Ryan Parry is challenging all the stereotypes and the drop out rate in one state in USA. When Parry began teaching 19 years ago he commented his room was a “horrible little classroom in the back of the campus that no one knew existed.” His students were constantly tardy. Eventually, they told him why: They didn’t want other students to see them making the trek over to P building, which is set off from the semi-circle of the main campus buildings. Anyone seen going there was at risk of being mocked as a “P town pimp,” students said.
At the time the district’s class of 2010 had a 73 percent graduation rate for students in special education and a 13 percent dropout rate — double the dropout rate for the student body overall.
“It’s a lot easier to quit something and drop out of something you don’t feel you have a connection to,” Parry said.
The high dropout rate for students with disabilities is a growing national problem. Special education encompasses a wide range of disabilities, from severe cognitive limitations to ADHD and dyslexia. Most students’ disabilities should not preclude them from succeeding in school; an estimated 85 to 90 percent of students in special education are capable of earning a high school diploma, as long as they receive the support they need, experts say.
But in the most recent year for which federal data is available, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduated within four years.
No federal special education dropout numbers currently exist.
Covina-Valley has seen its efforts pay off. By 2016, the district had reduced its dropout rate for students in special education to fewer than 5 percent and increased the graduation rate to 85 percent. Although these numbers still lag behind those of the student body overall (a dropout rate of 1 percent), they are markedly better than elsewhere in the state and across the country. In 2016, California had a 66 percent graduation rate and 14 percent dropout rate for students in special education.
How did Ryan Parry do it?
Grade appropriate text books, changing the ethos from Special Education to a service and not a placement.