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National Center for Special Education Research


Secondary School Programs and Performance of Students With Disabilities: A Special Topic Report of Findings From the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2)

Secondary School Programs and Performance of Students With Disabilities: A Special Topic Report of Findings From the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 uses data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 dataset to provide a national picture of what courses students with disabilities took in high school, in what settings, and with what success in terms of credits and grades earned.

Selected findings include:

  • Students with disabilities earned, on average, 22.7 credits during their time in high school. Academic courses accounted for an average of 12.7 credits, vocational courses accounted for an average of 4.5 credits, and other courses that were neither academic nor vocational, such as physical education and life skills, accounted for an average of 5.7 credits.
  • Students with disabilities averaged fewer credits than did their peers in the general population (22.7 vs. 24.2). Whereas the coursework of students in the general population was focused more heavily on academic courses, compared to that of students with disabilities (16.1 vs. 12.7), students with disabilities earned more vocational and nonacademic, nonvocational credits than did students in the general population (4.5 vs. 3.1 and 5.7 vs. 4.9, respectively).
  • On average, students with disabilities who attended typical high schools earned 16.7 credits in general education courses and 6.1 credits in special education courses (72 percent and 28 percent of their overall credits, respectively).
  • More than one-quarter (27 percent) of secondary school students with disabilities spent all of their course time, and earned all their credits, in general education courses there, whereas 3 percent of students with disabilities earned all their credits in a special education setting.
  • On average, students with disabilities who received grades earned a 2.3 GPA on a 4-point scale, a lower GPA than that of the general student population (2.7).
  • Approximately 6 percent of students with disabilities had GPAs of 3.35 or higher (mostly As and Bs), compared to 20 percent of students in the general population; 11 percent of students with disabilities had GPAs lower than 1.25 (mostly Ds), compared to 1 percent of general population peers.

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