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Report Urges Removal of Obstacles to Students with Disabilities

Improved access to CTE programs could raise graduation rates for students with disabilities in New York state, according to a new report. (Hugo/Commons)
Improved access to CTE programs could raise graduation rates for students with disabilities in New York state, according to a new report. (Hugo/Commons)
December 9, 2016

NEW YORK - More students with disabilities could graduate from high school-level programs if state policymakers would maximize access to career and trade education, according to a new report.

Last year, fewer than 50 percent of students with disabilities in New York state graduated from high school in four years, compared with 83 percent of general-education students. But Sam Streed, policy analyst for Advocates for Children, said his group's new report found graduation rates are much higher from career and technical education (CTE) programs.

"What we see is that that gap for students with disabilities in CTE is cut about in half," he said, "and all of those things that speak well of CTE are conferred upon students with disabilities, as well as general-education students."

The report said that by addressing barriers to some CTE programs, such as allowing performance-based admissions rather than relying on test scores, even more students with disabilities would realize those benefits.

Streed said many students' Individualized Educational Programs specify that they need smaller class sizes, or a second teacher with special-education training in the classroom. He said those are needs not addressed in most CTE programs.

"What we're saying," he said, "is that if CTE programs had those options, more students with disabilities would see CTE as an appropriate option for them."

Students with disabilities were about 15 percent of all New York students who were expected to graduate in 2015, but fewer than 12 percent of those in CTE programs.

As officials work to modernize career and technical-education programs, Streed said they need to address a fundamental question.

"What does this mean for students with disabilities," he asked, "and how do we design programs where accessibility is inherent to the program, not just something that's applied afterward?"

The report recommended creating a statewide advisory group that includes parents, industry and educators to help design plans that better serve all students.

More information is online at advocatesforchildren.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY