NASET News Alert

Students With Disabilities Making Great Strides, New Study Finds

May 26, 2006

Students With Disabilities Making Great Strides,

New Study Finds

Data reflect successful experiences and achievements of special education students moving into early adulthood

FOR RELEASE: July 28, 2005

Students with disabilities have made significant progress in their transition to adulthood during the past 25 years with lower dropout rates, an increase in postsecondary enrollment and a higher rate of gainful employment after leaving high school, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Education. The report is available at

The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) documents the experiences of a national sample of students over several years as they moved from secondary school into adult roles. The NLTS2 report shows that the incidence of students with disabilities completing high school rather than dropping out increased by 17 percentage points between 1987 and 2003.

During the same period, their postsecondary education participation more than doubled to 32 percent. In 2003, 70 percent of students with disabilities who had been out of school for up to two years had paying jobs, compared to only 55 percent in 1987.

"These accomplishments show the benefits of accountability and high academic standards among all students, including those with disabilities," said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. "As we focus increasingly on high school students, these findings square nicely with the goals of No Child Left Behind, such as closing the achievement gap and insisting that all students be given the quality education they so deserve."

NLTS2 began in 2001, and is a follow-up to the first National Longitudinal Transition Study conducted from 1985 through 1993, in which the experiences of the first "cohort" of students were analyzed. NLTS2 reports on a second cohort of young people, 12,000 students nationwide who were ages 13-16 at the start of the study. Information will be collected over 10 years from parents, students and schools, and will provide a national picture of the experiences and achievements of young people as they transition into early adulthood.

  • Core Academics Improved—Cohort2 high school students with disabilities were much more likely than their cohort1 counterparts to take core academic courses, including mathematics, science, social studies and a foreign language.
  • Grades Were Higher—Regarding academic performance, more than half of cohort2 students with disabilities received above-average grades, representing a shift from students receiving mostly Cs to more students receiving mostly As or Bs, as reported by teachers.
  • Age and Grade-Level Match Improved—The proportion of students who were at the typical age for their grade level increased from one-third to more than one-half between 1987 and 2001. As being older than the typical age for a grade level has been shown to be a powerful predictor of disabled students dropping out of school, this indicator signals positive outcomes for youths with disabilities in their efforts to finish high school.
  • More Support—By 2001, half of 15- to 17-year-old students with disabilities were receiving related or support services from or through their schools, compared with less than one-third of students in 1987.

The study was funded by the Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and focuses on a wide range of important topics for students with disabilities, such as high school coursework, extracurricular activities, academic performance, postsecondary education and training, employment, independent living and community participation.

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