Report: Bar Set Too Low for Students with Disabilities


Many students with disabilities can graduate from high school and go on to college, yet an investigation by The Hechinger Report reveals that a disproportionate number of young people on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) suffer from low expectations when it comes to postsecondary planning.

“Interviews with more than 100 parents, students, advocates, and experts across the country painted a picture of a special education landscape where transition planning and services are largely neglected,” reporters Sarah Butrymowicz and Jackie Mader wrote in an article published late last year. “Students with disabilities who could pursue higher education or meaningful employment are instead living at home and working low-wage jobs.”

Others are unemployed or pushed into professions that don’t match their interests.

“Frequently, transition plans demonstrate low expectations,” the report notes. “Parents and advocates say many special education students are steered toward what one parent referred to as the ‘five F’s’: food, folding, flowers, filing and filth, referring to cleaning and janitorial services.”

The article offers tips to improve the process for students with disabilities.

Teens who express interest in college, for example, need to have small, actionable steps in their IEP plans that prepare them for higher education. That may sound like an obvious solution, but such details are commonly left out, experts say. And when it’s not in writing, students can have a hard time accessing the support and resources needed to make their larger goals a reality.

“Plans often include too few goals, or superficial ones,” the article noted. “…College-bound students might be instructed to research colleges and fill out college applications — but the plans often don’t include training in other essential skills for college, such as how to study.”

Read the full article and listen to a podcast about the report’s findings.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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