My recent article that examined graduation rates of students with disabilities around the country noted that Mississippi had highest achievement gap between students with disabilities and the general student body when it came to earning regular diplomas: 75 percent of all students graduate with a regular diploma, compared with 32 percent of students with disabilities.
To repeat: In 2011-12, the most recent year for which statistics are available, no more than a third of students with disabilities in Mississippi leave high school four years after they started with a regular diploma in hand. That means they may not be able to enroll in college, join the armed forces, or get a job that requires that credential.
Now, the Hechinger Report and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger have teamed up on a report that digs more deeply into the students behind that statistic. In the article, which was released this week, we get a chance to meet Nikki Mclendon, who found out only after registering and attending classes at a technical college that her high school “occupational diploma” left her ineligible to continue in school.
“I thought, ‘What? I just went through my first semester of college. ... I’m having a blast at it, and you all are ruining my career,’ ” she told a reporter. The report noted that like many students with disabilities in the state, she had been steered into an alternative diploma path in high school that allowed her to graduate on time, and without passing all four of her required exit exams. However, many colleges in the state do not accept occupational diplomas for enrollment purposes. (Mclendon had been admitted on a conditional basis, until her transcript was received.)
The report also includes an interactive graphic package that offers more information about how students with disabilities are faring in Mississippi. And, if you’re interested in more education news from the state, the Hechinger Report has an archive of more than 20 articles it has written on education in Mississippi.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.