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Data Portrait Overview

The Special Education Data Portraits reports reflect state, intermediate school district, and local district level data from the federally-required annual special education child counts. The data elements reported here include those submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. The federal data reports are available to view on the Data Profiles - Department of Education Open Data Platform.

These are counts of students with a disability and who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The data are used for monitoring the programs and activities required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which protects the education rights of children with disabilities and their families. IDEA covers the following:

  • Students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education.
  • Schools are required to find students with disabilities and refer those students for service eligibility.
  • Students must be assessed before being labeled with a disability.
  • If a student is identified as having a disability, appropriate services for the disability must be provided by the state.
  • Special education and the specific services are tailored to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities are required to have an individualized education plan.
  • Students with disabilities should receive instruction in a least restrictive environment along with nondisabled peers.
  • The rights of the students and their parents are to be protected by the law, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Students are entitled to due process rights of notice and consent.

Individualized Education Program (IEP), Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), appropriate evaluation, active participation of families, and procedural safeguards are the tenets of IDEA. IDEA also addresses confidentiality, transition, and discipline for students with disabilities. A student with a disability is defined in Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) [R340.1702].

Although IDEA covers birth through age 21, Michigan is a birth to age 26 state and those counts are reflected here.

The "demographics" portion of the Data Portraits includes breakdowns by gender, race/ethnicity, and grade. These data do not include younger and older students. The count of students with IEPs in these reports do not match the reports by age range and disability. Because of restrictions on reporting students to the federal government, there may be minor variations between the Special Education student count data reported on the MI School Data site and data reported to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). Following federal and state guidelines, students aren’t reported if the student record contains incomplete or erroneous data, untimely data, or if multiple districts submit information for the same student. A small number of students counted as Special Education students on the MI School Data site weren't reported as Special Education students to the NCES.

More about federal and state special education laws and policies can be found on the Michigan Department of Education website.

Summary data from earlier years can be found at