In 1992, 44% of special education students graduated with a diploma, 13% graduated with a certificate (including GED finished by age 21), 22% dropped out, and
21% exited school for other reasons. The highest dropout category was seriously emotionally disturbed students at 35%. The lowest was deaf-blind students, only 4% of whom dropped out. Graduation and employment rates for students with disabilities rose over the two decades after the passage of EHCA and IDEA and other disability legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet depending on the disability, as many as 45-70% of disabled adults were still unemployed in the early 1990s. People with learning disabilities and speech disorders have the lowest rates of unemployment. Because 77% of students take vocational education classes, a comprehensive vocational assessment, including assessment of independent living skills, is necessary. The assessment may take place at a regional center and follow an adult rehabilitation model. Assessments should take place several times in the course of a student's school career.
Gifted and talented
Gifted and talented children are those who demonstrate special abilities, aptitude, or creativity. Often they will express themselves primarily in one area such as humanities, sciences, mathematics, art, music, or leadership. Gifted and talented students are not usually considered clients of special education. There is no federal mandate or regular funding to support gifted and talented students, although about half of the states have programs for the gifted and talented. As a percentage of total public school enrollment, students in gifted and talented programs range from 1-2% in Idaho, Nevada, Alabama, and Washington to over 10% in Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.
In addition to special counseling, grade skipping, taking summer or correspondence courses, or early graduation, there are a variety of adaptations that can be made to serve the needs of gifted students. Adaptations can be made to the content, the process, or the products of learning. Some strategies include:
Acceleration-Raising the academic level of assignments and giving the student reading material at a higher level of difficulty.
Telescoping-Reducing the time allowed the student to cover given content. For example, a teacher could give the student two successive mathematics chapters to complete in the ordinary time period used to cover one chapter.
Compacting-Testing to determine how much of a certain content unit the student knows already and custom designing a curriculum to fill in the gaps. Students can then use the gained time for creative or exploratory activities.
Independent study- Allowing the student to choose his or her own focus, plan research, present material, and evaluate the process.
Tiered assignments-Preparing assignments at different levels for different students. Asking more complex and higher order questions in assignments for gifted and talented students.
Other tools for pacing the learning of gifted and talented students are portfolios and learning centers. Several commercially prepared curricula that provide structured exploratory and design projects are also available.