Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Characteristics and Experiences of Special Education Students in High School

Secondary school youth who receive special education services feel positive about school, but are more likely than their peers to struggle academically, be suspended, and lag behind in taking key steps towards postsecondary education and jobs. Among youth with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), those with autism, deaf-blindness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments are most at-risk for not transitioning successfully beyond high school.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a report today (March 28) from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012), the third in the NLTS series commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education over several decades. The multi-volume report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), entitled Preparing for Life after High School: The Characteristics and Experiences of Youth in Special Education, presents updated information on secondary school youth with disabilities across the country. Volume 1 compares youth with an IEP to their non-IEP peers, and Volume 2 compares youth across disability groups. The study is being conducted as part of the congressionally-mandated National Assessment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and the report volumes are intended to inform discussions regarding this important legislation and efforts to address reauthorization of this important legislation.

NLTS 2012 includes a nationally representative set of nearly 13,000 youth with and without an IEP who were ages 13-21 when selected for the study. Among youth with an IEP are students who represent each of the disability categories recognized by IDEA 2004, and among youth without an IEP are students with a plan developed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Both youth and their parent/guardian were surveyed in 2012-2013.

Key findings from the multi-volume report suggest:

•    Youth with an IEP, particularly those with intellectual disability and emotional disturbance, are more likely than their peers to be socioeconomically disadvantaged. Youth with an IEP are 12 percentage points more likely to live in low-income households and are less likely to have parents who are employed or have a college education. Among disability groups, youth with intellectual disability and youth with emotional disturbance are more socioeconomically disadvantaged and more likely to attend a lower-performing school than youth with an IEP overall. In contrast, youth with autism and youth with speech or language impairments are less socioeconomically disadvantaged and less likely to attend a lower-performing school than youth with an IEP overall.

•    The vast majority of youth with and without an IEP feel positive about school, but those with an IEP experience bullying and are suspended at higher rates. Like their peers, more than 80 percent of youth in special education report that they are happy with school and with school staff. However, not only do youth with an IEP more commonly experience some types of bullying (e.g., being teased or called names) but, according to parent reports, they are more than twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school. Among the disability groups, youth with emotional disturbance are most likely to report being teased and are suspended, expelled, and arrested at more than twice the rates of youth with an IEP on average.

•    Youth with an IEP are more likely than other youth to struggle academically, yet less likely to receive some forms of school-based support. Half of all youth with an IEP report they have trouble with their classes, about 15 percentage points more than reported by their peers.

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