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 1 5 percentage points more than reported by their peers. However, they are less likely to report receiving school-based academic help before or after regular hours, although their parents more commonly help with homework and attend a parent-teacher conference. Among youth with an IEP, those with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities are least likely to receive school-provided instruction outside of school hours though most likely to receive modified tests and assignments.

Youth with an IEP lag their peers in planning and taking steps to obtain postsecondary education and jobs. Substantially fewer youth with an IEP expect to enroll in postsecondary education or training, compared to youth without an IEP. Reflecting these gaps, youth in special education are almost half as likely as their peers to report taking college entrance and placement tests. Forty percent report having recent paid work experience while in high school, compared with 50 percent of youth without an IEP. Among youth with an IEP, the three groups least likely to receive academic supports before or after school—youth with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities—are also least likely to take these steps to prepare for college and employment.

Youth with autism, deaf-blindness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments are most at-risk for not transitioning successfully beyond high school. Youth in these groups are less likely than all youth with an IEP to have key characteristics and experiences linked to success after high school, such as performing typical daily living tasks, engaging with friends and in school activities, or preparing for college, careers, and independent living.

Read Volumes 1 and 2 at .
You can learn more about this study on the IES website.


Published by JaDonnia

An education and counseling professional, I focus my expertise on diversity, inclusion and family engagement/empowerment Of particular importance is the partnerships between parents and the community schools that serve their children. Highlighting strategies, tips and evidence-based best practices for family engagement, my aim is to alter mindsets, broaden perspectives, foster empathy, and build capacity. Offering 'food for thought' and inviting discussion, I tell truths rarely explored-to both educators and families. A holistic culturally-responsive approach to teaching, learning and engaging others begins with respect. I promote respect and fully integrating curricular diversity in formal learning settings! Collaboration with families is necessary, because parents hold the master key that unlocks doors to child health and wellness, academic achievement, and believe it or not, teacher excellence and stronger school communities.

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  1. I fear what will happen in the very near future to funding for such crucial educational programs for at-risk students. Maybe it’s just me, but DeVos does not strike me as someone who actually gives a damn about children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The future of education as in the public interest is tenuous at best, in my opinion and with the quick rise of ‘for-profit’ schools, the most vulnerable and those with the least financial wealth are certainly going to face greater challenges and obstacles to equitable, quality educational experiences.
      Privatization of institutions once in the public domain is akin to telling people to fend for themselves, and that creates chaos, anarchy, and wider gaps between rich and poor. It is astounding that we place the lives of children and their futures in jeopardy, up for debate, discussion and subject to dim outcomes on a massive scale. Education and healthcare are two governmental divisions that do not belong in political tug-of-war.
      “Suffer ye not the children!”

      Liked by 1 person

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