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9.3% Drop in Graduation Rates for Disabled Kids
by Dee Alpert, Esq.

In 2001-2002, the number of disabled students who graduated from high school in New York declined 9.3 percent from the previous year, from 14,448 to 13,469.

The graduation rates include students who received Certificates of Attendance, IEP Diplomas, Regents Diplomas, and Local High School Diplomas. [Note: These figures are from a Microsoft Access database that was recently published on the New York Department of Education's web site. The table to use is HSCompleters_SWD]

The decline was not publicly announced by New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills. Mr. Mills also neglected to make public disabled students' scores on State-mandated exams, although the No Child Left Behind Act and the State Department of Education regulations require the state to report these scores.

Because Commissioner Mills did not make the decline public, there is no official explanation for the graduation rate decrease.

"Moved, Know to Continue," Dropped Out, Or Pushed Out?

In prior years, reports filed with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) by the state Department of Education showed that the fastest-growing category of disabled high school exiters between the ages of 14-21 was "moved, known to continue."

However, audits of 4 states by the US Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General show that the "moved, known to continue" category is improperly used by many school districts to reduce the number of disabled students counted as drop-outs.

Group of people having discussionAdvocates for Children, a New York City non-profit advocacy organization for children with disabilities,reported that because of pressure from No Child Left Behind, many New York City high schools are actually pushing low-performing students out of school illegally.

Advocates for Children recently filed a federal court class action suit, noting that the named plaintiff student was told that he had to leave high school and go into a GED program. He was put into a record-keeping category that is supposed to be used when a student actually transfers to another school. Court papers indicated that the student had an undiagnosed disability.

New York State's "moved, known to continue" figures for the 2001-2002 school year are not available at this time.

The New York Post quoted one NYC school administrator as saying that counting such kids as "discharged" means they are not "dropouts" for No Child Left Behind purposes.

Since Commissioner Mills also did not release disabled students' scores on any mandated tests, the fate, and progress - if any - of disabled students in New York state remains a mystery.

Graduation, Dropout Data Not Released

According to the state Department of Education's database, there are 91 publicly-operated schools for disabled kids in New York. There are 60 schools in New York City's District 75, a segregated, all-special Image of A Graph and Computer screeneducation district for 22,000 students.

Graduation numbers and dropout rates for these schools have not been released.

Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a partial dissolution of District 75, citing poor results for its students. How poor we'll probably never know.

Lori Mai, head of the Division of Assessment and Accountability for NYC Department of Education defended DAA's apparently illegal refusal to publish graduation and dropout data for 23 of the District 75 schools that have enough students to be counted on the ground that it would be of "limited utility." (e-mail dated April 14, 2003)

No Child Left Behind Accountability Plan Abandoned?

The No Child Left Behind Accountability Plan filed by the New York Department of Education and approved by the U. S. Department of Education states that every school in New York will have school accountability targets and school report cards that provide the public with identical standard data for each school, including graduates and dropouts.

After the plan was approved, the New York Department of Education granted No Child Left Behind accountability waivers to 34 New York City high schools with high numbers of "at risk" or disabled students.

The New York State Department of Education refused to disclose the alternate accountability criteria it negotiated with these waivered high schools. However, some School Report Cards for this group indicate that waivers from the Regents Math exams were granted.

The New York Department of Education did not report what percentage of all students, and disabled students, were tested and not tested, although this is also required under No Child Left Behind.

Perhaps the large number of students in No Child Left Behind waivered schools, and the large number of severely disabled students who were not given their mandated "alternative assessments" accounts for this omission.


It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Department of Education will act on New York State's violation of its approved No Child Left Behind Accountability Plan and the requirements for reporting graduation and dropout rates for disabled students.

The U. S. Department of Education has not enforced the federal requirement, (effective as of 1998) that all state Departments of Education that publicly report test scores for non-disabled students must also publish scores for disabled students at the same time and in the same form.

Many advocates in the disability-rights community assumed that with No Child Left Behind's mandates regarding making scores public for disaggregated groups, including disabled students, this refusal to enforce would become a moot issue. This is apparently not to be.

Source: Special Education Muckracker, v. 1, n. 1

Resources: State Accountability Plans (scroll down for New York)

Workbook Attachments for Accountability Plans (scroll down for New York)

Pushing Out At-Risk Students: An Analysis of High School Discharge Figures by The Public Advocate and Advocates for Children.

About Dee Alpert, Esq.

Dee Estelle Alpert, Esq., is a retired New York City-based attorney who handled cases throughout New York State for over a decade, and acted as consulting counsel in special education cases nationally.

Dee's first special education due process hearing on behalf of a child lasted twelve days. She quickly realized that these cases require special attorneys with litigation skills. Litigation was sometimes necessary to protect parents and children from a system that seemed designed to deprive them of their most basic rights and dignity.

Currently, Dee is focusing on systemic special education and education issues and tactics, including various inquiries into special education and public school district financial and related corruption. She collaborates with a retired Professor of Education Finance, and has provided consultation to various New York prosecutors and politicians.

Dee conducted the Internet Survey of IEP Document Alteration, Falsification and Forgery in 2002.

For more information, contact Dee Alpert at

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