Individual Student Characteristics

Individual students are the core constituents of the educational process. Students bring powerful assets to the educational equation–intelligence, hope, enthusiasm, drive, compassion, sense of humor, and a variety of functional abilities–to varying degrees. To provide an understanding of student outcomes, SEELS will need to paint a thoughtful picture of students in special education. Several dimensions for task force consideration include:


Potential research questions related to student characteristics appear in Table 8.


Table 8

Potential Research Questions — Student characteristics


Descriptive Questions

What are students’ identified disabilities?

What are the implications of disability for student functioning? What are students’ abilities in functional domains, including vision, hearing, use of limbs, practical reading and numeracy tasks?

What are students’ demographic characteristics, including age, gender, and ethnicity?

What languages do students speak? What is their English language proficiency?

To what extent are students first generation immigrants?

How generally healthy are students in special education? What are their experiences with hospitalization?

Do students in special education have medical insurance? To what extent does it meet their medical needs?

What past experiences with grade promotion or retention do students in special education have?

Where and with whom do students live?

How frequently have children moved? Changed schools?

Comparative & Explanatory Questions

How do demographic and health characteristics vary among disability categories?

How do students in special education compare with the general student population in terms of these characteristics?

How do student characteristics correlate with features of students’ educational programs? To what extent is what they get a function of who they are?

What individual characteristics correlate with better outcomes?

How does past educational experience correlate with current academic performance?