The groundswell is happening although I’m not surprised. Issues surrounding the state of education have plagued us for years although not until recently — with issues of achievement, teacher accountability, and bullying coming to the fore — have people started to really take notice. And it’s about time.
During this evening’s NBC Nightly News (and after this afternoon’s MSNBC “Education Nation” programming), a statistic totally stopped me in my tracks — 68% of 8th Grade students cannot read at grade level. That’s 68%. But wait. I wondered just how many of these students are classified as special education. And if few are, there is a much larger issue at hand.
Given that special education equates to the delivery of services and supports that address areas of deficit, wouldn’t it seem as though *all* of these students would qualify? Regardless of the reason behind the fact that they are lagging behind, would it not be safe to state that an 8th Grader — any 8th Grader — who is reading at a 5th Grade level would have deficits? Would require remediation? May need a tutor or alternate teaching methods?
Seems to me that special education needs a clean slate in terms of determining what qualifies a child for these additional services. If 68% of our 8th Grade students cannot read at grade level and if they need tutors, differentiated instruction, or any of the other ideas being discussed, they should most certainly qualify as “special education”. Perhaps we need to change the phrase “special education” and recognize that many children require *more than* the median in order to read, write, do math, and behave according to determined grade-level standards.
It’s time for us to evaluate far more foundational issues regarding the state of public education. Let’s lose the labels and categories and begin addressing the education of our students as they are — as unique individuals who each possess strengths and needs, the latter of which affects far more students than currently *fit* within the special education confines.
Would love to hear what you think…