The Schoolyard Lawyer: Recent Special Education Statistics in Massachusetts


In the 1980’s, doctors could only save 1 in 10 babies born weighing 2 pounds or less. Today, doctors can save 9 in 10 babies.

  • 25% of babies born at 25 weeks or fewer may be severely disabled.
  • 50% will have problems with their mental and physical development.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Massachusetts students diagnosed with autism was up 66%.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Massachusetts students with serious health problems was up 59%.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Massachusetts students with neurological disorders was up 35%.
  • There are nearly 165,000 students enrolled in special education in Massachusetts.
  • In 2000, Massachusetts schools spent just under $1.2 billion on special education. In 2010, they spent more than $2 billion.
  • 17% of Massachusetts public school students are classified as special needs. The national average is 12%.
  • 15% of Massachusetts special needs students get their education in dedicated special needs classes. This is above the national average.
  • Nearly 7% of special needs students are sent to private day or residential programs. This is double the national average.
  • The private day or residential programs cost anywhere from $26,000 to more than $300,000 a year per student.
  • 1 dollar out of every 5 dollars spent on public school budgets in Massachusetts goes to special education.
  • In the 1990’s, the standard of services given to special needs students was “maximum feasible” services, but the expenses were too high and the standard was lowered to an “appropriate” education.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 of the 31,570 students referred to last academic year were found ineligible in initial uations. With the number of referrals on the rise, some districts are turning down students for special education programs.
  • One out of every 110 children born in America today has autism.
  • The number of children being diagnosed with autism is rising between 10-17% every year.

The statistics listed above were reported in The Test Ahead, by Jon Marcus of the Boston Globe. October 9, 2011. To read the full article, click here.