time during the 2009–10 school year, except data for California, which reflect EL students enrolled on a single date. All other data in this indicator include only EL students enrolled on October 1 of the corresponding year.

62 The number of Hispanic ELs is larger than the number of ELs whose reported home language is Spanish. Some Hispanic ELs speak a language other than Spanish at home (such as a language that is indigenous to Latin America). In addition, home language data may be missing for some Hispanic ELs.

Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Access to High-Quality Academic Supports. Education in Equity Dashboard. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from [URL].