Magazine article District Administration

Graduation Rates for Disabled Students Stagnate

Magazine article District Administration

Graduation Rates for Disabled Students Stagnate

Article excerpt

While national graduation rates hit an all-time high of 82 percent in 2014, the trend for students with disabilities remained flat at nearly 63 percent, according to the most recent data. In Georgia, Nevada and Mississippi, students with disabilities graduated from high school at half the rate of their non-disabled peers.

Students with disabilities who earn a diploma are more likely than disabled dropouts to spend their early adult years in higher education or training for a job, according to the National Longitudinal Transition Study. Graduating high school also makes these students three times less likely to get in trouble with the law.

About 13 percent of all public school students--6.4 million--received special ed services in 2012-13, according to the latest available data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Graduate rates for these students has hovered around 60 percent for the past several years.

And special education advocates say that between 85 and 90 percent of special ed students should be able to graduate on time, if given the right supports.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to prepare them to graduate rather than have them drop out, age out or leave with a certificate of attendance," says Laura Schifter, an adjunct lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-author of the book How Did You Get Here? Students with Disabilities and Their Journeys to Harvard. "These students are capable of going to college, and doing really well," she adds, "but we're still not getting enough of them there."

The case for inclusion

Students with disabilities who participate in general ed classes graduate at much higher rates than do students placed primarily in separate classrooms--even when controlling for factors such as disability category and family income, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Exceptional Children.

Some states permit districts to offer an alternate special ed diploma, which allows students to graduate without completing a traditional college prep curriculum under a regular diploma. …

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