This study provides an examination of the high school completion and four-year college enrollment prospects of 8th graders with IEPs. This study is the first of its kind to compare the long-term education prospects of students with similar 8th grade test-scores receiving special education services in school.
Methods: This study examines the high school graduation (N=25,769) and four-year college enrollment prospects (N=16,409) of 8th graders with IEPs in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The sample for this study is comprised of all CPS 8th graders between 2004-2010 who remained enrolled for 9th grade (n=155,724). Approximately 17 percent of students in the sample receive special education services (n=25,769). Student racial and ethnic composition is predominantly Black (49.77 percent) and Latino (38.87 percent), with less than ten percent of students being White or Asian.
To compare differences in education attainment, a series of logistic models are employed controlling for test-scores, race/ethnicity, poverty, gender, 8th grade cohort, and disability subtype. To account for potential non-linear relationships models also include student’s test-score decile, squared terms for test score, and interaction terms for test score and demographics.
Results: Students with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities all experienced significantly higher likelihoods of earning a high school diploma within six-years compared to their peers (B=0.503, p<.001; B =0.2998, p<.01; B =0.34, p<.001). Students with learning disabilities were slightly less likely (2.22 percentage points) than their peers to enroll in a four-year college (B = -0.1106, p<.01). However, no significant differences were found in four-year college enrollment for students with cognitive or language disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers.
In sharp contrast, students with emotional or behavioral disabilities, saw a 20 percentage point decrease in likelihood of graduating from high school (B= -0.9812, p<.001), and a 6.84 percentage point decrease in likelihood to enroll in a four-year college (B =-0.3625, p<.001) as compared to their non-disabled peers.
Conclusions and Implications: This study provides a first look at the descriptive differences in the education attainment of 8th graders receiving special education services in CPS. Results show that students with emotional or behavioral disabilities are statistically less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in a four-year college, even after controlling for differences in test scores and demographics. The most dramatic difference being in likelihood of completing high school. Such results suggest that students with emotional or behavioral disabilities are not receiving the supports they need to graduate from high school at rates similar to their academic peers, and are dropping off or are not connected to the higher education trajectory early on.