Minnesota Title V MCH Needs Assessment Fact Sheets

Children with Special Health Needs

Inclusion in School

Summer 2004

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Size of the Problem

Healthy People 2010 established an objective that at least 60% of children with disabilities age 6 - 21 will spend at least 80% of their time in regular education settings. This objective aims to improve the well-being of students with disabilities by encouraging academic and learning opportunities and nonacademic social and emotional experiences. These experiences can facilitate normal growth and development, postsecondary educational attainment, independent living skills, and economic participation as adults.

In 2001 over 40,000 special education students in Minnesota spent less than 80% of their time in regular education settings[1]. In 2000, 8,568 students spent more than 60% of their time outside the regular education setting and 4,015 students were educated in a separate facility.[2] Despite these numbers, Minnesota exceeds the Healthy People 2010 goal in that 64% of the students with disabilities in this state do spend at least 80% of their time in regular education settings. However, the fact remains that 36% of students with disabilities in Minnesota do not.


The percentage of time spent in regular educational settings varies by grade, race, geography and type of disability.

African American special education students are less likely than same aged peers to be in regular education settings for 80% of the school day; Asian students are about as likely to be in regular education setting as white students in grades 3 through 8 and there is an increase in access to the regular education classroom for 3rd through 5th grade Asian students in comparison to their K-2 experience.

Percent in Regular Education Setting > 80% of the Time By Grade Grouping and Ethnicity



3rd - 5th

6th - 8th

9th - 12th

American Indian















African American










Access to the regular education setting generally decreases as school aged children get older - from 76% in the K-2 group to 50% in grades 9 - 12. However, few pre-school children (aged 3 to 5 years) who need early intervention services are served in inclusive settings (30%).

Students in suburban districts and districts with fewer than 2,000 students are more likely to access regular education classrooms than are students in the Twin Cities and larger school districts in Greater Minnesota. Among 9th -12th grade students in Minneapolis/St. Paul, 29% spend the bulk of their day in regular education settings. In suburban, districts greater than 2000 students and those with less than 2000 students, the percentages are 52%, 51% and 58% respectively.

The type of educational disability impacts the likelihood of a student learning in an inclusive environment. One third of K-2 students with mental impairments spend at least 80% of their time in a regular education setting. By high school, that percentage drops to only 9%. 65% of the students with emotional-behavioral disorders in the K-2 grouping spend 80% of their time in regular education; by high school that percentage drops to 41%.

Basic Standards Tests are designed to measure reading, math and writing skills needed for adult living and are considered to be the skills needed for employment, postsecondary education and participation in society.[3] The percentage of students passing Basic Standards Tests is significantly lower for students in special education than their peers - regardless of type disability type.

The relationship between poverty, educational attainment and health has long been established. Access to the regular education classroom and the regular education curriculum increases the likelihood that skills essential for successful functioning in adult life will be developed.


A study addressing professionals' perceptions of the impact of chronic illness in the classroom concluded that although overall school professional have positive attitudes about children with chronic health conditions in the classroom, concerns about specific diseases continue to exist. Educators had concerns regarding classroom risk and death disproportionate to the clinical risk of specific conditions. Health professionals can assist by providing educators with appropriate information about the risk and functional impact of childhood chronic conditions.[4]

Principals who have successfully led their schools in inclusion have found the following strategies to be successful:[5]

  • Special education teachers should be available to provide assistance and support during each grade's literacy block (the time devoted to reading, language arts, and math instruction).
  • Encourage regular and special educators to take turns preparing and teaching lessons that include follow-up activities that appeal to two or three different learning styles or intelligences.
  • Set up a special "learning center" that special-needs students can go to for extra help or whenever they are feeling overwhelmed by an assignment or a project.
  • A special educator always should be present if the number of special students in a regular education setting exceeds one-fourth of the class population.


Serving students with disabilities in regular non-special education classrooms is a concern that cuts across the goals of many Federal agencies. In addition to Healthy People 2010 objectives, the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act state that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children and youth with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled."[6] Federal Programs known as No Child Left Behind delineate the expectation that progress will be measured for all students, including those with special education needs.

There are communities in the state who successfully include students with disabilities in the regular education classroom (suburban and small districts in Greater Minnesota).

School districts throughout the state are currently experiencing fiscal constraints. It seems unlikely that educating most students with disabilities in inclusive settings would necessarily have a negative fiscal impact on districts. However, some students may require enhanced supports to remain in regular education setting. The impact of fiscal constraints on children who need additional supports is as yet unclear.

1. Minnesota Department of Education. "A Focused Analysis of Instructional Setting, Performance on Statewide Assessments, and Graduation and Dropout Rates in Minnesota's Special Education Programs". January 2003.
2. United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Data Analysis System (DANS). OSEP Memo Rank Order 618 Data. Updated as of August 30, 2002.
3. Minnesota Department of Education. "A Focused Analysis of Instructional Setting, Performance on Statewide Assessments, and Graduation and Dropout Rates in Minnesota's Special Education Programs". January 2003.
4. Olson, A., Seidler, A., Goodman, D., Gaelic, S., Nordgren, R., "School Professionals' Perceptions About the Impact of Chronic Illness in the Classroom". Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2004; 158: 53-58.
5. Hopkins, G. Education World. 1/27/2004. Accessed 6/30/2004.
6. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010.