Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Colette Taylor

Second Advisor

Cinda Johnson

Third Advisor

Brian Taberski


High school graduation has long been recognized as an important turning point to young adulthood, opening up the doors for future vocational and economic activities. In Washington State, students with disabilities still drop out at rates that are significantly higher than their peers, hampering their ability to achieve this graduation milestone. The purpose of this study was to use a mixed-methods approach to investigate the personal and environmental barriers faced by these students. This study used data from the Washington State Post-School Outcomes survey, which surveys students with disabilities one year after leaving public education. This study examined three years’ worth of data from 2017–2018, 2018–2019, and 2019–2020, and determined there were quantitative relationships between the high school dropout rates and the variables of gender, race/ethnicity, English Language Learner (ELL) status, and category of disability. This study examined the strength of the relationship and provided an analysis of variables. This study also used thematic analysis to explore qualitative data provided by students or parents on why they dropped out during this same three year period. The study results revealed eight themes: (a) personal and family, (b) moving and housing instability, (c) health challenges, (d) work and financial, (e) disengagement, (f) disability and the environment, (g) academic environment and (h) environmental exclusion. The study concluded with recommendations to educational leaders regarding social-emotional and counseling supports, inclusive environmental culture, and programmatic recommendations.