Giving Compass' Take:

• Karla Phillips and Travis Pillow share four strategies for states to help students with disabilities graduate with the skills they need to enter the workforce. 

• How can funders best support efforts to make these shifts? What gaps need to be filled in your state? 

• Read more about preparing students with disabilities for success

As our economy climbs closer to full employment, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure employers are able to take advantage of the talents individuals with disabilities have to offer. The responsibility to develop those talents lies with our education system.

It is well established that having a high school diploma is critical for future employment opportunities. Yet for the 2016-17 school year, the graduation rate for students with disabilities was only 67 percent nationally while the national graduation rate for all students increased to 84.6 percent, a record high. The gap is far too wide.

For a growing percentage of jobs, a high school diploma is no longer enough. More students are going to need some form of education or training beyond high school — including graduates with disabilities.

What should states do?

Create an annual “State of the State” report in special education. Share it publicly. Present it to the state board of education. The report should be anchored by the ambitious but attainable goals in the state’s federal Every Student Succeeds Act plan. The data, which states already collect, must play a meaningful role in their broader strategies and not simply be monitored by the U.S. Department of Education as a compliance exercise.

Monitor progress with a special education dashboard. This is a systemwide challenge that demands the efforts of K-12 schools, colleges and career training providers. State boards of education have the power to convene these institutions and focus them on shared goals.

Pay attention to the data they already have. Federal law already requires states to track long-term outcomes for students with disabilities. The question is whether these reports sit on an obscure website or actually drive systemwide change. Use this map to find your state’s federal State Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report.

Disaggregate all data by disability. There are large variances in long-term student outcomes by disability category, and this should result in different approaches and strategies. Similarly, some disability groups are limited in representation by school and even by district, but statewide data should be annually reported and statewide strategies discussed to help local educators develop cost-effective strategies to prepare students with disabilities for successful adult lives.

Read the full article about ways states can help students with disabilities by Karla Phillips and Travis Pillow at The 74.