Feb 7, 2022 - News

Testing declines for Denver students with learning disabilities

Illustration of children facing away with backpacks holding hands with a grid background and circles

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Evaluations for students with disabilities have plummeted throughout the pandemic, raising concerns that children aren't getting the help they need.

Why it matters: If kids aren't tested in a "timely manner," they can fall behind, lowering their self-esteem, our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat report.

Driving the news: The number of initial evaluations for special education services among Denver Public Schools students ages 3-21 fell by more than a third between the 2018-19 academic year and the pandemic-interrupted 2019-20. The figure remained low the following year.

  • Initial evaluations fell statewide by about 15% and have yet to recover. That means 4,200 fewer children across Colorado were evaluated in 2019-20 than the year prior.

What's happening: District administrators and special education teachers cite a host of challenges: staffing shortages, increased paperwork, new demands related to remote learning, and a hesitation to designate kids as having learning disabilities when they may be suffering the effects of remote learning and pandemic-related family trauma instead.

The big picture: It's not just a Colorado issue. Districts across the country, including those in Chicago and New York City, have experienced a decrease in students getting referred or evaluated for special education services.

Go deeper with our partners at Chalkbeat


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