Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Helping Students with Learning Disabilities is Common Practice

       In my lifetime, the transformation in public schools towards helping students with learning disabilities has been incredible.  We've gone from self-contained classrooms--in which these students rarely or never interacted with their peers, to full inclusion--in which, today, it is rare for almost any classroom to not have a student with a learning disability.  We used to call it "Mainstreaming"; but now we just call it normal.  Teachers from the 1970's and 1980's would have never imagined a world in which this was possible.  They never had the training that our teachers have today.

       Teachers know that the sort of strategies that help our Special Education students are just good teaching strategies that help all students.  We are better (now) at teaching students who might be weak in reading or mathematics (and don't have a learning disability) than we were in the past because of our training for Special Education students.  Every school has a Special Education department chair or specialist that works with a team of teachers that assist students with learning disabilities AND help to train teachers on best practices.  These students have special learning plans that we call Individual Education Plans (or IEP for short) that give them goals to reach.

       Every year we look at data that measures the learning of our students with IEPs and we consider ways to increase their achievement.  Gone are the days when these students were made to feel that couldn't learn and they spent their days doing basic reading and math skills.  Companies outside of our public school system have developed software and resources and programs designed to help these students to reach their potential.

       The story of our special Special Education students is (indeed) a success story of our public schools.  It was a huge problem and we figured out a way to make it a much smaller problem.  There are lots of young adults in our society today that proudly hold their high school graduation certificate thanks to our public school's efforts to identify their learning disability and to find a way to help them to learn.

       This success story gives me hope that our public schools will solve today's issues:  increasing the achievement of our poor students, better education for our English Language Learners, raising the high school graduation rate without compromising our high standards, and eliminating the achievement gaps that exist between certain student groups.  These are huge problems and every one of them has a solution.  I believe that we have already begun to address these issues.  And I believe that when my students are my age they will look back on the early years of the 21st century be proud of the accomplishments of our public schools.

Public Schools and Choice

       Is it true that public school kids and their public school parents don't have choices?  I'm sure that I will expose my igno...

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