Factors Related to Academic Achievement
NLTS2 findings reinforce the fact that the academic achievement of youth with disabilities in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies is related to a complex array of factors that characterize youth, their households, and their school experiences. Multivariate analyses demonstrate that several individual factors differentiate youth on the basis of their academic achievement.
- The achievement of youth in several disability categories varies across the academic domains assessed. For example, youth with visual impairments outscore those with learning disabilities (the largest disability category, whose scores dominate the score for youth with disabilities as a whole) on three measures, but are similar on the other three, independent of other differences between them. Youth with hearing impairments score significantly higher than those with learning disabilities on mathematics calculation but significantly lower on science and social studies content knowledge.
- Youth in the categories of mental retardation and multiple disabilities consistently record significantly lower performance scores than youth with learning disabilities across the achievement measures.
- Independent of the nature of their disabilities, having higher functional cognitive skills relates consistently to higher academic achievement. Higher scores on the majority of subtests also are recorded for youth whose disabilities were not manifested until they were older and are reported to affect fewer functional domains.
Some demographic and household characteristics also are significantly related to academic achievement, independent of disability-related factors.
- Boys with disabilities score higher than girls with disabilities on mathematics calculation and problem solving subtests as well as on science and social studies content knowledge subtests, with differences of 3 or 4 standard score points.
- White youth with disabilities score from 7 to 13 standard score points higher on all academic achievement measures than African American or Hispanic youth with disabilities or those with other racial/ethnic backgrounds.
- Youth with disabilities from low-income households (i.e., $25,000 in annual income or less) have lower average standard scores in all domains relative to youth from moderate income households, independent of racial/ethnic and other differences between them. Differences range from 3 to 5 standard score points.
- Given similar disability, functional, and demographic characteristics, youth with disabilities score from 4 to 6 standard score points higher with each successively higher level of parental expectations regarding their future enrollment in postsecondary school.
Few school experiences of youth with disabilities show statistically significant relationships with youth's academic achievement; students' grades and school mobility and having ever been retained at grade level are not significantly related to academic achievement, independent of other factors considered in the analyses. Two exceptions are:
- Higher absenteeism is associated with lower scores on both mathematics subtests.
- Having had disciplinary problems at school is associated with lower mathematics calculation scores.
In addition, using some kinds of accommodations during the assessment relates to some measures of academic performance, but not in a consistent direction.
- Controlling for other factors, using a calculator provides a 3- or 4-point advantage on the mathematics subtests.
- Using American Sign Language or a sign language interpreter and taking breaks during a session or needing multiple sessions to complete the assessment are associated with lower scores on some subtests.