Index: Education / Subcategory: K-12

Enrollment - Special Education

Date updated: 01/28/2013

The term 'Special Education' is defined a variety of ways depending on the source. For the purpose of this page, the definition from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) was used. 'Special Education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings.' (Colorado Department of Education)

Please see Additional Information for a list of disabilities considered by the Colorado Department of Education to be eligible for enrollment in Special Education, including a brief definition of each.

What this chart shows: Enrollment in Special Education - Larimer County School Districts, 2003-04 to 2012-13

Data Source:

See data table

What the above data tell us:

Between the 2003-04 and 2012-13 school years, Poudre School District's special education enrollment decreased by 119 students or 4.9%, whereas Thompson School District's special education enrollment increased by 68 students or 3.7%.

According to district officials, the decrease at Poudre School District was due to an increase in the number of students receiving earlier intervention before being referred to the special education program. In addition, when stimulus funding was available, it was used for additional tutoring to help students achieve their goals allowing them to be removed from the special education program.

Between 2003-04 and 2012-13, Park School District had a 47.2% decrease in special education enrollment, or a loss of 83 students. During this same period, Park School District enrollment declined 16.3% or a loss of 222 students. (See Enrollment - Public Schools)

What this chart shows: Special Education Students as a Percentage of Total Enrollment - Larimer County School Districts, 2012-13

Data Source:

See data table

What the above data tell us:

In 2012-13, special education students comprised 9.6% of the total student enrollment in Larimer County public schools. According to state officials, assessment of special education students has been changing since the late 1970s. This has contributed to the increase in special education enrollment as additional conditions have been added to the list of recognized disabilities. For example, 30 years ago, Emotional Disability was not a special education disability. Additionally, in more recent years, Autism has been assessed as a full spectrum disability. A student who has mild Autism is now identified as having a disability rather than being a 'problem student.' Earlier detection of disabilities that interfere with learning has also contributed to the increase in numbers.

Additional Information:

Special education is a state and federally mandated program. Every school district, or special education administrative unit, provides special education services. Special education is provided from preschool through the twelfth grade.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law concerning the education of students with disabilities, requires schools to provide a full explanation of the Procedural Safeguards Notice, [pdf] available under the IDEA and U.S. Department of Education regulations, to parents of a child with a disability notice.

The Exceptional Children's Educational Act defines 'children with disabilities' as persons between the ages of three and twenty-one who are unable to receive reasonable benefit from regular education without additional supports in the public schools because of specific disabling conditions.

The definitions of disabilities listed below are still in use. For a more in-depth look at disability classification as it is now, see Section 2.02 (Children with Disabilities) of the Exceptional Children's Educational Act [pdf].

Students enrolled in special education programs are reviewed during annual instructor staffings to determine whether they need to remain in special education classes. Children with preschool disabilities are referred to the programs through Child Find, parental referrals, or preschool teacher referrals.

The following definitions are used by Colorado Department of Education at this time, and can be reviewed in the Exceptional Children's Educational Act [pdf].


Related Information on COMPASS -