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Foundation of educational planning
Data from the NLTS, a longitudinal study of secondary school youth with disabilities, provides data on several socioeconomic and household characteristics. Table presents some of these data as well as approximately comparable numbers for the general population Wagner et al. These data suggest that students with disabilities are more socioeconomically disadvantaged than the general population—that is, more likely to come from single-parent households, to have a head of household with lower educational attainment, and to have lower household incomes. Having a disability, mild or severe, can affect a child's schooling in many ways.
It can affect where children are educated, whether they have the same goals for schooling as children without disabilities, and whether they participate in all of the general education curriculum, some of it, or none. Furthermore, it can influence whether they can be taught by the same methods and with the same tools and equipment as other students, and whether they can be evaluated in the same ways.
Many children with disabilities work toward the same high school diploma as other students, whereas some will seek a different credential or certificate of completion. Very little systematic, representative data exist that describe the range and degree to which students with disabilities participate in the various aspects of general education. In part this is because individualized programs are the hallmark of special education services, making it hard to collect and aggregate data systematically about the school experiences of these students.
In addition, re-. Youth with Disabilities a. Percentage of Youth in the General Population b. Bureau of Census Table 9, pp. Data refer to youth ages 12 to 17 and living with at least one parent in March Department of Education Percentage of households with youth ages 0 to 18 not youth ages 0 to 18 in households in Percent of youth ages in One analysis of major national education databases such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Education Longitudinal Study estimated that 40 to 50 percent of all school-age students with disabilities are excluded from these samples.
Furthermore, exclu-. In addition, the lack of consistent and reliable disability categories within and across studies makes it especially difficult to analyze how longitudinal pathways may vary by disability and to compare results from study to study McGrew et al. Among the important decisions made during the instructional planning and IEP development process are decisions about where the child will receive services. Some children need special education services in only one or two academic skill areas e.
For many children, then, placement decisions vary by skill or goal areas. Views about the optimal educational settings for children with various kinds of disabilities differ. Over the past several decades, policies have shifted regarding whether students with disabilities should be educated in special or regular classrooms.
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Although since , the IDEA has required that each student with a disability be provided with a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment see Chapter 2 , for many students with disabilities, debate still continues over what the most appropriate placement is.
In addition, it is important to remember that "regular education is not one setting but many different settings that vary considerably from one classroom to the next" Hebbeler, —3.
Furthermore, where a child is placed is not necessarily related to what curriculum and instruction he or she receives. Data collected from all states for the —94 school year reported in Table indicate that over 95 percent of students with disabilities served under the IDEA were served in regular school buildings U. Department of Education, , a slight increase since , when data were first collected Sawyer et al. The remaining 4. In a regular school building, students may receive services in one of several places: some are served largely in regular classrooms, others spend a significant part of their day in special education resource rooms, and still others spend the majority of their day in separate, self-contained special education classrooms.
Although the data are reported in very broad categories and by somewhat different methods, aggregated state child count data give a general national picture of current placement trends U. The intent of the placement data collected as required by Section of the IDEA is to assess the extent to which students with disabilities are being served with their peers without disabilities. Because of state-regulated data collections and specific service configurations used by states, some states crosswalk their placement data with the OSEP placement categories; as a result, despite extensive federal support and technical assistance, the placement data reported in the Annual Report to Congress are less reliable than is the total count of students receiving special education under the IDEA.
NOTE: Students age 6— Separate schools include separate day schools, residential facilities, and hospital or homebound programs. Children are counted as being served in a separate day school if they spend more than 50 percent of the school day there. This includes private facilities attended by students at public expense.
Another 29 percent spent a substantial portion of their time in special education resource rooms, with the rest of their time spent in the regular classroom. About 43 percent of students with disabilities or about 2 million are classified as ''regular classroom" students—meaning that they spend at least 80 percent of their day there. Many of this group of students are likely to be participating in the general education curriculum and in large-scale assessments, although perhaps with accommodations for both.
Data presented in the table indicate that the amount of time spent in the regular classroom varies by disability. Students with autism, deaf-blindness,. Data also suggest that elementary school students ages 6—11 are more likely to be served for more time in regular classrooms than are secondary school students ages 12— Reflecting the national policy trend toward greater integration of students with disabilities into the least restrictive environment, placements in the regular education classrooms increased between —86 and —90 for almost all disabilities, and placements in resource rooms declined.
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Placements of children in separate classrooms in regular school buildings remained essentially unchanged Sawyer et al. Concern over what happens to students with disabilities after they leave school has been growing since the mids. It began with the publication of a number of follow-up studies that documented the high unemployment and social isolation among former special education students Edgar et al. Contributing to the concern was a Harris poll indicating that unemployment among persons with disabilities was higher and wages lower than for any other group of working-age Americans Harris and Associates, Almost no nationally representative data were available at that time to examine the post-school outcomes of special education programs for students with various kinds of disabilities.
Reliable data on special education graduation and dropout rates are particularly difficult to obtain U. Department of Education, ; MacMillan et al. Problems with estimating dropout rates in general are well known; these problems are exacerbated in the case of special education by factors such as the different kinds of diplomas awarded special education students, the return of some portion of special education students to general education during any given year, the tendency of some special education students not to remain with their age or grade cohorts but rather to "age out" of school, and the tendency of others to drop out before ninth grade and never be counted in high school figures.
Because of these concerns, Congress directed the U. Department of Education to commission a study of "a sample of handicapped students, encompassing the full range of handicapping conditions, examining their educational progress while in special education and their occupational, educational, and independent living status after graduating from secondary school or otherwise leaving special education" P.
The NLTS data collection began in with a sample of more than 8, youths with disabilities from more than school districts nationwide.
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The sample consisted of special education students between the ages of 13 and 21 in the —86 school year. Data were collected in and again in , drawing on school records, parent and student inter-. Although these data are now a decade old and were collected prior to the transition requirements of the IDEA, they provide the only representative data about the secondary school achievement and post-school outcomes of special education students.
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One of the most consistent and worrisome findings of research on educational outcomes has been the high dropout rates among students with disabilities. NLTS data confirm that graduating from high school has been problematic for many; about 8 percent of students with disabilities in the NLTS sample dropped out before the ninth grade, and an additional 30 percent dropped out in grades 9 through 12, a rate higher than the national average of 12 percent for students in the general population.
On average, however, dropouts with disabilities had accumulated slightly less than 10 credits, whereas students with disabilities who graduated averaged 22 credits; this low accumulation of credits can be accounted for, at least in part, by the high course failure rate among dropouts Wagner et al. Fewer than 5 percent of students with disabilities who dropped out of secondary school ever returned to earn a diploma Wagner, S Dropout rates were particularly high for students with serious emotional disturbances; close to half of the SED students who started high school left by dropping out.
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Slightly less than 30 percent of students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, or health impairments dropped out of high school. Dropout rates were higher for minority students than for whites, and also higher for economically disadvantaged students. The NLTS sample included school districts serving secondary students in special education and 22 special schools. Districts were selected randomly from the approximately 14, U.
Students were selected from rosters of all students in special education in the —86 school year who were in grades 7 though When possible, the study authors created a comparison group of the general population of youth using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Further details regarding the sample and weighting procedures can be found in Wagner et al. In some places, special education students do not qualify for the standard high school diploma unless they have met the criteria for that diploma. Nineteen states require a specific number of credits for the diploma and hold students with disabilities to that same standard.
In nine states, however, students with disabilities are awarded the standard diploma but without necessarily being held to the general criteria; instead, criteria are modified and the standard diploma is usually offered upon successful completion of the IEP. In other states, some kind of test must be passed as one of the requirements for a diploma. In —95, 17 states used this type of exam along with successful completion of required coursework to determine whether a student earned a standard diploma Bond et al. Of the 17 states with graduation exams, 5 allowed special education students with IEPs to receive a graduation diploma without passing, or even taking, the exam.
In these states, students with disabilities could be "exempted" from the assessment, yet still receive a diploma if coursework requirements were met and these could be met through alternative, special education courses Thurlow et al.