Academic Outcomes for Students with Autism in Middle and High School



Keith, Kayla

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There is debate over whether students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be held to the same standards as typical children in testing. This has raised concerns regarding standards, test accommodations, and alternate assessments. The high-stakes testing policies for individuals with ASD are often not clear and more research is crucial in order to understand what and how they are doing. To address these gaps in the literature and inform debate and policies regarding the academic outcomes for children with ASD, I review the research regarding state policies and procedures, and explore Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP) data for secondary students (grades 6-12) with ASD: such as standardized test scores, GPA, retention, and school leaving. The goals are to address: (1) How are the children in grades 6-12 with ASD doing in terms of end-ofyear grades (GPA)? (2) What percent of students with ASD are retained in grades 6-12? (3) What proportion of students with ASD in grades 6-12 take the high stakes FCAT and how do they do? (4) How do students with ASD do on End of Course (EOC) exams and what percent take the EOC exams? (5) How are those that do and do not take the FCAT tests different in terms of GPA? (6) What kind of diploma, if any, do the students typically receive? and finally (7) Are there gender differences in any of the above? I hypothesized that the grades for students with ASD would be a B average in middle school, but would decline to a C in high school. I anticipated about 30% of the students would be retained, and I expected only about 33% to take the FCAT. Given earlier results in elementary school, I expected around 75% of the students to fail the reading and math portions, and those who take the FCAT to have higher GPA. I hypothesized that the students would struggle on the EOC exams, only about a third would take the EOC exams, and that only a few of the students would have received a standard diploma. Results contradicted my hypothesis because the results showed that as the students progressed through high school, mean grade (GPA) stayed stagnant through 10th grade, until 11th and 12th grade when mean GPA increased. Only 41% (n = 42) of the 103 students with G12 data were ever retained in grades 6-12, and 75% of the students who took the FCAT Math assessment in grades 6-8 failed the exam. The highest percentage of students who took the FCAT/FSA reading assessment was just 46% in 6th grade, but in grades 7-10 the percentage of students who took the FCAT/FSA exams stayed around 20- 30%, which supported my hypothesis that about a third of the students would take the exams. Around 75% of students who took the FCAT reading and math assessments in grades 6-9 failed the exam, which also supported my hypothesis. The results for the EOC exam partially support my hypothesis that the students would be struggling on the exams; the students scored about 30-40% on the EOC Algebra 1 exam in 9th grade and the EOC Biology exam in 10th grade, but in every other grade, 88% of the students passed. The hypothesis that more students would be receiving a certificate of completion than standard diplomas was not supported; 80% of the students who graduated received a standard diploma of some type and the remaining 20% received an accelerated or special diploma. The students who took the FCAT assessments did not have higher GPA’s; instead they had lower GPA’s when compared to those who did not take the FCAT. No differences were found between males and females in regards to the FCAT assessment. In 8th grade, males had a higher mean score on the EOC Algebra 1 exam when compared to the females, and the same happened in 9th grade on the EOC Biology exam. In 10th grade, however, females had a higher mean score on the EOC Biology exam. Future studies are needed to determine how secondary school age students with ASD are doing on the standardized tests, whether the tests and their IEP are individualized, appropriate and are setting the students up for success in the school system.



Autism, Academic outcomes, Secondary school, Standardized tests, GPA