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Diplomas at Risk: A Critical Look at the High School Graduation Rate

diplomas-at-risk-reportEducation pays.

A high school diploma raises a worker’s average weekly earnings from $471 to $652. A diploma decreases average unemployment from 12.4 percent to 8.3 percent. Graduating from high school opens the doors to college and career success.

With facts like these, it's not difficult to understand why one of our cornerstone goals is to ensure that every child graduates from high school with a regular diploma.

Did You Know?

  • In 2011, just 68 percent of students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) graduated with a regular high school diploma.
  • In three states – Louisiana, Nevada, and South Carolina – more students with SLD drop out than receive a regular high school diploma.
  • 88 percent of students with learning disabilities (LD) expect to graduate with a regular high school diploma, but only 59 percent of parents expected the same.

These are just some of the startling findings that we describe in our ground-breaking new report Diplomas at Risk: A Critical Look at the Graduation Rate of Students with Learning Disabilities.

The report helps parents, educators, and policymakers understand what they can do to improve the graduation rates of students with LD. Key takeaways include:

  • Parents: Your child can get off track from a regular high school diploma as early as elementary school. Be vigilant.
  • Educators: Students with LD expect to graduate from high school. Support them.
  • Policymakers: Too many diploma options result in differing expectations for students with LD. Focus on high expectations for all.


Along with the release of the report, NCLD is offering an accompanying Diplomas at Risk webinar moderated by NCLD Public Policy Advisor Laura Kaloi to discuss the findings in the report and what parents, school leaders, and lawmakers can do about them. Register here for the free report and webinar.


The Diplomas at Risk webinar panel includes three noted education experts:


  • Candace Cortiella, author of the Report, Director, The Advocacy Institute
  • Bob Balfanz, Ph.D., Co-Director, Everyone Graduates Center, School of Education, Johns Hopkins University
  • Colleen Riley, Special Education Services Director, Learning and Innovative Services Division, Kansas State Department of Education, State of Kansas