Whether youth complete high school or leave without finishing can be associated with both economic and social disadvantages, with dropouts experiencing a higher likelihood of unemployment and arrest and lower life-time earnings than graduates (U.S. Department of Commerce 2004; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 1995). Data regularly collected by the U.S. Department of Education on high school completion and dropout rates for the general population show that school completion is less common among some demographic groups than others, including those from lower-income households and students who are Hispanic, for example (U.S. Department of Education 2005). Similar national data for students with disabilities are not routinely collected,1 so trends in school-leaving status and differential school completion rates for different demographic groups among youth with disabilities are unknown.
Data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2)2 are designed to provide a national picture3 of the rate at which secondary school students with disabilities complete high school and how they fare in their early postschool years. Further, comparisons of findings from NLTS2 and the original NLTS4 enables an investigation of changes in school completion rates from 1987 through 2003.
This fact sheet was prepared for the Institute of Education Sciences under Contract No. ED-01-CO-0003. The project officer is Patricia Gonzalez in the National Center for Special Education Research.1 The Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education regularly reports data on the ways in which students with disabilities exit special education (U.S. Department of Education 2003), which can include dropping out, graduating, and reaching the maximum age for special education services, but those figures are confounded with other modes of leaving special education, such as returning to general education classes.