POLK COUNTY -- At least three-quarters of the students who were in special education programs while enrolled in Dallas or Central school districts in 2007-08 found work or went on to college within a year of graduating high school.
That's among the data included in report cards released by the state last week regarding special education and early intervention/early childhood special education.
Oregon Department of Education has issued the reports annually since 2006 as part of a requirement of federal disability law.
The report details the number of students who graduate and drop out of school, the number who participate in state assessments, and students evaluated for special education services in a timely manner.
A new element in the analysis was tracking what happens to former special education students after high school. Districts performed telephone surveys with a sampling of graduates -- pre-identified by ODE -- to get results.
Students with issues ranging from learning disabilities and speech issues to serious medical problems are eligible for special education services. There were 72,068 school-age students across Oregon in special education last year -- or 13 percent of all school-age children, ODE said.
Those students follow an individual education plan (IEP) crafted by teachers, specialists and parents.
More than 90 percent of former special education students at Central went on to find work or enrolled in post-secondary school at least a year after graduating, according to the report card. The figure was 75 percent for Dallas.
Sixty-five percent and 63 percent of students with IEPs from Central and Dallas, respectively, graduated with their diplomas.
The state's target for work and education opportunities after high school was 74 percent, and for graduation, 58 percent.
In Central, 5.1 percent of students on IEPs dropped out last year, while the figure was 5.5 percent in Dallas. The state target is less than 6 percent.
Susan Gartland, Dallas' special education director, said some students have benefited from a district vocational rehabilitation program funded by a state grant that provides training and some work placement starting their junior year.
"When we measure them a year or two (after graduation), they're pretty well prepared for life after high school," Gartland said.
Students enrolled in special education services in 2007-08:
Central School District -- 434
Dallas School District -- 470
Falls City and Perrydale School Districts did not have students enrolled in special education services last year, according to the report.