Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Look at Worcester's Special Education Population

In the Worcester public school system, special education students currently make up 20.7% of the student population; WPS has an enrollment of 24,808 with 5,142 students identified as 'special education.' This is a close look at Worcester's special education population.


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

Black/African American12.3%
Native American0.4%


Low Income78%
Limited English Proficiency27.7%
First Lang. Not English37.2%

The disabilities with the highest student counts in Worcester are:
  • Specific Learning Disability (1,700)
  • Intellectual Disability (753)
  • Emotional (721)
  • Communication (594)

The age with the highest student count is 16 (414 students) followed by 11 (402).


Similar to Lynn, special ed students in Worcester were among the subgroups not making Adequate Yearly Progress at all grade levels in 2011. In 2011, students with disabilities had a 14% 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 1.1 points in ELA and  increased 1.5 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 53.9 while the math CPI was 44.9.

Educational Outcomes

In terms of educational outcomes, special education students in Worcester tend to graduate at a lower rate than 'general education' students. This is much in line with state trends as well as the trend seen in Lynn. See below for the graduation rates from 2006 - 2010.

Special Ed44.2%51.3%54.4%49.1%56.4%
General Ed73.8%74.6%73.3%76.8%76.7%
All Students67.2%69.8%69.2%70.1%71.4%

The graduation rate for this population decreased to 52.3% in 2011 for Worcester as a district.  Individual secondary schools in Worcester did vary in their graduation rates. At North High School, 35.1% of special education students graduated compared to a 55.1% graduation rate overall. Worcester Technical High School, on the other hand, had a 86.3% graduation rate in 2011 for special ed students with only 2.7% of this population dropping out over the four year period. Approximately, 20% of special education students required more than four years to complete high school.

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 Ed6.0%9.8%7.9%7.1%6.7%
General Ed3.8%5.1%4.0%4.6%3.0%
All Students4.2%6.0%4.7%5.1%3.8%

The four year dropout rate for special ed students was 19.1% in 2011, down 5.7 percentage points from 2009. At the state level, special ed students had a 13.2% four year dropout rate.

In 2009-10, a little more than half of the special ed students were going to attend a college or university with 78% of this group attending a Massachusetts community college. Seventy-five special ed students were reported to have taken the SAT in 2009-10 with average scores of 347 in Reading, 342 in Writing, and 338 in Math (out of a possible 800 for each). In terms of Advanced Placement participation, six special education students took 11 AP exams in 2009-10 with the highest number of students taking the AP English Language Arts exam, followed by AP U.S. History. Of the 11 tests taken, 27.3% received a score between 3 and 5 (on a 5-point scale). 

*All Data Taken from:

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