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Graduation Rates Fall Short For Students With Disabilities


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Graduation rates for students with disabilities vary considerably from one state to the next, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. (iStock)

Graduation rates for students with disabilities vary considerably from one state to the next, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. (iStock)

More Americans are graduating high school than ever before, but students with disabilities remain far behind their typically-developing peers, a new report finds.

Nationally, 80 percent of public high school students earned a diploma on time during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data released Monday from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

While the number of students with disabilities obtaining diplomas also ticked up that year, just 61 percent of those with special needs graduated, the findings indicate.

For the report, students were considered to graduate on time if they finished high school in four years. Those who completed an Individualized Education Program but did not obtain a traditional diploma and students who were held back a grade were not included.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed the progress, but said there are still far too many students dropping out.

“That 20 percent who didn’t complete high school on time in 2012 represented 718,000 young people — more teenagers and young adults than the total population in Wyoming or Vermont,” Duncan said. “Among them are a sharply disproportionate share of African-American, Hispanic and Native American students, along with students from low-income families, students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities. Not one of those groups reached a 75 percent graduation rate, let alone 80, and several have rates in the 60s or below.”

Currently, students with disabilities account for about 13 percent of the nation’s students, but their success varies dramatically by state, the report found. In 2012, for example, 81 percent of students with disabilities graduated in Montana while just 24 percent did in Nevada.

A second report, which was also released Monday by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, indicated that increasing the graduation rate of students with disabilities is one of five key areas of emphasis that need to be addressed in order to bring the nation’s overall graduation rate above 90 percent.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. AllisonWBrown says:

    *fake gasp* *tries to act surprised*

    But no…seriously….as a person who has TWO siblings who are in the intellectual disabled classes just because THEY CAN”T SEE GOOD. That does NOT mean they have a comprehensive problem. Their IQ score also proves that. When they were younger, yes they were behind, now, they have gained knowledge and have advanced and should be given a chance in regular education/partial general education at least. But do they get that? Nope. Not even a chance. What if the parents appeal though! Wouldn’t do no good, we would just be called out on “hindering” I mean seriously? The education scene is so messed up right now I don’t even know what to say.

    I tried to do an “appeal” for one of my sisters once and DFCS somehow got involved cause the teacher thought we were “hindering them” ….yeah….

  2. Linda Slone says:

    Unless I misunderstood, this article is saying that students with disabilities but WITHOUT an IEP, in other words, kids with special ed needs but who remained in the general ed population without needed help were among the 20% who didn’t complete high school. Duh? What’s surprising about that?
    Or… this article saying that students regardless of disability, without IEPs, and who did not require help also were among the 20% who didn’t graduate? That could include deaf kids, orthopedically disabled kids, blind kids, and other cognitively intact kids. Without clarification, I don’t know what the take-away message is.

  3. Geraldine Robertson says:

    It is not surprising that students with disabilities have poor graduation rates. People with disabilities have difficulty finding employment, not because they do not want to or cannot work, but because employers and potential co workers often do not want them. How many teachers also have disabilities? If students do not have role models and schools cannot demonstrate that people with disabilities can be accommodated and can still be high achievers in their fields, how will they know the possibilities?

  4. Michael K. De Rosa says:

    This is, indeed, a sad commentary on our society. I do, however, want to let you know that I have a friend with disabilities who will be attending Shepherds College this fall. This is a college that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities to build better connections with society. We are so proud of him.

    I love it when I hear of people who are going against the odds! Regardless of the hurdles, they CAN be overcome.

  5. Ellen Chambers says:

    This is OUTRAGEOUS!

    Roughly 10% of students with disabilities have the kinds of significant cognitive impairments that likely put reaching academic proficiency out of reach. The rest, 90%, are as cognitively capable as their non-disabled peers. Why are 61%, then, failing? Because they are routinely denied the educational services to which they are legally entitled.

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Special Education Activist
    Tel (978) 433-5983

    “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,
    but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
    Elie Wiesel

  6. Ellen Chambers says:

    Correction: I meant to type “Why are 39% failng?”

  7. SpecEdMa says:

    To Ellen Chambers: So how do we as parents get them to provide these entitled services? I have been trying for 3 years. Even filed for an Impartial Hearing but could not find anyone to represent us. The “paid advocate” was friendly with the school’s lawyer and at the very last minute, informed us that “in good faith” she wouldn’t be able to represent us because she did not believe in outside placements which was one of the things we were looking for, and instead we were backed into a corner to accept an offer that got so watered down, that it is now virtually useless and of little value. So what is left when the overseeing agencies from the state to the feds, don’t care and perpetuate such issues?

  8. Sandy Hall says:

    I believe that % is for “on time” graduation and unfortunately doesn’t include super seniors or 18-21 year olds who elect to stay. Including those student would give us a more valid picture I believe. I wished they would have reported that as well.

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