Graduation Rates for Kids With Learning Disabilities Rise—but Slowly

The government recently released good news about high school graduation rates. More kids than ever are leaving high school with diplomas.

Students with disabilities played a part in that increase. Their graduation rates rose 3 percent between 2011 and 2013. That’s good news for kids with learning disabilities, who make up 42 percent of that group.

These improvements are part of a long trend. Back in 2000, the graduation rate for kids with disabilities was just 56.2 percent.

Yet the rates for kids with disabilities still lag behind. In 2013 the graduation rate for all kids was 81.4 percent. Compare that to students with disabilities. Their rate was just 61.9 percent.

Only students with “limited English proficiency” had a lower graduation rate than kids with disabilities. Their rate was 61.1 percent.

One thing that may affect these numbers is how the government defines graduation rates. It only counts students who finish high school and earn a traditional diploma in four years.

That means kids who are held back a year and take longer to graduate aren’t included. Neither are kids who get certificates of completion rather than diplomas.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has noted the mixed news on students with disabilities. He tweeted, “Still a long way to go, but encouraging to see grad rates for students with disabilities going up.”

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About the author

About the author

Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for