The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Indicators


This comprehensive look at learning disabilities
(LD), neurologically based disorders that include diagnoses like dyslexia, exposes
two truths. First, confusion about and misidentification of LD—a problem we
over a decade ago—persists, though improved instruction and
intervention have helped curb the number of identifications over the last ten
years (also illustrated in a more recent Fordham study).
Second, there’s still a dearth of up-to-date research on how to support students
with bona fide LD and improve their educational outcomes. The paper reports
some familiar facts—boys are more likely to be identified as having LD, as are
minority students, and those in poverty or unemployed (the study also collected
data on the adult LD population). Further, students with LD are, on average,
3.4 years behind their grade level in reading and 3.2 years behind in math. The
biennial report also furnishes many less-familiar stats. Notably, while the
percentage of students with LD receiving a high school diploma increased from
52 to 64 percent from 2000 to 2009 (and dropouts fell from 40 to 22 percent),
only 10 percent of all students with LD enroll in a four-year college. In
addition, students with LD rarely use technologies to help moderate their
disabilities: Just 6 percent learn with computers more frequently than their
classmates and a mere 1 percent use software designed for students like
themselves. Better and more targeted hardware and software may hold one key to
further improving graduation and college-going rates—and doing so in a cost-effective

Candace Cortiella, The
State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Indicators
(New York,
NY: National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2011).

Janie Scull
Janie Scull is a Research Analyst and Production Manager at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute