The effects of increased accountability standards on graduation rates for students with disabilities

Mitzi Lee Moore

Abstract

This research sought to determine if unintended effects of increased accountability standards on graduation rates for students with disabilities existed. Data from one southeastern state were utilized in order to determine if graduation rates were impacted as a result of higher accountability standards. In addition, administrator attitudes on views of NCLB , high-stakes testing of students with disabilities, strategies initiated to exclude students with disabilities from high-stakes tests, and inclusion of all students with disabilities in the growth model. Archival data from 2001 and 2010 were used to compare pre and post graduation rates for significant differences. Survey results were collected from high school principals and directors of special education in order to answer research questions regarding attitudes of administrators. Open-ended questions revealed additional information on administrator attitudes regarding leadership practices, prioritization of special education, inclusion of all students with disabilities in the growth model, and instruction of students with disabilities. The results indicated a decline in graduation rates for all students as well as the sub-group of students with disabilities. Additionally, statistical tests revealed an interaction between the groups and years. Historical data confirm that students with disabilities graduate at lower rates than their non-disabled peers. However, the results of this study indicate the gap between these two groups has widened. These findings are alarming for several reasons including possible future social and economic impacts for these students as well as the United States. No statistical difference was found between attitudes of principals and directors of special education.