Today, public schools enrol students who 75 years ago rarely attended school. Children who were deaf, blind, or who had developmental disabilities did not typically attend public schools. If they were educated, their education took place at home, in specialized schools or in institutions.
Surveying its history, the promise of universal public education — an idea of the mid-19th century — has taken more than 150 years to achieve. But, when I look at the data about the performance of students with special needs, I don’t think that promise has been fulfilled. Students with special needs do not achieve the same standards of performance or graduation as peers without such needs. The gap is wide.
Some might argue that the expectation of equivalent performance and graduation is unreasonable precisely because of the distinction between students with and without special needs. It is the case that a minority of students with special needs are students with significant physical and health impairments, developmental disorders, brain injuries, and other conditions that will prevent them from achieving at the same standard as students who do not have such severe conditions. But the majority of students with special needs have challenges that are less severe. Eighty per cent or more are students with communication and attention challenges, learning disabilities, behaviour disorders, emotional problems and mild intellectual disabilities.
The nature and number of conditions that result in being identified as a student with special needs have expanded over time as a consequence of a suite of factors. We are increasingly sophisticated in identifying conditions that were previously undetected, and parents concerned about the welfare of their struggling child put pressure on the system to produce a diagnosis that will call attention to the child’s needs. In most jurisdictions, students with special needs attract additional resources to the school board …read more
Source:: Vancouver Sun