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.

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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.