Elementary School Transition and the Reading and Math Achievement of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Emotional Behavioral Disturbance
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Transition from elementary to middle or junior high schools has been associated with slowed reading and mathematics achievement for students in general education as well as students with disabilities. Little is known about how this transition affects students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or emotional/behavioral disturbance (EBD). Reading and math scores from state achievement tests used for federal accountability reporting were analyzed from 125,646 Oregon students between 2006 and 2013. About half were female, about half qualified for free or reduced price lunch, and about 34% identified as an ethnic or racial minority. Piecewise longitudinal growth models were analyzed using hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling, separately for reading and math achievement. Scores for all students, on average, rose slightly faster before transition than after transition. Students who experienced a school transition in Grade 6 were more negatively impacted than those who transitioned in Grade 7, while students who stayed in the same school from Grade 3 to 8 experienced the least impact. Initial scores in reading and math for students with ASD were lower than students without disabilities; students with EBD were lower still, and students with TBI had the lowest. Before transition, students with ASD and EBD accelerated faster in reading than students without disabilities whereas in math, students with ASD or EBD showed improved scores immediately after transition. Students with EBD maintained post-transition trajectories similar to students without disabilities. Students with EBD had the most pronounced deceleration in reading scores after the transition whereas students with TBI had the most deceleration in math.