Thursday, January 31, 2013

Educating Disabled Students

Governor Jeb Bush has an editorial in the CNN Schools of Thought Blog here.  He is espousing the value of giving students choice in schools.  He gives the example of a girl named Kaleigh who used an on-line academy for high school since she had a medical condition that made it impossible for her to attend her local school:

It’s hard to know where to start with this editorial by Governor Bush.

First, and most importantly, Kaleigh’s choice was not one of an on-line academy or no school.  She is protected both by the federal special ed. law, as well as the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Her school district was required to provide services for her.

My hope is that this on-line learning was coordinated by the school district, so she had access to support systems (i.e. tutors, guidance counselors etc.)  While I was teaching I often worked with students who could not physically attend school.  I visited them, we used tutors, and we e-mailed. I visited kids at home, in hospitals, and once in prison.  Sometimes we became very close.   

The online learning is a nice addition, but surely Governor Bush is not suggesting that high school kids, esp. those with serious medical problems, are better off taking on-line courses by themselves, with no help, from some private, out-of-state for-profit academy than they are staying within the umbrella of their local schools, where they can get a full range of services.

I am not against students having choice, but I don’t like how this editorial makes it sound like her local school district was simply walking away from her, and this private academy came galloping to the rescue.  I’ve taught for too long, in too many schools, to believe it happened like that.

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