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DRAZ Encourages ADE to Provide Better Guidance to Students with Disabilities Concerning Graduation

Accessibility, Education

The month of May is a time of celebration for many high school graduates and their families.  However, some students with disabilities face struggles related to graduation. Recently, the Disability Rights Arizona (DRAZ), formerly Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL) submitted written position statements encouraging the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to finalize and issue desperately-needed guidance to Arizona school districts to ensure they comply with the federally-protected rights of a student with disabilities. DRAZ issued the position statements in response to ADE’s request for comments to ADE’s draft graduation guidance.

Many families of students with disabilities call DRAZ for help because of problems related to graduation and transition to adulthood, including:

  • Schools are not providing the necessary supports and academic modifications and accommodations necessary for students with disabilities to meet the state standards for graduation;
  • Schools are awarding “regular diplomas” to students with disabilities who cannot meet state standards for graduation, and thereby prematurely ending their right to continue to receive an appropriate education until the school year in which they turn 22 years old;
  • Schools are not providing meaningful transition planning and services, resulting in students with disabilities exiting school without the necessary skills to transition to the world of adulthood.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public schools are required to provide an appropriate education to eligible students with disabilities until they graduate with a regular diploma, or until the school year in which they turn  22 years old. According to a recent study, about 85–90% of students with disabilities can meet the same graduation standards as students without disabilities, as long as they are given the supports and specific instruction to meet their unique learning needs. The IDEA requires that public schools provide necessary supports, specialized instruction, academic modifications, and reasonable accommodations to eligible students with disabilities. The IDEA also requires that students continue receiving special education and transition services as necessary for them to receive an appropriate education.

Under the IDEA, students with disabilities who are 16 years or older must have a transition plan with services. Transition services are a coordinated set of activities intended to help youth with disabilities make the transition from the world of secondary school to the world of adulthood.

With better guidance and alignment of federal and state law, students with disabilities face better odds at getting the services that need based on their unique needs.

For more information about DRAZ’s efforts to improve the educational outcomes of students with disabilities, read DRAZ’s comments to ADE about its draft guidance document, and DRAZ’s position statement that an Arizona rule conflicts with the IDEA.

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