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NIEER Releases The State(s) of Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education: Looking at Equity

Preschool age children running on the grass away from trees.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has released a research report, The State(s) of Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education: Looking at Equity. The report examines access to Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) data for the school year 2020-2021 and trends from the 2005-2006 through 2020-2021 school years. This report is the first to look state-by-state through an equity-focused lens.

Researchers examined the impacts of: COVID-19, race and ethnicity, gender, and individual state variations. As a result, four key findings emerged:

  1. the COVID pandemic resulted in fewer children receiving EI and ECSE services with differential differences for Asian children in EI and significant differential difference in ECSE services for Black children;
  2. “For Black children, the disparities in access to services are especially large and cannot plausibly be explained by differences in need”;
  3. boys are twice as likely to receive EI and ECSE services as girls;
  4. the percentage of services for EI and ECSE increases as state median income increases.

Flexibility in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) points to why such inequities result. “States and public agencies must follow federal law and guidance but within those parameters can make decisions about who is eligible for services, including how to define disability. Provisions for young children are contained in sections of the law called Parts B and C. Federal funding covers only a small percentage of costs, leaving the rest to states, counties, and school districts.” The researchers identified substantial equity differences in access to EI and ECSE, primarily attributable to differences among states.

To address this, they concluded that the federal government should increase funding to reduce the state-based gaps. Beyond increased federal funding the researchers offer two additional recommendations to understand and eliminate inequities:

  1. convene a national commission to develop recommendations to ensure the rights of children to their legal services and
  2. require or incentivize improved data collection and support further research based on that a more robust collection of data as explained within the report.

Read the full report here.

Posted:  8 June, 2023

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