Monday, May 21, 2012

A Look at Fall River's Special Education Population

Next in the series regarding the special education populations Massachusetts' ten urban districts, we'll look at Fall River. In the Fall River public school system, special education students currently make up 20.8% of the student population; FRPS has an enrollment of 9,973 with 2,078 students identified as 'special education.'


Below is how the special ed population breaks down in terms of demographics.

Black/African American7.3%
Native American0.2%


Low Income85%
Limited English Proficiency4.8%
First Lang. Not English19.6%

The disabilities with the highest student counts in Fall River are:
  • Specific Learning Disability (580)
  • Developmental Delay (293)
  • Emotional (267)
  • Health (243)

The age with the highest student count is 13 (196students) followed by 11 (159).


Special ed students in Fall River, a Level 4 district, were among the subgroups not making Adequate Yearly Progress at all grade levels in 2011. In 2011, students with disabilities had a 12% proficiency rate in English language arts  (ELA) exam and a 9% proficiency rate in math. The Composite Performance Indices (CPI) for special education students has decreased 2 points in ELA and  0.3 points in math since 2008. CPIs are a measure of the extent to which students are progressing toward proficiency in ELA and math; the goal is a CPI of 100.  More specifically, each student participating in the MCAS is given a score based on well they perform on the exam which is later averaged to determine the school or subgroup's CPI; possible scores are 0 (Warning/Failing - Low), 25 (Warning/Failing - High), 50 (Needs Improvement - Low), 75 (Needs Improvement - High), and 100 (Proficient or Advanced). In 2011, the ELA CPI for students with disabilities was 55 while the math CPI was 44.4.

Educational Outcomes

In terms of educational outcomes, special education students in Fall River tend to graduate at a much lower rate than 'general education' students. This is much in line with state trends as well as the trend seen in both Lynn and Worcester. However, the achievement gap between special education and general education students in Fall River is particularly alarming; in 2007, there was a nearly 44 point difference in graduation rates between these two subgroups. See below for the graduation rates from 2006 - 2010.

Special Ed27.4%18.6%37.1%36%36.8%
General Ed60.6%62.1%60.8%66.9%73.4%
All Students54.2%54.1%56%62.51%66.2%

The graduation rate for this population decreased slightly to 36.1% in 2011 for Fall River as a district.  Fall River has two secondary schools - BMC Durfee High School and Resiliency Preparatory School, which is an alternative school At Resilience, just a quarter of special education students graduated in four years or less as of 2011; at Durfee, that number was 40.8%. Approximately 19% of special education students required more than four years to complete high school in 2011 while 12% were non-grad completers.

Special ed students also tend to dropout at a higher rate than the general ed population. Below is the annual dropout rate for the years 2006 - 2010.

Special Ed16.5%14.6%12.8%9.8%7.7%
General Ed10.5%8.9%12.5%5.3%4.3%
All Students11.4%9.8%12.5%6%4.9%

The four year dropout rate for special ed students was 31.5% in 2011, down from 48.1%  in 2007. At the state level, special ed students had a 13.2% four year dropout rate.

In 2009-10, a little less than half of the special ed students were going to attend a college or university with 95.2% of this group attending a Massachusetts community college. Just four special ed students were reported to have taken the SAT in 2009-10; SAT performance information is not reported for students enrollments of fewer than 10 students. In terms of Advanced Placement participation and performance, there was no data reported for special education students in 2009-10.

*All Data Taken from:

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