School & District Management

Absences Key in Achievement Lag for Spec. Ed. Students

By Catherine Gewertz — December 10, 2009 1 min read

An interesting new study finds that high absence rates are a big reason for the gap in achievement between 9th graders in special education and those in regular education.

The study, by the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the National High School Center, found that absences, course failures, course credits, and grade point average all can be used to predict which Chicago freshmen with disabilities have the highest risk of dropping out. But absences were the most predictive factor of dropout risk, more so than race, gender, socioeconomic status, or prior achievement.

The consortium has made a particular focus of studying the indicators that are necessary to watch closely to keep students on track for on-time high school graduation. (See here, here and here.) Now, those researchers are using that lens to examine the same thing for special education students.

The Chicago Tribune‘s story on the report points out a chicken-and-egg question: It isn’t clear whether special ed. students’ absences drive lower achievement, or whether lower achievement and disengagement drive higher absence rates. But the research raises interesting possibilities, and points up the urgency of the problem: Students with disabilities drop out far more often than those without.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.