Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationships among States' Fiscal and Demographic Data and the Implementation of P.L. 94-142

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationships among States' Fiscal and Demographic Data and the Implementation of P.L. 94-142

Article excerpt

* As special education policies and programs have been established within the states, the interaction between federal mandates and state resources has resulted in notable variation among states in policy interpretations (Geny, 1985) and implementation of mandated procedures (Brinker & Thorpe, 1985; Danielson & Bellamy, 1989; Forness, 1985; Hallahan, Keller, & Ball, 1986). The present study is based on the premise that some of the variation in implementation of federal special education policy at the state level has been influenced by fiscal and demographic realities within individual states.

This study used national data sources to explore the relationships among certain state-level special education, fiscal, and demographic variables. The primary purposes of the research were (a) to discover to what extent differences in special education identification and integration rates were associated with specific states' fiscal and demographic characteristics, and (b) to demonstrate the feasibility of using existing national databases in special education policy research.

Federal education agencies are the repositories for numerous large-scale databases, which have been underused for research (Burstein, 1984). The chief national database in special education is contained in the Annual Reports to Congress. Since 1977, states have been reporting information such as the number of students they serve in special education programs, by category of disability; the types of educational placements in which students are served; and the number of teachers and other professionals employed. This data set represents, on a macroscopic level, the status of our nation's implementation of special education programs.

The analytic studies that have used portions of these data have been descriptive for the most part (Brinker & Thorpe, 1985; Forness, 1985; Gerber, 1984; Gerber & Levine-Donnelson, 1989; Hallahan et al., 1986). Recently, Danielson and Bellamy (1989) used data from the Tenth Annual Report to Congress to analyze, across states, the use of various placement options for students with disabilities. This study demonstrated that considerable variation among states existed in the implementation of the least restrictive environment provision of Public Law 94-142, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As a result, the authors suggested that further research on state characteristics was warranted to examine factors influencing implementation of special education policies.

A study by Noel and Fuller (1985) examined the Annual Report data for the 1976-77 and 1980-81 school years to explore relationships to selected demographic and fiscal characteristics of states. That research revealed the existence of some tenuous relationships between a state's relative wealth and proportion of rural and minority populations and the identification rates for specific disabilities. The present study expands on that preliminary work by exploring the interrelationships among a broader number of both fiscal and demographic characteristics and data regarding states' special education implementation.

This research has attempted to assess whether state-level data obtained from existing and diverse data sources could be used to investigate selected features of individual states' implementation of P.L. 94-142. The research examined whether variability in the selected fiscal or demographic characteristics was systematically related to identification and integration rates. To the extent that meaningful relationships could be identified and understood, the effort expended in collecting, maintaining, and bringing together extant data sources can benefit both program evaluation efforts and policy analyses.


The information for this study was drawn from a large database, created by compiling and merging numerous data sets containing information on the economic, social, and general and special educational characteristics of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. …

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