Sunday, March 14, 2010

Of disabilities and diplomas

On the one hand, the Enquirer has a great article on college options for students with disabilities.  Do read it, and do appreciate the report on a local district's efforts to build awareness of opportunities for those students to earn their degrees.

On the other hand, the article has a terrible, terrible mismatch of Ohio and Kentucky numbers:
In Ohio, where seniors with disabilities can qualify for diplomas if they complete individualized education plans, more than 15,000 seniors with disabilities made up 14 percent of the Class of 2008's 105,700 graduates.

Kentucky's 40,099 graduates in 2008 included 187 students who graduated after individualized education plans, said Lisa Gross, Kentucky's education department spokeswoman. Another 453 students received "certificates of completion" instead of diplomas because severe disabilities prevented them from completing the classes to qualify for a diploma, she said.
That Ohio "more than 15,000" is plausible as the number of students who finish high school and could go on to college with disabilities.

In Kentucky, 187 is the 2008 number of students with disabilities who graduated after more than four years in high school based on an IEP that called for them to spend that added time in school.   The source is Kentucky District Data Profiles: School Year 2007-2008.

Many, many more students with disabilities graduated in the regular four year span.  As a rough estimate, I'd offer the fact that 3,830 students with disabilities finished senior year writing portfolios.   Some of them may not have graduated, but most who finished that work in April surely collected diplomas in May or early June.

Of course, we should still be worried even by that number, because that class lost an amazing number of students with disabilities over its years in school. Taking numbers tested each spring, here's how the count slid downward:

Those losses are disturbing. Some may come from students whose identification legitimately changed.  Many, though, must reflect students who gave up before finishing school, and at least a few probably reflect students who still needed special services but who stopped receiving them.

We should be graduating many more students with disabilities from high school, sending many more to higher education, and cheering many more on as they complete their postsecondary studies.


  1. There is a small step that is in the works to improve this troubling outcome for students - HB109 - the Response to Intervention bill. Please everyone call David Williams and Katie Stine Monday, March 15 and ask them to move it out of the Senate Education Committee! Everyone from the commissioner, KSBA, etc on down supports this bill. It has no opposition, so why is it not moving?

  2. I, like Cindy, encourage you to contact Sen. Winters, Chairperson of the Senate Education, and the persons she mentioned to move HB 109 out of Committee. For nearly, 40 years I have worked with students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Kentucky has lost some its brightest and most creative students to this invisible disability. Colleges, start training teachers to teach students, at all levels, with this condition.

  3. Is is safe to say that in comparison to Ohio's 14% identification, that Kentucky compares with a 1.6% identification? (187+453/40099)? Early identification as proposed in HB 109 is very very needed. True, these children are very creative!! They should not go down the path of low self-esteem because adults are not being aggressive and well-informed educators, school administrators and parents.

  4. Lisa,

    I definitely would not compare the 14 percent and the 1.6 percent. The 1.6 percent leaves out every single student with disabilities who earned a regular diploma in the standard four years.

    However, I would compare the Ohio 14 percent to Kentucky's 9 percent--with the 9 percent being the percent of seniors who completed portfolios weeks before graduation who had identified disabilities.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!