Ohio’s Special Education Reform

Nationwide, the number of students with disabilities is increasing. In the face of budget cuts and special education teacher shortages, these vulnerable children run the risk of being left behind. In Ohio, efforts are being made to ensure compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and provide an education for all students.

Ohio Students with Disabilities

In the state of Ohio, students with disabilities are entitled to receive a free public education in the least restrictive environment from ages 3 to 21. “Least restrictive environment” means that, whenever possible, students with disabilities are not segregated and are educated alongside their regular education peers.

Delivering services to Ohio students with disabilities begins with identifying eligible children. In Ohio, children are considered disabled if they are between the ages of 3 and 21 and experience specific learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments, deafness, autism, cognitive disabilities, emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments or other health impairments. A child may also be deemed disabled if he or she is between the ages of 3 and 6 and experiences developmental delays. Once a child has been identified, the district develops an individual education plan (IEP) for the student based on a psychologist’s evaluation.

Since 1990, the number of students with disabilities has grown almost three times faster than the overall student population. Ohio ranks 16 in the nation in terms of the percentage of students with IEPs. Roughly 15 percent of Ohio’s school population is disabled, which amounts to 263,396 students as of 2011.

General Trend of Improvement

In August 2010, the state of Ohio released a state report card that indicates students with disabilities are making significant academic progress. Gains were made in 14 of 27 tested areas over the previous school year and 12 of 27 areas over the past five years. The following graph shows a comparison between special education and regular education students in math and science over the past seven years.


Declines in proficiency rates for 10th grade reading, writing and math suggest that fewer students with disabilities are passing the Ohio Graduation Test on their first attempt. Despite that data, special education graduation is on the rise. Over the past decade, graduation rates for students with disabilities have increased. The graduation gap between regular education students and students with disabilities shrank to 0.10 percent in the 2008-2009 school year. Yet, not all the reasons for this are positive. Ohio has seen a slight, but steady, decline in general education graduation since 2006, as detailed in the graph below.

ohio grad rate

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According to the 2011 Ohio Special Education Profile compiled by the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD), 98 percent of the nation’s school district report special education teacher shortages. Since the 1990s, more than 30,000 special education positions in the U.S. have been filled by uncertified personnel each year.

The demand for special education teachers is not expected to wane. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that 77,400 more special education teachers will be needed between 2010 and 2020. If you’re interested in becoming a special education teacher, you can earn your bachelor’s degree in education online from Notre Dame College. NDC offers a specialization in mild to moderate intervention specialization (MMIS) that prepares graduates to meet the needs of students with disabilities for grade levels K-12 in the state of Ohio. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, you can receive your Ohio state teaching license through the online Teacher Education Evening Licensure (TEEL) program.

Notre Dame College (NDC) provides an accessible and affordable college degree. NDC offers a broad range of career-focused, accredited degree options to help you achieve your goals through education. Adult students benefit from our online degrees, which merge convenience and flexibility with NDC’s academic tradition of excellence. Make an investment in your future with a degree from NDC.