New tougher graduation requirements in Rhode Island have advocates for minority kids and those in special education crying foul. As many as 5,000 seniors are in danger of being barred from graduation if the state institutes new standards as planned.
Advocates estimate that 86 percent of kids in special education will not be able to pass the new tests.
Well, that’s a pretty stunning number and if you ask me the advocates, in protesting the higher standards, are barking up the wrong tree. If 86 percent of kids are not being educated well enough to pass basic tests, easing the standards does not sound like the answer.
This is exactly what I was talking about here when I said that the failure of kids in college was a failure of the K-12 system that didn’t educate them. Rhode Island (and they are not alone) has set the bar very low for its students in special education, and they are not doing them any favors.
The point of NCLB was to raise the standards of education for all kids, and this is a goal we should all applaud and support. It’s not happening in special education (nor in low-income and minority sub-groups), and considering that nationally there are some 6.8 million kids are in special ed, that’s an alarming situation.
I know that lots of people groan at the thought of NCLB and high-stakes testing, but I think it has revealed an ugly secret in this country that people just didn’t want to think about – the gaping achievement gap. I’m not going to argue that “teaching to the test” is the basis of a great education, but I think it’s obvious that when 86 percent of kids in special education are not reaching a basic foundation of learning, we have a problem.
Continuing to cover up the secret with an easing of standards is not the answer. It’s time to take an honest look at our special education system and figure out how we can do it better.