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National Agenda For Achieving Better Results For Children & Youth With Serious Emotional Disturbance

Prepared by the Chesapeake Institute
of the American Institutes for Research
for the US Department of Education
Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services
Office of Special Education Programs
September 1, 1994

The Problem

Effectively serving and meeting the needs of children and youth with serious emotional disturbance (SED) and their families is a national concern. The necessity of addressing the needs of these children and youth has become increasingly apparent. Failure to do so threatens the success of the nation's educational objectives (e.g., GOALS 2000) and limits life-long opportunities for many individuals. The following data suggest the magnitude of the problem:

•Academic Outcomes

—Students with SED have lower grades than any other group of students with disabilities.

—They also are retained at grade level more often.

—High school students with SED have an average grade point average of 1.7, compared to 2.0 for all students with disabilities and 2.6 for all students.

—44% received one or more failing grades (compared to 31% for all students with disabilities).

•Graduation Rates

—42% of youth with SED earn a high school diploma, as opposed to 50% of all youth with disabilities and 76% of similarly aged youth in the general population.

School Placement

—18% of students with SED are educated outside of their local schools, compared to 6% of all students with disabilities.

School Absenteeism

—Students with SED miss more days of school per year (an average of 18 days) than do students in any other disability category.

Dropout Rates

—48% of students with SED drop out of grades 9 through 12, as opposed to 30% of all students with disabilities and only 24% of all high school students.

—Another 8% of students with disabilities, including students with SED, drop out before grade 9.

Encounters with the Juvenile Justice System

—22% of students with SED are arrested at least once before they leave school as opposed to 9% of students with disabilities and 6% of all students.

—58% of youth with SED are arrested within five years of leaving school, as opposed to 30% of all students with disabilities.

—Of those students with SED who drop out of school, 73% are arrested within five years of leaving school.

Compared To All Students With Disabilities:
  1. Students with SED are more likely to be placed in restrictive settings and are more likely to drop out of school;
  2. Their families are more likely to be blamed for the students disability and are more likely to make tremendous financial sacrifices to secure services for their children; and
  3. Their teachers and aides are more likely to seek reassignment or leave their positions.


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