We sought to quantify the effectiveness of special education services as naturally delivered in U.S. schools. Specifically, we examined whether children receiving special education services displayed (a) greater reading or mathematics skills, (b) more frequent learning-related behaviors, or (c) less frequent externalizing or internalizing problem behaviors than closely matched peers not receiving such services. To do so, we used propensity score matching techniques to analyze data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, a large-scale, nationally representative sample of U.S. schoolchildren. Collectively, results indicate that receipt of special education services has either a negative or a statistically nonsignificant impact on children's learning and behavior. However, special education services do yield a small, positive effect on children's learning-related behaviors.
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