An article’s title attracted my attention: “The Failure of Special Education Students.” A detailed analysis presents nationwide school scholastic data from a report released by the Education Week Research Center.
Though overall high school graduation rates have generally improved in recent years, the contrast with special education students is appalling. In particular, special ed fourth-grade proficiencies in reading and math is about 11 percent; by eighth-grade, they’ve dropped to less than 5 percent. A staunch advocate of charter schools concludes we should be motivated to “close the achievement gaps . . . particularly for those in special education.”
What are special education students? They’re those with disabilities of all sorts, which can include autism, speech impairment, mental retardation, emotional disturbance and every other possible ailment. It’s understandable why many of these children cannot perform in any satisfactory manner.
In an earlier time the public schools existed to provide basic education to those youngsters who exhibited the ability and willingness to adhere to a prescribed schedule of instruction. Those who did not or could not conform to the regimen were disenrolled. The nation’s schools operated economically, but arbitrarily, and performed their function admirably.
I’m no longer certain what the fundamental purpose of schooling is meant to be. If it’s designed to take the majority of readily educable pupils to a level of reasonable academic proficiency as quickly and economically as possible, that’s one thing. If, however, its purpose is to transform, in some fashion, every single child in the nation, regardless of ability, into well-schooled individuals, it’s another matter all together. The undisputable fact is each of us has our limitations … as does each special education student. Forced schooling beyond a student’s ability does neither such student nor the education system any good whatever.
The public education system today, with its input of federal money and oversight, is certainly not an improvement. Not only is it unbelievably costly, but the fundamental emphasis on providing basic learning to the nation’s learnable students is diluted in countless ways. This politicization of education has not improved it. Exactly how the collective “we” can close the achievement gaps is beyond my understanding.