Special Education

Report Raps N.Y.C. Special Education Graduation Rate

By Christina A. Samuels — June 14, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Read “Leaving School Empty Handed: A Report on Graduation and Dropout Rates for Students Who Receive Special Education Services in New York City” posted by Advocates for Children of New York.

New York City students enrolled in special education programs are earning high school diplomas at a rate far below that of their peers in the general education population, according to a study by Advocates for Children of New York.

The nonprofit group, which monitors the 1.1 million-student school system, analyzed data for more than 111,000 students in special education who left the New York City system between the 1996-97 and 2003-04 school years, whether they graduated, dropped out, or reached the age limit of 21. Over that eight-year period, an average of 11.84 percent of students in special education graduated with a state Regents diploma or a local diploma. For a Regents diploma, a student must earn a certain number of credits and pass the Regents exams. For a local diploma, a student must pass the Regents competency tests, a less rigorous alternative.

In the same time period, 12 percent of students in special education, on average, earned individualized-education-program diplomas, which are designed for students with severe disabilities. IEP diplomas confer none of the benefits of either a local or a Regents diploma, such as eligibility to enlist in the military or enroll in college.

About 15 percent of New York students received special education services in the 2004-05 school year, according to system statistics.

The study, released June 2, also attempted to categorize graduation rates by disability, although that information did not include all eight years. Students with emotional disturbances were the least likely to earn a Regents or a local diploma, according to the report. About 4 percent of students with emotional disturbances earned a Regents or local diploma over the time period spanning the 1999-2000 and the 2002-03 school years.

“What we saw was beyond horrendous,” said Jill Chaifetz, the executive director of Advocates for Children. “A tremendous amount of resources are going into special education services, and the results are not being reflected.”

‘A Lot of Work Ahead’

The advocacy group notes that more New York City special education students appear to be graduating with a Regents or local diploma in recent years. The proportion of special education students earning those types of diplomas rose from 12.84 percent in the 2002-03 school year to 15.96 percent in 2003-04.

Michele McManus Higgins, a spokeswoman for New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, said in a statement that the chancellor has “aggressively tackled the long-neglected area of special education services for our children.”

She referred to a recent results from citywide testing that showed improved test scores among city students with disabilities in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th grades. The percentage of such students scoring “not proficient” on the city math tests dropped from 76 percent in the 1998-99 school year to 53.1 percent in 2004-05. In language arts, the proportion of special education students in those grades scoring “not proficient” dropped from 62.1 percent in the 1998-99 to 43.2 percent in 2004-05.

David P. Riley, the executive director of the Newton, Mass.-based Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, an organization of school district leaders, says that low graduation rates among students in special education is a nationwide problem. “Students with disabilities have historically dropped out at two to three times the rate of their nondisabled peers,” Mr. Riley said. “It’s a reflection of the historical separation of special education from the academic goals offered to the rest of the educational system.”

In 2003, the National Dropout Prevention Centers, a resource network for teachers and administrators working with children at risk of dropping out of school, formed a new branch: the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities, based at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. Loujeania Williams Bost, the director of the dropout-prevention center for students with disabilities, said the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which judges schools in part on how well they teach students with disabilities, has prompted states and districts to work harder to keep such students in school, Ms. Bost said.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us,” she said.

Related Tags:


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Mathematics Webinar
What is it About Math? Making Math Figure-Out-Able
Join Pam Harris for an engaging session challenging how we approach math, resulting in real world math that is “figure-out-able” for anyone.
Content provided by hand2mind
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD

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 Using Technology for Students in Special Education: What the Feds Want Schools to Know
Assistive technology can improve outcomes for students in special education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
4 min read
Black students using laptop in the lab with white female teacher- including a female student with special needs.
Special Education Q&A Schools Should Boost Inclusion of Students With Disabilities, Special Olympics Leader Says
Schools have work to do to ensure students with intellectual and developmental disabilities feel a sense of belonging, Tim Shriver said.
6 min read
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver greets a child at one of the organization’s events.
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver greets a child at one of the organization’s events.
Courtesy of Special Olympics
Special Education Spotlight Spotlight on the Science of Reading for Students with Disabilities
This Spotlight will empower you with strategies to apply the science of reading to support students with learning differences and more.
Special Education Video A Student Wrote a Book About Her Learning Disability. Now, She Has Advice for Teachers
Zoe Kozina, 17, is the author of Your Beautiful Mind, a children’s book published this year.