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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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Are schools doing enough to help special-ed students graduate?

An encouraging fact can be seen by looking at federal data concerning graduation rates in the United States. According to 2013 data -- the most recent year available -- the graduation rate among students with disabilities has risen by 2.9 percent over the last two years. A student with disabilities, which can include behavioral disorders as well as speech impairments, is more likely to graduate now than they did in the past.

But this good news is quickly overshadowed when you consider the fact that the graduation rate among disabled students is significantly less than the national average. While students with disabilities boast a 62 percent graduation rate, the national average is approximately 81 percent. This begs the question: are schools doing enough to help special-ed students graduate?

It's worth noting that while the state of California has placed emphasis on helping students with disabilities and has taken efforts to ensure that these students have the same access to an education as other students, not every state has put forth the same effort. Take for example the state of Oregon, which is less than 600 miles to our north. The graduation rate there sits at 69 percent but it's unknown how many disabled students are not included in this statistic.

Providing special needs students with a proper education should not just be a concern for teachers and schools here in California but across the nation. When we deny these students access to the resources they need to get a good education, we're denying them the right to a successful future as well. It's up to teachers and schools across the nation to keep this in mind when addressing education issues, especially because ignoring this fact could cause our national average for graduation to drop and our students to suffer as a result.

Source: ABC News, "States Vary in Success at Improving High School Grad Rates," Kimberly Hefling, May 12, 2015

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