Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Using Survival Analysis to Understand Graduation of Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Using Survival Analysis to Understand Graduation of Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Over the past 30 years, students with disabilities have lagged behind their typically developing peers in post-high school educational, employment, and social outcomes (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). For instance, in the 2012-2013 school year, 81.4% of students graduated high school with a regular diploma, and in that same year, only 61.9% of students with disabilities graduated with a regular diploma (ED Data Express, n.d.). Further, the current unemployment among adults with disabilities is 10.5%, compared to 4.6% among adults without disabilities; perhaps more remarkably, the labor market participation rate for individuals with disabilities is only 19.4%, compared to 68.4% for individuals without disabilities (Office of Disability Employment Policy, n.d.).

These discrepancies in and of themselves are troubling, particularly given that students with disabilities who graduate high school successfully with a regular diploma tend to have higher rates of enrollment in postsecondary education and employment than those students with disabilities who do not graduate high school (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Johnson, Thurlow, & Stout, 2007; Newman et al., 2009). These longstanding differences in outcomes between students with disabilities and their typical peers, and the benefits associated with successful high school graduation for students with disabilities, created an impetus for policy makers, through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2006), to emphasize that schools better support the high school transition needs of students with disabilities (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, & Mack, 2002; Kohler & Field, 2003).

During this same 30-year time period, policy makers, through standards-based reform, responded to concerns about the inadequacies of the public education system in educating all students, including students with disabilities. High schools, districts, and states became accountable for measuring and reporting their graduation rates with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Reporting requirements include measuring graduation rates for students in the aggregate and within defined subgroups, including the subgroup of students with disabilities. In regard to reporting graduation rates, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) requires states to measure graduation using a 4-year-cohort rate and permits use of an extended-year-cohort rate to include those students who may take more than 4 years to graduate. Students with disabilities are permitted to remain in high school through age 21 and, therefore, are among the students who may need additional years to graduate.

Providing information on when students with disabilities graduate can help inform educators and policy makers who seek to improve graduation outcomes for students with disabilities. Both policy makers and educators can benefit from understanding who graduates, when they graduate, and how students with different educational experiences have different graduation patterns. To help contribute to the understanding of high school graduation of students with disabilities, in my article, I examined the high school graduation experiences of students with disabilities, summarizing their graduation probability profiles. In particular, 1 have expanded previous work by presenting the results of descriptive analyses to summarize when students with disabilities graduate high school and identifying differences by income status and educational placement decisions.

Background and Context

In previous research (Schifter, 2011), I described the policy dilemma between the graduation expectations of NCLB and IDEA. In 2008, the USDOE required that all states estimate the 4-year-cohort rate for the purposes of accountability (34 C.F.R. [section] 200.19[b][1]) to record the percentage of students who enter high school in a given ninth-grade cohort and graduate subsequently within 4 years. …

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