Promising Policies to Address the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Lessons from Other States
Report State Support
Daniel C. Humphrey
Independent Education Consultant
Jeannie Myung
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University
Benjamin W. Cottingham
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University


California faces challenges in its efforts to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities (SWDs), especially regarding SWDs’ participation in general education originally mandated by PL 94-142. Research evidence consistently indicates that inclusion of SWDs in general education classrooms, to the extent possible, has positive benefits to both SWDs and general education students. This report describes strategies used in three states that appear to help increase the inclusion rates for SWDs. While by no means a comprehensive look at policies from all states, the examples of efforts in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida to improve inclusion rates are relevant to California’s current efforts to improve learning and outcomes for SWDs. Massachusetts’ powerful data system, New Jersey’s targeted support for a manageable number of districts with poor inclusion rates, and Florida’s implementation of a tool for schools and districts to assess their inclusion practices lead to four concrete recommendations for California.

Suggested citationHumphrey, D. C., Gamse, B., Myung, J., & Cottingham, B. (2020, February). Promising policies to address the needs of students with disabilities [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.