Thursday, November 21, 2002

Special Education's Shame

The October issue of Governing magazine has a feature on "Special Eduction's Dark Secret." Like my December 2002 Reason article, Governing's John Buntin argues that "The number of children with learning disabilities is surging. Some say the real problem is schools' failure to teach students how to read." He writes:

According to Gloeckler, New York's experiences with extending accountability to students with disabilities has been both encouraging and sobering. The good news has been that students with disabilities seem to respond well to higher expectations. "What we found was, once everyone understands that kids need to be included and that access to general curriculum is absolutely essential, we're finding that kids are doing better than people thought they would," says Gloeckler.

But New York's data on the performance of students with disabilities have also highlighted the educational chasm that divides the wealthiest 15 percent of the state's school districts from the state's four largest urban school districts. "We found in the 4th grade particularly, but also in the 8th grade, the special-education students in wealthy districts are outperforming general-education students in the cities," says Gloeckler. In short, by Westchester County standards, almost all inner-city students are learning disabled.

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