Career and Technical Education, Inclusion, and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With Disabilities
Each year, nearly 6.5 million public school students (approximately 13% of all students enrolled in public education) receive special education services as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The 2004 reauthorization of IDEA placed greater emphasis on using these funds to improve the postsecondary outcomes (including “training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills”) of students receiving special education services.
This study used longitudinal data on all high school students in Washington State, including postsecondary education and workforce outcomes, to investigate predictors of intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. Particular attention was paid to career and technical education (CTE) enrollment and the extent of inclusion in general education classrooms, as prior research suggests these factors may be particularly important in influencing the outcomes of students with disabilities.
The study found generally weak relationships between CTE enrollment in any particular grade and intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities; however, it replicates earlier findings that students with disabilities who are enrolled in a “concentration” of CTE courses have higher rates of employment after graduation than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but are enrolled in fewer CTE courses.
In addition, there was consistently strong evidence that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education classrooms experience better outcomes—fewer absences, higher academic performance, higher rates of grade progression and on-time graduation, and higher rates of college attendance and employment—than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but spend less time in general education classrooms.