IU study: Students with disabilities succeed better alongside nondisabled peers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A recent data study from Indiana Institute on Disability and Community showed high school students with disabilities, who spent 80% of their time in general education classrooms scored higher on state reading, math assessments and were better equipped for higher education and employment opportunities, compared to those disability students who did not.

Sandi Cole, lead author on the Indiana Institute on Disability Community study, said, “This has been a decades-old debate about where we should educate students with disabilities, and we feel like we can definitively say students with disabilities belong in general education classrooms.”

Cole said data concluded that the place for education is important. “Place matters” for students with disabilities.

The study used a methodology called propensity score matching that allowed researchers to create statistical twins with the same variables for students in inclusive classrooms vs. students not in inclusive classrooms. From there they looked to see how well the students were doing based on state wide assessment data gathered from the state Department of Education.

The study looked at Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress scores from 2013 to 2018.

It also looked at graduation rates for high school students.

They found that students with disabilities who spent 80% or more time alongside other peers in general education classrooms scored an average of 24.3 points higher in English and 18.4 points higher in Math than those who didn’t.

Those students were also 22% more likely than their peers to graduate with a Core 40 diploma by passing the state assessment, rather than receive a waiver.

“We know that there are social benefits to being educated with their peers for general ed classrooms, but this now validates in our minds the idea that they also academically belong in general education classrooms,” Cole said.

This is the second study around the same topic that researchers did. Their first one focused on grades 3-8 using the same methodology with the same results.

Cole said their studies indicate that what students experience in schools directly impacts what happens to them after school.

Cole hopes school districts will re-evaluate how they serve students with disabilities. She also hopes that data will be able to give parents the sense of urgency to tell educators that their children will be better off in general education classrooms.

More information on the study can be found online.