High absence rates among students with disabilities in Chicago's public high schools are the largest factor explaining the difference in their academic performance when compared with non-disabled peers, according to a new research report.
Specifically, the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that students with mild cognitive disabilities missed five more days per semester than students who hadn't been diagnosed with a disability. Students with emotional disturbances were absent on average 11 more days than those without, the report found.
It's unclear whether the higher number of absences cause a drop in performance or whether low performance means students are more likely to be disengaged and miss school.
Overall, 70 percent of ninth-grade students without identified disabilities graduate from Chicago Public Schools five years later, according to the report. That number drops to 50 percent of special-needs students, and to 25 percent of those diagnosed with emotional disturbances.
The study examined data from two sets of new freshman students to determine whether factors like attendance and grades could be used to identify special-needs students at risk of dropping out.
Researchers examined the freshman "on-track" rates, which measure a student's credits and can be used to predict whether a student is at risk of dropping out. Students are considered on-track at the end of their freshman year if they have accumulated at least five credits and failed no more than one semester course in a core subject.
The data showed that even among students with disabilities who are performing well in their ninth-grade year, a significant portion will still drop out.
Among on-track students, 87 percent of students without disabilities graduate in five years. That drops to 77 percent of students who have learning disabilities and to 57 percent for those with emotional disturbances. Researchers also identified a group of students -- about two 2 percent of the freshman population -- that performs on par with special-needs children but does not receive those services "for unknown reasons."
"Being two or more years behind grade level is not necessarily a sufficient criteria for getting special-education services. But certainly these students could have used some kind of support," said Julia Gwynne, lead author of the study.
One observer called the data a sign that many students are not getting evaluated for special services.
"I cannot say that every one of these ... should be identified as students with disabilities. But I can say that CPS is systematically under-identifying students with emotional disturbance," said Rod Estvan, education coordinator at Access Living, a disability-rights group.
Chicago Public Schools officials declined to comment on the report.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Students with emotional, learning disabilities have higher absentee rate in Chicago schools, new study says
From The Chicago Tribune:
Posted by BA Haller at 4:48 PM