Leaving high school with a diploma is the capstone event of any student’s K-12 career. For IDEA-eligible students, this should be the goal. Yet for too many Michigan students with disabilities, accomplishing this goal is not a reality.
In fact, Michigan’s high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is one of the worst in the nation, evidenced by the following:
- 58 percent of students with disabilities are earning a regular high school diploma, compared to 84 percent for students without disabilities—a gap of 26 percentage points;
- Even fewer Black students with disabilities earn a regular high school diploma—just 53 percent compared to White students with disabilities’ graduation rate of 60 percent;
- Nationwide, 68 percent of students with disabilities leave school with a regular high school diploma in four years;
- Little improvement has been realized in the past decade;
- Just seven states have lower graduation rates for students with disabilities.
The dismal graduation rate of Michigan’s students with disabilities contributes to the state’s high dropout rate (14 percent for students with disabilities)—double the state’s dropout rate for students without disabilities (7 percent). Much more needs to be done to improve the graduation rate of Michigan’s 182,000 students with disabilities.
The Michigan Department of Education should:
- Establish aggressive multi-year graduation goals designed to close the gap between students with disabilities and those without disabilities;
- Institute an early warning system to better identify and address the needs of students with disabilities;
- Provide additional resources to the state’s parent center and disability organizations to support parent-focused activities.