Lower expectations for students with disabilities?

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor, @eSN_Meris
November 15th, 2013

New report shows states sometimes offer lower-standard diplomas to students with disabilities

disabilities-studentsA majority of U.S. states offer multiple paths in high school graduation requirements to students with disabilities, according to a new report. However, what some likely intended as a way to help these students may be hurting their chances at entering post-secondary education and the workforce, which begs the question: Are states ensuring that students with disabilities are college- and career-ready?

The report, “Graduation Requirements for Students with Disabilities: Ensuring meaningful diplomas for all students,” released by Achieve and the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), reveals that more than 400,000 students in 50 states have disabilities. Though 90 percent of these students can meet the graduation standards offered by states for all students, during the 2010-2011 school year, only 64 percent left with a standard high school diploma.

(Next page: Colleges, employers skeptical)

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4 Responses to “Lower expectations for students with disabilities?”

November 15, 2013

My son was adopted at age 4 1/2 from India and came home weighing 19 pounds. He is now in high school. He has profound learning disabilities associated with short term memory deficit of things like numbers and letters in words. He was essentially a non-reader until 6th grade – because every time he looks at a word he has to figure it out. However in many other ways he is very capable and even gifted. If he had stayed in a regular high school, he would be doing drill and practice in reading and math – even though it would be impossible for him to ever understand Algebra 2, which is required for high school diploma. But fortunately I found another school where he is fully integrated and learning lots. I have told them “forget a diploma.” Don’t care. He has other opportunities for employment.

But because he will not receive a diploma, he will be unable to obtain any federal financing for post secondary education. This stupid federal statute was unfortunately not addressed. Many students with disabilities could clearly benefit from additional education at a community college or a trade school. But they are totally cut off from the funds necessary to accomplish this.

Actually, IDEA requires transition goals and services be already included in the IEP when the child turns 16 so it should be addressed by IEP teams prior to the child’s 16th birthday. In fact, many States require transition goals be included in the IEP beginning at age 14 (or even younger if the IEP team determines it to be appropriate). For more info on transition goals and services, check out my blog:

“As compared to their peers without disabilities, student with disabilities have lower rates of enrollment in post-secondary education and lower rates of post-secondary completion, says the report.”
As a long time (35+ years) special educator – this concerns me for two seemingly different reasons: 1) WHY are we surprised that students who have required significant special education intervention their entire lives would have different post-secondary (esp if this is code for college of any sort) outcomes??? Do students who require 1:1 aides, “talkers” and other such extensive assistance typically pursue careers that require a college diploma???? On the other hand, 2) IF this is broken out by disability category and we see students with “minor” disabilities not achieving APPROPRIATE outcomes (and college is NOT the only appropriate outcome for everyone – including those without disabilities) THEN serious attention to what’s being taught and when, and what the expectations are is called for. The concept of HIGH EXPECTATIONS is all well and good; however, at SOME point, Someone needs to factor the word “appropriate” expectations on an “appropriate timetable” in as well. Equal access, yes; equal opportunity, yes; equal outcomes – only as far as this means opportunities equivalent to abilities.