College & Workforce Readiness

Special Education Graduation Disparities Highlighted in New Report

By Christina A. Samuels — January 21, 2016 1 min read

The nation’s overall graduation rate may have reached a new high of 82 percent, but many states are still doing a dismal job in getting students with disabilities across the high school finish line on time with a standard diploma.

Fewer than half of the students with disabilities in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Mississippi, and South Carolina graduated with a regular diploma in the 2013-14 school year, the most current year for which statistics are available. In all, 33 states graduated fewer than 70 percent of their students with disabilities. That calculation comes from the “adjusted cohort graduation rate,” a common measure that allows states, districts and schools to be more easily compared to one another. The chart below shows the gaps between students with disabilities and students without disabilities

The gap, in itself, is not new. Education Week explored the special education graduation gap extensively in its Diplomas Count special report in 2015 (The data in that report was from 2012-13, but the overall trend was exactly the same.)

But the issue is getting new attention from the America’s Promise Alliance, which is behind an advocacy effort called GradNation. GradNation is pushing for a 90 percent overall graduation rate by 2020, and the group says the country needs to see higher graduation rates from students with disabilities, as well as students from low-income families, Hispanic students, African-American students and students who are English-language learners.

In a report released Thursday, the alliance highlighted the gaps and also noted that 10 states graduated fewer than 70 percent of their students in each of those five of those student subgroup—low-income students, students with disabilities, Hispanic students, black students, and English-language learners. Those states are Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.

“Now is not the time to rest on our laurels,” the report concludes. “If we are to meet our nation’s greatest ideals, we cannot be satisfied with graduating only the easiest to reach students and much work lies ahead to ensure opportunity exists for every student.”

Image Source: Building a Grad Nation 2016


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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.