Special Report
College & Workforce Readiness

Transition From Special Education Gets a Closer Look

By The Editors — May 29, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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 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.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
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
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

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 Dartmouth and Yale Are Backtracking on ‘Test-Optional’ Admissions. Why That Matters
The Ivy League schools say test scores help them make better decisions, but most schools are keeping tests optional.
6 min read
Image of a bank of computers in a library.
baona/E+
College & Workforce Readiness States Are Making Work-Based Learning a Top Policy Priority
Interest in career and technical education continues to grow in schools nationwide, new report shows.
3 min read
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Nate Smallwood for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness High School Students Think They Are Ready for College. But They Aren't
Four in 5 students say they're academically ready for college. Their test scores say otherwise.
5 min read
Photo of pensive young man on bench.
iStock / Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Amid a Rocky FAFSA Rollout, Ed. Dept. Offers Colleges More Flexibility
The changes are meant to free up colleges and universities to process aid forms more quickly and easily.
4 min read
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the rise.
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the rise.
Jon Elswick/AP