To the Editor:
I read with interest the article reporting and analyzing an “uptick” in special education enrollments (“National Count of Special Education Students Shows Uptick”). The article, as is Education Week‘s norm, is well written, and canvassed the opinions of an impressive group of experts.
However, there does seem to be one problem with the otherwise comprehensive analysis: The longitudinal graph and the various comments are solely based on numbers rather than also including percentages. Thus, if the school population increased during the same period, the percentage of special education students may have increased, remained the same, or decreased during that time, while providing a more simple, straightforward, and cogent explanation than those the commentators offered for the reported uptick.
Without the reference point of total enrollment numbers, the special education numbers alone are important in terms of costs and other significant factors but incomplete in terms of longitudinal trends.
Perry A. Zirkel
University Professor Emeritus
Education and Law
A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2016 edition of Education Week as Missing Reference Point Could Skew Article’s Data