Recently, the U.S. Department of Education broke out four-year graduation rates for different student subgroups as of the 2012-13 school year. My colleagues over at Politics K-12 examined the numbers for students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and for students who are ethnic and racial minorities. But let's take a closer look at what the numbers show for students with disabilities, and the cautions one must take when analyzing these figures.

The graduation rate for students with disabilities was 61.9 percent. But the rates in individual states can vary widely—from 22.5 percent in Mississippi to 80.4 in neighboring Arkansas—as you can see from this handy map:

This is the third year that states have released what is called the "adjusted cohort graduation rate," using an Education Department-mandated formula. States must calculate how many 9th graders leave school four years later, after making adjustments for transfers both into and out of the class. The Idaho numbers are missing because the Education Department granted that state an extension on reporting.

The graduation rate for students with disabilities has risen from 59 percent in 2010-11, to 61 percent in 2011-12, to the most recent statistics of 61.9 percent in 2012-13. That's 2.9 percentage points of growth over the time span. The student population as a whole has also shown improvement in graduation over that time, but the growth rate was just a hair slower: from 79 percent, to 80 percent, to 81.4 percent over the same three school years. That's 2.4 percentage points of growth.

The school district tells you that your child no longer needs occupational therapy but you disagree.

The child study team has evaluated your child and did not identify a problem which you believe affects his or her school performance.

Your child’s IEP fails to address an area of need which you believe is a manifestation of his or her disability.

The school has administered one test to your child, but you think it was the wrong test for getting at the issue with which your child struggles.

These are all reasons to consider asking your student's child study team for an independent educational evaluation.

Many parents know that a child with a specific learning disability may qualify to receive special education and related services. But what is a specific learning disability, and how does a school district determine if a child has one? Some parents wonder why their child who already has a diagnosed learning disability is not receiving services from their school. Federal and state law provide guidance as to what constitutes a specific learning disability for purposes of a child receiving his or her free, appropriate education, and when such a disability requires the school to classify a child and to provide an Individualized Education Program.

Tuesday, 03 March 2015 19:48

Before You Walk Into Your Next IEP Meeting

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It’s anxiety-provoking for many parents: the thought of sitting down with your child’s case manager, principal, teachers, therapists--and people you may not even recognize--to talk about what your child’s school program will look like for the coming year. It's not that you haven't prepared. You have spoken with your child’s teachers throughout the year about your child's progress. You have organized your three-ring binder in chronological order with your child’s schoolwork, report cards, progress reports, standardized tests and evaluations (school or private) that relate to your child's disability. You will use these documents to make your case for what your child needs.

A concussion can happen to any child. Neuropsychologist and concussion specialist Dr. Jill Brooks wants every parent to be prepared with facts about concussion prevention and care. She works closely with patients, their parents and schools to help concussion patients feel better and return to being productive and active.

On February 2, 2015, President Obama released his budget proposal for the government’s 2016 fiscal year which begins in October.  As part of that $4 trillion budget, the President has proposed funding increases for programs aimed at children with special needs. The President proposed total funding of $175 million for special education services for school-age children with disabilities, and $115 million for programs for young children served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The President’s proposal has met with both approval and criticism. Some praise the budget as support of public education. Others argue that the funding increases for educating children with special needs are not enough.

Saturday, 14 February 2015 19:56

Why You Need an Incapacity Plan that Works When It's Needed

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Estate planning is not only about having a plan in place to deal with what happens after you or your loved one’s death; it’s also about having a plan in place to deal with what happens if you become mentally incapacitated.

Mental incapacity can be caused by an accident, injury, or an illness that results in you or your loved one not being able to make informed decisions about your finances and well-being.

Thursday, 05 February 2015 15:24

Opting out of PARCC Assessments: An Unsettled Issue

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Many parents are confused as to whether they can opt out of the upcoming PARCC assessments, and if so, how. Parents are also asking what the consequences will be for children who do opt out, or who stay home on testing days. Their confusion is completely understandable. The answers are not clear.


Regional and online opportunities to submit your opinions and gain information about the new PARCC testing. Public hearings to take place across the state this week. Register now to participate.

Hearings set next week around the state on PARCC exams tied to much-debated Common Core standards

Bullying can be a devastating experience for any child. When the child being bullied has special needs, serious and long-term consequences for the child may result. Fortunately, special needs children receive extra protection under the law. Parents can invoke the laws that have been written specifically to protect children with disabilities when instances of bullying occur.

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