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Study: Academic Success in Special Education Not Linked to Spending
posted by: Cindy Omlin | September 15, 2012, 12:17 AM   

Special education and specialized curriculum designed to serve special-needs students has been a hot topic for decades. While districts and states vary offerings depending on students or resources, this study was an attempt to better understand the scope of special education and how to improve the practice for the better. Study authors gathered data from 1,400 school districts representing more than one-third of special needs K-12 students in the United States, making it the largest and most detailed collection of data available.

The study focused on 10 pairs of school districts in five states — Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas. The districts that made up each pair were roughly the same size, with equal numbers of special education students and similar demographic characteristics. Both districts had varied special education costs; however, their results were not dependent on spending level. In fact, many of the lower-cost programs were producing better results.

"People think intuitively that more spending must mean better outcomes," Levenson said in defending his study. "This paper shows that is just not true." While the data did not explain why some districts spend less than the median but get better results, Levenson maintained that it came down to great teaching.

In examining the state of special education in the United States, this study is critical to initiating cost-savings measures in the future. Currently the single largest cost in special education is staffing. According to study authors, a better plan of action would be to hire fewer but more effective educators.

Overall, the study recommends that the federal government end the requirement that spending by states and localities on special education cannot fall below that of the prior year, except in certain cases. In examining the current costs of special education, the idea seems realistic. Special education represented about 21% of all education spending across the nation in 2005, or $110 billion, compared with 18% in 1996.

The results of this study are consistent with many of the trends in education reform policy today. While many maintain that more money will produce better results, studies have suggested that throwing more money at any need, including special education, won't necessarily produce results for students. Great teachers and effective curriculum are what make the true difference for any population of students.

What do you think about the study results?
Comment below.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE.

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