WASHINGTON, D.C. — The number of students classified as learning-disabled is on a downward trend nationally, as is the number of special education students overall, but experts disagree about the reasons why, according to a report in Education Week.

Reasons suggested by various officials to Education Week included better reading instruction overall, earlier intervention with struggling students, and switching students from learning-disabled to a different special education classification.

Others suggested a deliberate effort by schools to keep numbers of special education students low in order to avoid federal accountability rules and higher costs, Education Week reported.

The percentage of students nationwide identified as having a "specific learning disability" dropped from 6.1 percent in 2000-2001 to 5.2 percent in 2007-2008, or 2.9 million to 2.6 million students, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Education Week reported.

In Michigan, information at the Michigan Department of Education website states that the total number of special education students in the state rose from about 172,000 in 1990 to a peak of about 250,000 in 2005-2006, and then declined to about 244,000 by 2007-2008.

The number of Michigan students in the learning-disabled category stood at about 73,000 in 1990, peaked at about 98,000 in 2003-04 and declined to 93,000 by 2006-2007. Those numbers include students who spend part of their day in a general education classroom.

SOURCES:

Education Week, "Learning-Disabled Enrollment Dips After Long Climb," Sept. 8, 2010

Michigan Department of Education, "Special Education Pupil Count Data in Michigan, 1968-2007," March 2007

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Report, "Specializing in special education," Feb. 1, 2010

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