Who are the Children in Special Education?
Since the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) nearly 30 years ago, legislators, educators, and parents have wanted to assess the impact of special education services for children with disabilities. Does special education work? Are growing numbers of students with disabilities graduating from school with high school diplomas? Do they continue their education beyond high school? Are they successful in finding employment? Many research studies have been conducted over the years in an attempt to answer these and other questions related to special education.
National evaluation of the IDEA is one of the ongoing responsibilities of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, OSEP is funding seven national studies aimed at doing just that. One of these studies is SEELS—The Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study.
What is SEELS?
SEELS is a six-year study (1999-2005) that will document the school experiences of a national sample of school-age students with disabilities. The study will follow the students as they move from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school. SEELS will study academic performance, school experiences, family life, social adjustment, and personal growth of each of these students. An important feature of SEELS is that it does not look at the students at a single point in time. Rather, it assesses change throughout the students' public education.
Information from the study will help to improve schools by informing the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Congress, state policymakers, parents, and educators about what works well and ways to improve educational services to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.
Who is in the Study?
To find students for the study, school districts across the country were first randomly selected and invited to participate in the study. These districts represented a variety of geographic locations, sizes, and community income levels. About 300 individual school districts and 40 state-operated schools for deaf and/or blind students agreed to participate. From these schools, approximately 14,000 students were randomly selected, and their parents were sent information about the study and invited to participate. Of these students, nearly 12,000, aged 6 to 12 as of December 1999, and their families agreed to participate in the study.
The students represent all the disability categories in the IDEA and comprise a variety of races, incomes, and genders. These students will be 12 to 18 years old when the study ends in 2005. All together, these students are representative of school-age children across the nation. This will allow SEELS to make valid statements about what educational and special services look like for children all over the country.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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