Data Overview: Students With Disabilities, In School and Work
Nearly 6 million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States. Roughly half of those students are in an age group traditionally served by secondary schools. The Education Week Research Center compiled data from the U.S. Department of Education in order to shed light on the high school achievement and post-high-school outcomes of students with special needs. The results highlight key patterns regarding the educational status of this population.
Students receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act make up roughly 9 percent of all 6- to 21-year-olds. Nearly half of the students served by IDEA programs are between the ages of 12 and 17, an age range customarily associated with secondary education. The share of students with disabilities who are of secondary school age mirrors the general education population.
While reading and math results on the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress have improved for students with disabilities over time, their scores remain substantially lower than those of their peers without disabilities. In 2013, students with disabilities scored 40 points lower than their counterparts in reading, with a similar gap in math.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs indicate that nearly two-thirds of students with disabilities ages 14 to 21 exited high school with a regular diploma in the 2012-13 school year, up from 56.7 percent in 2005-06. Most of the students with special needs who did not receive that credential either earned an alternative certificate (14.4 percent), such as a certificate of completion, or dropped out of school (18.6 percent).
Most young adults with disabilities have been employed, participated in job training, or attended a postsecondary school following high school. Researchers for the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 report that a large share of those young adults had been engaged in some combination of those activities. For instance, 42 percent had both worked and been enrolled in postsecondary education. Only 6.2 percent had not been engaged in any type of educational or job-related activity.