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Indicator 8: Students with Disabilities
(Last Updated: July 2017)

In 2013–14, the percentage of students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was highest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (17 percent), followed by Black students (15 percent), White students (13 percent), students of Two or more races (12 percent), Hispanic students (12 percent), Pacific Islander students (11 percent), and Asian students (6 percent).

Students with disabilities may require services to provide them access to the same learning opportunities as students without disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA,1 supports states and localities in their efforts to aid infants, toddlers, children, and the families of youth with disabilities by protecting their rights, meeting their individual needs, and improving their educational outcomes. This indicator examines the percentage of students (i.e., children ages 3–21) served by IDEA in school year 2013–14 and the rate at which students with different disabilities received these services. The indicator also examines the rate at which students served by IDEA exited school in school year 2012–13 and the reasons why they exited.


Figure 8.1. Percentage of children 3 to 21 years old served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by race/ethnicity: School year 2013–14

Figure 8.1. Percentage of children 3 to 21 years old served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by race/ethnicity: School year 2013–14


NOTE: Data include only those children served for whom race/ethnicity was reported. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved September 25, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/state-level-data-files/index.html#bcc; and National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),"State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2013–14. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 204.40.


Thirteen percent of children and youth ages 3–21 enrolled in public schools were served under IDEA in 2013–14, a total of about 6.5 million individuals. However, this percentage varied by race/ethnicity. The percentage was highest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (17 percent), followed by Black students (15 percent), White students (13 percent), students of Two or more races (12 percent), Hispanic students (12 percent), Pacific Islander students (11 percent), and Asian students (6 percent).


Figure 8.2. Percentage distribution of children 3 to 21 years old served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by type of disability and race/ethnicity: School year 2013–14

Figure 8.2. Percentage distribution of children 3 to 21 years old served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by type of disability and race/ethnicity: School year 2013–14


NOTE: Although data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia, data limitations result in inclusion of a small (but unknown) number of students from other jurisdictions. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved September 25, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/state-level-data-files/index.html#bcc; and National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),"State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2013–14. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 204.50.


In 2013–14, the percentage of students with disabilities who received services under IDEA for some of the most common types of disabilities differed by race/ethnicity. For example, the percentage of students with disabilities who received services for a specific learning disability2 was higher for Pacific Islander students (42 percent), Hispanic students (42 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (41 percent) than for students of the other races/ethnicities shown (with the percentages ranging from 22 to 38 percent). The percentage of students with disabilities who received services for a speech or language impairment was highest for Asian students (27 percent); the percentages for students of the other races/ethnicities shown ranged from 14 to 22 percent. The percentage of students with disabilities who received services for autism was highest for Asian students (19 percent); the percentages for students of the other races/ethnicities shown ranged from 5 to 9 percent. Additionally, the percentage of students with disabilities who received services for an intellectual disability was highest for Black students (10 percent); the percentages for students of the other races/ethnicities shown ranged from 5 to 7 percent.

Data are also available for students ages 14–21 who received special education services under IDEA and exited school during school year 2012–13, including the reasons why they exited. In 2012–13, approximately 396,000 students ages 14–21 who received services under IDEA exited school: almost two-thirds (65 percent) graduated with a regular high school diploma, 14 percent received an alternative certificate,3 19 percent dropped out, 1 percent reached maximum age,4 and less than one-half of 1 percent died.


Figure 8.3. Percentage of students ages 14–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, who exited school, by exit reason and race/ethnicity: School year 2012–13

Figure 8.3. Percentage of students ages 14–21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, who exited school, by exit reason and race/ethnicity: School year 2012–13


1 Received a certificate of completion, modified diploma, or similar document, but did not meet the same standards for graduation as did students without disabilities.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
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 November 30, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/state-level-data-files/index.html. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 219.90.


Of the students ages 14–21 who received services under IDEA and exited school in 2012–13, the percentage who graduated with a regular high school diploma was highest among White students (72 percent) and lowest among Black students (55 percent). The percentage of students served under IDEA who received an alternative certificate was highest among Black students (19 percent) and lowest among American Indian/Alaska Native students (9 percent). The percentage of students who dropped out was highest among American Indian/Alaska Native students (27 percent) and lowest among Asian students (9 percent).

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1 Previously, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, amended in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 (P.L. 94-152). See Appendix A: Guide to Sources for more information about the history and requirements of IDEA.
2 Specific learning disability is defined as having a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, motor, or intellectual disabilities, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
3 Received a certificate of completion, modified diploma, or similar document, but did not meet the same standards for graduation as did students without disabilities.
4 Students may exit special education services due to maximum age beginning at age 18, depending on state law or practice or order of any court.