August 22, 2007
Schools are under increasing pressure to boost the test scores of their special education students. And according to the Wall Street Journal (which is running a series about mainstreaming), many schools have responded to that pressure not by working harder, but by exploiting loopholes. NCLB allows states to make "reasonable accommodations" for disabled students, which for Mardys Leeper, a teacher at West Philadelphia High School, meant allowing them to "copy paragraphs she wrote onto a word processor rather than composing their own." But parents of special education students are unhappy that their sons and daughters are simply being passed from grade-to-grade without learning anything, and they're fighting back. Many have refused to accept grades and diplomas that are, they say, largely worthless. Some have even sued to prolong their children's education: New York City now pays $400,000 a year to educate Alba Somoza, a 23-year-old with cerebral palsy, after his parents filed a complaint. Sadly, though, such tales of social promotion and worthless diplomas aren't relegated to special education students (see here). Nonetheless, these parents are fighting worthy battles which may yield benefits for all students.
"When Special Education Goes Too Easy on Students," by John Hechinger and Daniel Golden, Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2007