Magazine article Chicago Policy Review (Online)

Returning Special Education Students to General Education Classrooms: Effects on Peers’ Reading Scores

Magazine article Chicago Policy Review (Online)

Returning Special Education Students to General Education Classrooms: Effects on Peers’ Reading Scores

Article excerpt

In most countries, children with special educational needs (SEN) are taught in segregated settings, but some children with SEN eventually return to general education classrooms. This is due to politicians’ increased push for inclusive education, as well as the fact that there is a point at which students with SEN are aged out of the special education system—they ultimately return to general classrooms after the age of 21. According to a Condition of Education report, in 2015, 63 percent of students aged 6 to 21 who were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) spent 80 percent or more of their time in general classes—an increase from 47 percent of these students in 2000. Researchers and policymakers are concerned as to the influence that these returning SEN students may have upon the academic performance of their peers in regular classrooms. Understanding this effect is crucial for educational policymakers so they can create a more inclusive classroom environment for students with various needs.

In a study published in 2019, Beatrice Schindler Rangvid, at the Danish Centre for Social Science Research, examined the effect of returning SEN students upon the learning outcomes of their peers during reform years (i.e. years with exceptionally large intakes of returners). The study utilized a full-population administrative data set from Denmark and drew on a sample of 535,000 students per year during 2009 to 2015. It examined the gains in test scores among regular students who were studying with recent returners (i.e. SEN students who returned to regular classrooms during the current or previous school year), and compared these to the test score gains of other regular students in the same cohort who were not studying with recent returners. The results showed that returning SEN students had a slight negative effect on their peers’ gains in reading scores during the reform period (i.e. the year from 2012 to 2015 in Denmark)—the increase was approximately 0.04 points smaller for regular students who were studying with recent returners than those who were not. However, there were no significant differences in the exposure effect between reform and non-reform years. In addition, stronger negative effects were observed in schools that had little or no recent experience with accommodating returners.

Having discovered a negative correlation between exposure to recent returners and test scores, the author investigated other factors that could potentially affect the strength of the previous finding. …

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