Students with disabilities make modest gains

The Center on Education Policy has examined three years of reading and math scores on state tests for students with disabilities nationwide, finding that students made small gains between 2005 and 2008. According to Education Week:

The study found that students with disabilities showed progress at all levels of proficiency in 4th grade, where the median percentage scoring at the basic level or above was 71 percent. Most states showed more gains than declines among students with disabilities over the three-year period.

But there is still a yawning gap between students with disabilities who take the regular state tests (those with cognitive impairments usually take modified assessments) and their non-disabled peers. At the 4th grade level, for example, the median reading score for students with disabilities was 41 percent proficient, while 79 percent of  non-disabled students scored proficient. The gap continues to worsen in the upper grades – at the high school level, the median reading score for students with disabilities was 31 percent proficient, while 77 percent of  non-disabled students scored proficient.

The study represents a glimmer of hope that our schools are starting to take the achievement of students with disabilities more seriously, but there’s still a ways to go. Fully-funding IDEA to take some stress out of the system would help a lot; so would an overhaul of curriculum to make sure we are really offering students content in a way that supports their learning. Taking some of the “special” out of special education might help too — meaning that we should advance the idea that all of our students are all of our students and dispense with the “these are mine, those are yours” kinds of programs that deprive students of uniformly high expectations and rich content.

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