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1. More than 90% of students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) scored below proficient on the 2013 NAEP.

Children with SLD have average or above-average intelligence. But the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) points to a wide achievement gap between students with SLD and those without disabilities.

The NAEP is often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card.” Every two years it assesses the reading and math skills of a large, nationally representative sample of fourth and eighth graders and provides an important comparison across states. In this graphic we focus on the 2013 NAEP results because SLD data have yet to be released for the 2015 NAEP, as of March 2017. (The data that have been released so far for the 2015 NAEP indicate that more than 80% of students with all types of disabilities scored below proficient.1)

Even with the best accommodations^, students with SLD will experience significant challenges accessing the core curriculum if they do not achieve basic skills in reading and math. This is especially true in middle and high school, where the focus of special education often shifts away from intensive intervention toward supports that help students complete assignments and prepare for tests in their regular classes.

To close the achievement gap, schools need to provide intervention—early and with sufficient intensity—in addition to providing accommodations that help students with disabilities access grade-level content.