Comparisons of High School Graduation Rates of Students with Disabilities and Their Peers in Twelve Southern States


  • Theodore Scott Smith
  • Nancy Manuel
  • Billy R. Stokes


This study compared differences in diploma and graduation dropout rates among students with and without disabilities, analyzed differences in various graduation-types by disabilities, and offered recommendations to improve graduation rates through evidence-based practices. The geographic catchment area of this study was limited to twelve Southern states, pinpointing an examination to a specific geographic region. In an investigation of graduation rates among students with and without disabilities, data indicated that students without disabilities had higher graduation rates. Furthermore, students with disabilities most often exited secondary school with a diploma, followed by drop out, and then attainment of a certificate. Graduation rates were further appraised by specific disability, revealing numerous graduation variances by both state and disability. Students with orthopedic, speech and language, and visual impairments graduated most often with a diploma, followed by students with head injuries, learning disabilities, and multiple disabilities. Across all states, children with emotional disturbances tended to fare poorest in graduation attainment. Utilizing recommendations offered through evidence-based practice, teachers, policy-makers, and others may implement changes, ultimately improving graduation rates for students with disabilities.