Category Archives: Graduation Requirements

Iowa School District Implements Unique Transition Program

While many students with disabilities across the country meet the academic requirements to earn their highs school diploma, they so not necessarily meet the goals in their IEPs for transition to adulthood. Yet the regulations set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) stipulate that a student is not eligible for services under IDEA once a diploma has been earned and issued.  This conundrum has had special educators perplexed, parents frustrated and students confused about next steps.

One Iowa school district has a solution, thanks to a grant for transition to employment.  It has launched a program to aid students with disabilities who have met their graduation requirements but need to continue to work on transition goals.

Dubuque Community Schools soon will begin its new Summit Program for certain students who receive special-education services.

Lori Anderson, transition facilitator with the district, said the new program combines the best aspects of the district’s Lifetime Center and Super Senior programs to help guide students and their families on the path of independent learning, living and working.

Anderson said the district reviewed its career readiness and transition-based programs after receiving a Model Employment Transition Site grant in 2012. The grant’s goal is to increase the number of students with disabilities who successfully transition from school to employment. The review led to the new program.

Students who have met their graduation requirements but have an unmet Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goal or transition need are eligible for the program. They can walk with their classmates at graduation, but they will not receive their diploma until they leave the program.

Read more here.

Graduation Requirements Controversy for IEP Students

Will this help or harm students with disabilities?

A graduation conundrum for students with disabilities

….Louisiana — a hotbed of American education reform — seems about to give its IEP teams the power to decide what students with disabilities need to graduate from high school. …. Christina A. Samuels now covers special education for Education Week and has written an eye-opening account of the battle being waged over this move.

Supporters of the Louisiana measure, unanimously approved by both houses of the state legislature, say “it could improve the state’s dismal record of graduating students with disabilities in four years with a standard diploma,” Samuels reported. “In 2011-12, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the four-year graduation rate for those students was 33 percent, compared to 72 percent for the general student population.”

The education officials and legislators in Louisiana believe that giving IEP teams the power over graduation requirements will narrow those gaps and give students with disabilities a better chance to find employment. But many advocates for children with disabilities — in Louisiana and nationally — say this would unnecessarily and harmfully lower standards for students with disabilities. The Louisiana state school superintendent endorsed the bill only after its sponsors agreed that the IEP teams could decide graduation requirements only if the student failed the annual state exams that are required for graduation.

Read more here.

 

From Compliance to Results-Driven Accountability: Addressing the Graduation Rate Issue

Education Week has posted an article on the graduation rate issue with students with disabilities (January 29, 2014).   The article highlights the data behind the low rate (including the readjusted formula for calculating graduation rate), examines what states around the country are doing, and summarizes changes in federal law that will address the issue of students with disabilities not graduating with their cohorts….or at all.  At stake for state special education programs is federal funding if results criteria are not met.

The most recent U.S. Department of Education data, for 2011-12, shows a four-year graduation-rate gap that ranges from a high of 43 percentage points in Mississippi to a low of 3 percentage points in Montana.

By 2015, the Education Department aims to take a closer look at graduation-rate disparities when it evaluates states on their special education performance. And that eventually could affect what states can do with their federal aid for special education

….The graduation gaps reported for the 2011-12 school year are based on what’s known as the “4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate,” which is a standard metric the Education Department now requires states to calculate.

….Looking more closely at the performance of students with disabilities will be a different way of measuring success, Ms. [Melody] Musgrove [director of the federal office of special education programs] said. “What OSEP focuses on is what the states will focus on. That’s what gets better,” she said.

….State special education directors offered different explanations for what was behind their graduation gaps, whether they were wide or narrow.

Patrice Guilfoyle, the director of communications for the Mississippi Department of Education, said that the state’s new accountability system in its No Child Left Behind Act waiver application will help it focus more on graduation rates for students with disabilities.

Read the entire article here.

“For special education students, diplomas, jobs increasingly elusive”

This article, posted in The Hechinger Report, February 3, 2014, chronicles the struggles of a young woman with a disability in pursuing her post-secondary education because she did not have a standard diploma.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Four weeks into a medical assistant program at Antonelli College, Nikki Mclendon eagerly took her parents to the college’s student appreciation day. The 20-year-old looked forward to discussing her progress and pre-registering for the next term, but instead received devastating news.

School officials told the Mclendons their daughter was ineligible to continue. Without warning, the career technical college that accepted Mclendon a year after she finished high school said the “occupational diploma” she’d received from Forrest County Agricultural High School disqualified her.

“I thought, ‘What? I just went through my first semester of college…. I’m having a blast at it, and you all are ruining my career,’” Mclendon recalled.

Mclendon had no way of knowing the alternate diploma many Mississippi special education students choose if they cannot meet the academic requirements of a regular diploma would be a roadblock to higher education and a career — one the state can ill afford. In Mississippi, some 20 percent of youth ages 16-24 are not in school or the workplace, the highest rate in the U.S., according to U.S. census data.

When Mclendon was admitted to Antonelli, the school had not yet received her transcript, said Steve Bryant, president of Antonelli’s Hattiesburg campus. Mclendon was allowed to start classes and start paying tuition for the $30,000 program, which was refunded when she left. Then the transcript showed that she had not passed all her exit exams, and did not have a regular diploma.

“If we can’t verify when the transcripts arrive that they did in fact receive a normal, regular high school diploma, then the student’s conditional acceptance is revoked,” Bryant said.

What happened to Nikki Mclendon is emblematic of a larger problem in Mississippi, where students are much less likely to graduate with a regular diploma after they are classified with a disability. A review of data by the Clarion-Ledger, of Jackson, Miss., found that the majority of special education students receive an occupational diploma, meant to prepare students for a job, or a certificate of completion, meant to honor special education students’ efforts in high school — even if they fell short of graduation requirements.

As a result, thousands of capable students leave high school with few career and education options in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Read the article here.