Last month, the Houston Chronicle broke a story about special education that got a lot of attention in Texas—and nationwide. The newspaper reported that while 13 percent of students get special education services on average in the U.S., the number in Texas is far lower.
According to the story, Texas education officials have been pressuring schools to keep the number below 8.5 percent. And this has been happening for more than a decade.
As a result, tens of thousands of students have been kept out of special education, the Chronicle found. Kids with learning disabilities have been hit especially hard. The newspaper reported that the number of kids in that group who were receiving special education services dropped 45.9 percent from 2004 to 2014. If Texas followed the national average, 250,000 more kids would be getting services.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) set the limit in 2004. It then put a system in place to monitor schools to make sure they stay below it. Schools that don’t are required to come up with a “corrective action plan.” TEA, however, disagrees with some of the Chronicle’s statements about the monitoring system.
Texas has a dyslexia law that makes the situation more complicated. This law directs kids with dyslexia to instead of . There’s no exact figure on how many kids have received services under a 504 plan, however.
There’s also no way to measure the impact the policy has had on kids with learning and thinking differences. It’s not clear how it’s affected outcomes, such as graduation rates.
The newspaper looked into whether other states have similar limits. It reported that records showed none did. But if you have any concerns about your own school or district, there are some things you can do.
You can reach out to your local school board and PTA, or contact your state’s Parent Training and Information Center. Advocacy groups like the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities Association of America and Parents Education Network may also be able to help. (All three are Understood founding partners.)
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The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.