Big improvements in the Big Easy

Here’s another silver lining of the Katrina tragedy: struggling New Orleans students who were once relegated to special education because they hadn’t learned to read or do math are finally getting the help they need. Scores of New Orleans schools, particularly new charter schools, are implementing full inclusion for these students—the practice of integrating special education children into regular classrooms. O. Perry Walker High School student Kevia Martin, for example, was previously sequestered in remedial classes. Now, she is thriving in a traditional classroom where she receives some extra guidance during math. “Historically, special education has been perceived as a holding place, and as long as [students] were quiet and appeared engaged I don't know if there were any inquiries in terms of how they were engaged,” said Martin’s principal. “We speak in terms of what’s best for the children, but a lot of times we focus on our comfort level as adults.” While some fear that curricula will be watered-down to ease the transition for newly integrated youngsters, overall this kind of inclusion makes sense. Students with severe disabilities may require separate attention, but most children simply need to be challenged and supported.

In newly opened charter schools, many students are thriving when they’re no longer isolated into special education classes,” by Steve Ritea, Times-Picayune, May 8, 2006 

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