Does Special Education Raise Academic Achievement for Students with Disabilities?
While special education has become a hotly debated issue of school policy, most of the discussion has centered on the aggregate costs of providing mandated programs for disabled children. Little attention has been paid to the effectiveness of such programs or possible interactions with the provision of regular education. This study, building on the unique data of the Harvard/UTD Texas Schools Project provides direct evidence on the effectiveness of special education programs. The average special education program boosts mathematics and reading achievement of special education students, particularly those classified as learning disabled, while not detracting from regular education students. These results are estimated quite precisely from models of fixed effects in achievement gains, and they are robust to a series of specification tests. At this stage, it is not possible to judge whether the program benefits are sufficiently large to justify the added spending involved.
Hanushek, Eric A., John F. Kain and Steven G. Rivkin. "Inferring Program Effects For Special Populations: Does Special Education Raise Achievement For Students With Disabilities?," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2002, v84(4,Nov), 584-599.