Special Education

Disability Less Likely to Hold Back Youths Following High School

By Christina A. Samuels — August 09, 2005 4 min read

More youths with disabilities are successfully making the transition from school to higher education, jobs, and adult responsibilities than they did in the late 1980s, according to a federally financed study that has tracked thousands of secondary school students with disabilities over time.

The percentage of students completing high school rose from 53.5 percent in 1987 to 70.3 percent in 2003, according to the report, released by the U.S. Department of Education late last month. During the same period, the rate at which students enrolled in any type of postsecondary education rose from 14.6 percent to 31.9 percent.

Read “Changes Over Time in the Early Postschool Outcomes of Youth With Disabilities” from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2.

Similar positive gains appeared in employment; participation in core-academic courses such as mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages; and enrollment in a grade appropriate to the student’s age, among other areas.

Federal officials said the gains reflect real achievements in reaching out to teenagers with disabilities.

“These accomplishments show the benefits of accountability and high academic standards among all students, including those with disabilities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement.

In a later interview, Troy R. Justesen, the acting director of the department’s office of special education programs, said, “We can debate policy reform all we want, but it’s finally working. It’s starting to show some dramatic increases.” The office paid for the study as part of a national assessment of the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Some Still Struggling

At the same time, the study highlights areas of continuing concern. Black and Hispanic youths lagged significantly behind their white peers in such areas as independent living and postsecondary attendance and completion rates. In addition, no real increase in earnings among young people with disabilities took place over a 16-year period, after adjusting for inflation. In 1987, youths with disabilities earned about $7.80 an hour; in 2003, the figure was $7.30.

On another negative note, more adolescents with disabilities reported they had been subjected to serious school discipline, arrest, or firing from a job in 2003 compared with 1987.

See Also

See the related item,

Chart: College Bound

Those with emotional disturbances and other health impairments also lagged behind students in other disability groups in terms of achievement.

Mr. Justesen suggested that effective interventions for students with emotional disturbances be made schoolwide.

For children with emotional disturbances, “administrators have to learn how to modify the entire environment of a school,” he said.

Other disabilities, such as vision, hearing, and other physical impairments, are relatively easier to address, he said. The report shows that youths with such conditions generally had the highest rates of college attendance among those with disabilities.

The National Longitudinal Transitions Study-2, referred to as NLTS2, is the second research undertaking of its type financed by the Department of Education. The first study documented the experience of thousands of youngsters with disabilities from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. The newer study began in 2001 and will follow a group of about 12,000 youths every other year through 2009. A Menlo Park, Calif.-based research institute, SRI International, is conducting both longitudinal studies. The July report drew on data from students who were ages 15 to 19 at the time of the interviews. Most were male and had learning disabilities or emotional disturbances.

Mr. Justesen said information gathered through the studies is available to other researchers for their own analyses.

More Support Needed

“This provides the scientific foundation and data that everyone is looking for,” said Deborah Leuchovius, who coordinates a project that helps young people with disabilities make the transition to adulthood for the Minneapolis-based Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights. “It confirms what transition professionals already know and what families are already experiencing.”

But, as the report notes, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in preventing dropouts and ensuring success for students with emotional and behavioral needs, Ms. Leuchovius said.

Carole E. Walsh, the transition coordinator for six small school districts in northwest Colorado, agreed that transition into postschool life for special education students has improved since she first started teaching in 1974. She works with colleges, vocational schools, and other groups that help students with disabilities make a seamless transition from school to community life.

“It’s more of a ‘hand-off’ situation,” said Ms. Walsh, who is a member of a group of special education professionals appointed by the National Education Association to assist other teachers in learning about special education topics. “[Students] are already connected with what that next step is going to be.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2005 edition of Education Week as Disability Less Likely To Hold Back Youths Following High School

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion Five Teacher-Recommended Strategies to Support Students With Learning Differences
Four educators share strategies for supporting students with learning differences, including utilizing "wait time" and relationship building.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Special Education The Pandemic Made It Harder to Spot Students With Disabilities. Now Schools Must Catch Up
After more than a year of disruption for all students, the pressure's on to find those in need of special education and provide services.
13 min read
Aikin listens to her eight-year-old son, Carter, as he reads in the family’s home in Katy, TX, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Carter has dyslexia and Aikin could not help but smile at the improvement in his fluency as he read out loud.
Kanisha Aikin listens to her 8-year-old son, Carter, who has dyslexia, as he reads aloud in the family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Annie Mulligan for Education Week
Special Education What Employers Can Teach Schools About Neurodiversity
The benefits of neurodiversity have gained traction in business, but college and career support for students with disabilities falls short.
8 min read
Special Education The Challenge of Teaching Students With Visual Disabilities From Afar
Teachers of students with visual disabilities struggle to provide 3-D instruction in a two-dimensional remote learning environment.
Katie Livingstone
5 min read
Neal McKenzie
Neal McKenzie, an assistive technology specialist, works with a student who has a visual impairment in Sonoma County, Calif.<br/>
Courtesy Photo