CA’s SWD improve graduation and dropout rates

CA’s SWD improve graduation and dropout rates

(Calif.) Although California’s students with disabilities continue to lag their peers in standardized testing, a report released last week shows an upward trend in graduation rates and a decline in dropouts.

During the 2016-17 school year, there were almost 755,000 SWD from age two to 22 attending California schools. That total is almost 11 percent of the statewide enrollment, which is now approaching 6.3 million.

Of the pool of SWD, almost half were between the ages of six and 12 years, and more than two-thirds were male. Almost a third, or 28.5 percent, were also classified as English learners.

In its annual survey to the U.S. Department of Education, the California Department of Education reported on 17 distinct indicators of performance as well as strategies that will be used in the future to reach target goals.

The overall number of special education students has increased by 40,000 since the 2012-13 school year when the state reported a total of 695,173 SWD from ages two to 22.

In 2016, the most common disability was “specific learning disability,” which accounted for almost 39 percent. Speech and language impairment accounted for 21 percent and autism represented almost 14 percent.

In 2012, autism accounted for 11.3 percent.

The vast majority of SWD received educational services in traditional public schools during the 2016 school year—just over 85 percent. Charter schools, both those operating as their own school district and those operated by an existing district, provided services to almost 6.8 percent.

In 2012, charters served just 4.7 percent.

The three most common types of services provided to SWD by schools were:

  • Specialized academic instruction: 34 percent;
  • Language and speech: 20 percent; and
  • Vocational and career: 13.5 percent.

The results of statewide testing last spring found that two-thirds of the 228 districts identified as needing technical assistance from their county offices of education—what might otherwise be considered a failing grade—received the designation because of the performance of their special education students.

That said, there is good news related to graduation and dropout rates.

In the 2016 school year, the graduation rate among SWD was 65.5 percent, marking three years of improvement:

  • 2013 graduation rate: 61.8 percent;
  • 2014 graduation rate: 62.2 percent; and
  • 2015 graduation rate: 64.5 percent.

Similar achievements came from the state’s dropout rate among SWDs, which declined in 2016 to 13.6 percent.

  • 2013 dropout rate: 15.7 percent;
  • 2014 dropout rate: 17.5 percent; and
  • 2015 dropout rate: 14.5 percent.

Still, the results of SWD in last spring’s testing was alarming enough to get Gov. Jerry Brown to propose in his January budget the state spend $167 million to help address the needs of SWD under the age of 5 years, especially those in low-income neighborhoods. In addition, Brown wants another $100 million to be used to address the statewide shortage of special education teachers.