_dsc0089gPlanning and Funding Your Child’s Education—Elementary and Secondary School Part 4

High School Graduation Rates for Students with Disabilities

Based on the latest data available on high school graduation rates for students with disabilities—the 2005–2006 school year—the average graduation rate for students with disabilities in 29 states and the District of Columbia is 57 percent (see Julia Gwynne, Joy Lesnick, Holly M. Hart, Elaine M. Allensworth. What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools: A Focus on Students with Disabilities. Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. December 2009.). 

What Can I Do to Improve My Child’s Chances of Graduating from High School?

Students with disabilities who stay on-track with their courses during their freshman year of high school have higher graduation rates than their peers who become passive about their education. The exception is students with behavioral or emotional disabilities, suggesting that other supports are necessary to improve their graduation rates (see Julia Gwynne, Joy Lesnick, Holly M. Hart, Elaine M. Allensworth. What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools: A Focus on Students with Disabilities. Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. December 2009).  

Just by getting and staying involved in your child’s coursework and activities, he or she has a better chance of doing well in school, and that includes graduating from high school. The three key areas that will increase your child’s chances of graduating from high school are (see Julia Gwynne, Joy Lesnick, Holly M. Hart, Elaine M. Allensworth. What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools: A Focus on Students with Disabilities. Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. December 2009):

  • Regularly attending school
  • Passing all coursework
  • Improving grades

You can help in these areas by:

Communicating. The teen-age years are when your child becomes more interested in looking beyond boundaries you might have set for his or her well-being. That curiosity might result in your child not communicating with you as openly as you’d like. For example, your child might not bring home school notices about meetings he or she would rather you not attend. Try to encourage communication by asking open-ended questions—questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. An example: “What school meetings have been announced?” Or you can simply ask “Did you receive any school notices you might have misplaced or forgotten to bring home?”

Helping with Homework and Setting Boundaries. Even if you don’t have a lot of knowledge in your child’s coursework, you can help your child regularly complete homework.

  • Set a regular time and place to do homework.
  • Help provide access to learning resources such as the Internet, calculators, a librarian, and a friend or family member knowledgeable in a certain area.

Encouraging Your Child to Participate in Developing Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The sooner you encourage your child to create a vision of the future, the greater the chances of your child’s success during high school. Consider involving your child in IEP development when he or she enters the eighth grade. That way, your child has more time to gain a deeper awareness of what it takes to turn dreams and goals into realities. Participating in IEPs early on will also help develop your child’s decision-making skills and provide the time to test and improve them.

Encouraging Your Child to Take Standardized Tests. Many post-secondary schools require pre-college test scores, such as the ACT (formerly known American College Testing) and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), to be considered eligible for admission. By encouraging your child to take these standardized tests, new academic opportunities may become available. Students with disabilities may request testing accommodations that will allow them to demonstrate what they know without being limited by their disability. For example, a student with cerebral palsy may need extra time or use assistive technology to show what they know. 

Joining School Committees and Networking with Parents. You’ll stay in-the-know about school activities and potential problem areas your child might be facing by connecting with your child’s teachers and parents of your child’s classmates. 

Building Positive Relationships with Teachers. On occasion, you and your child’s teachers may disagree on the direction of your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Because your child might behave differently in school than at home, what you clearly see as an ability of your child might not be seen by your child’s teachers. Should conflict around IEPs arise, present in positive ways stories or “evidence” of your child’s abilities, and discuss what supports the school might provide to replicate that ability during school with the teacher and the child's IEP team.

Transition Planning—Resources

Center for Early Literacy Learning (CELL)

The Center for Early Literacy Learning (CELL) guides parents to create building blocks of literacy for their children. Encouraging parents to begin engaging their children in literacy activities as early as possible, CELL offers video, audio, and library resources for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Developing your child’s literacy skills early on may provide later payoffs. The self-esteem your child gains through strong literacy skills can help ease transitions through early childhood education, elementary school, middle school, and high school. To find out what resources you can use to begin building your child’s literacy, contact the Center for Early Literacy Learning:

Call 1-800-824-1182 
Visit www.earlyliteracylearning.org 
Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute—Asheville, NC Office
8 Elk Mountain Rd.
Asheville, NC 28804

PACER’s Technical Assistance on Transition and Rehabilitation Act (TATRA)

This PACER program provides information to help parents guide children with special needs through their life’s transitions: in and out of elementary, middle school, and high school; and on to rehabilitation, vocation, post-secondary education, jobs, and careers. 

Through publications, training programs, and special events and workshops, PACER provides many resources that strengthen your child’s ability to achieve education, employment, and independent living goals.

The TATRA Web resources are available to all. Visit www.pacer.org/tatra.

PACER’s Simon Technology Center

In a collaborative effort with parents, professionals, and consumers, PACER’s Simon Technology Center (STC) provides publications, training programs, technology consultations, and workshops on assistive technology (AT) to help Minnesota families and children with special needs achieve greater independence in school and work.

Although this is a Minnesota program, the STC’s web resources are available to all. Visit www.pacer.org/stc.

Federally Funded Resources

National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center.

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).

Funding Your Child’s Education—Elementary and Secondary School

Because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives your child the right to attend public school for free, during your child’s years in kindergarten through the completion of high school you bear no public education tuition expense. The public education system is extensive and well-established throughout the United States. 

Your community may offer private education choices that include special needs programs and coursework. Private schools typically charge tuition. 

Financing Options

By working with your local Parent Center and disability-specific organization, you may be able to find out financing options for private schools in your area. Scholarships and grants are available for some private elementary and secondary schools. They are usually based on merit (academic achievement or community service) and financial need. You don’t have to pay scholarships and grants back. 

FinAid! provides information on financing options for private elementary and secondary education. Contact FinAid! to get the specifics:

Call 1-724-538-4500
Visit www.FinAid.org (click “Other Types of Aid” and look for the link: “Aid for Elementary and Secondary School”
FinAid Page, LLCPO
Box 2056
Cranberry Township, PA

The National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) has information about financial aid opportunities offered by private schools serving students with disabilities. To contact NAPSEC:

Call 1-202.434.8225
Visit www.napsec.org
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 900 - South Building
Washington, DC 20004