Special Report
College & Workforce Readiness

Transition From Special Education Gets a Closer Look

By The Editors — May 29, 2015 2 min read

After spending years in a special education system that carefully spells out their rights and the services they should receive, students with disabilities often find it daunting to contemplate their next steps after high school. Should they apply to college, look for a job, or stay in the special education system until they “age out” at 21? And, if they do opt for college or work, what kinds of supports and accommodations are these students entitled to?

To paraphrase a parent-advocate quoted in this edition of Education Week‘s Diplomas Count report, it’s like going to a restaurant, asking for a menu, and being told there isn’t one. Families must puzzle out the options for themselves. And while federal special education law requires schools to provide students with transition planning before they turn 16, parents often complain that the discussion starts too late or is too general.

This report examines the transition out of K-12 schooling for students with disabilities, who account for 8.5 percent of the nation’s 6- to 21-year-olds. The 2015 Diplomas Count report also includes the latest statistics on the nation’s overall, on-time high school graduation rate. The news is good: 81 percent of the class of 2013—a historic high—graduated in four years, as tabulated by the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate.

The four-year graduation rate for students with disabilities, while also rising, is lower, at 62 percent. This national average masks a huge amount of variation from state to state, from a graduation-rate low of 23 percent in Mississippi to 80 percent in Arkansas. Further muddying the picture, states have the discretion to set graduation requirements for special education students. In some states, those students can earn a standard diploma with easier classes or lower passing scores than their peers without disabilities. And school discipline practices that disproportionately mete out suspensions and expulsions to special education students also keep graduation rates low.

Other articles focus on the need for students with disabilities to learn early to advocate for themselves in the wider world and explore paths to the workplace and college—the latter becoming a growing destination for this population.

Finally, a highlight of this year’s report is five profiles of young adults with a range of disabilities who are currently in the transition pipeline. They discuss their successes and disappointments and their drive to succeed. “I’ve never had it easy in school,” explained one confident high school senior from Decatur, Ga., “so I know how to fight.”

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
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.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
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
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

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

College & Workforce Readiness College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
Marchmeena29/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates
Early- and middle-college high schools have the potential to improve college completion rates, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion There’s Insurance for Homes or Cars—Why Not College Degrees?
Rick Hess talks with Wade Eyerly, the CEO of Degree Insurance, about the company's plan to make investing in a college degree less risky.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Fewer Students in Class of 2020 Went Straight to College
First-year college enrollment dropped steeply last year, a study finds, and the declines were sharpest among poorer students.
6 min read
Image shows University Application Acceptance Notification Letter with ACCEPTED Stamp
YinYang/Getty