Identifying Students with Disabilities Who Are At Risk of High School Dropout

Graduation rates for students with disabilities fall significantly below the national graduation rate for all students.  In 2005–06, 57 percent of students with disabilities earned a regular school diploma. The percentage of students who received a regular school diploma was particularly low for students with emotional disturbance (43%).[1] Although these rates have been increasing in the last ten years, they remain far below the national average for all students.  Schools and districts are in need of proven methods to identify students with disabilities who are at greatest risk of dropout, provide interventions to keep at risk students on track to graduate, and monitor their response to those interventions.

Early Warning Indicators of Dropout for Students with Disabilities

In order to identify students who are at risk for dropout, the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) published several studies on student level indicators of dropout.  Their seminal publication, What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools (2007) was followed up by What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools: A Focus on Students with Disabilities (2009) to further validate the early warning indicators of dropout for all students, and to specifically validate them for students with disabilities.  The latter report was done with the support of the National High School Center. In both publications, CCSR reports that freshman year performance is a strong predictor of five year graduation rates, both for students with and without disabilities.  CCSR identified four predictors of risk during ninth grade: course grades, course failures, absences, and “on-track” status.[2]

Our next post will take an in depth look at these indicators and how they apply to students with disabilities.

See other posts in this series:

"Indicators of Dropout for Students with Disabilities"
"Raising the Graduation Rate for Students with Disabilities: Recommendations"

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

[1] U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Data Analysis System (DANS), Children with Disabilities Exiting Special Education, 2005–06 (OMB #1820-0521). Retrieved from

[2] Gwynne, J., Lesnick, J., Hart, H. M., & Allensworth, E. M. (2009, December). What matters for staying on-track and graduating in Chicago Public Schools: A focus on students with disabilities. Chicago, IL: Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago.


Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
20 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.