Is California Ready for a Special Education Evolution?
California is one of the USA’s economic hubs. In some areas, it exudes progress like on matters related to cultural diversity and race relations. But in other areas, like its history in regards to educating special needs children is somewhat appalling.
Experts Say Yes to Special Education Reforms
The need to reform special education institutions is echoed by experts to address the failures in the current system. One lone educator argues against blurring the lines between general and special needs students and prefers children to be educated based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Michael Kirst is the head of California’s State Board of Education. Auditing a model school, he believes that discrimination is to blame for educations failures towards special needs children. Special needs children are still often separated from their peers in so-called "special classes."
A Bad Record
Special needs children have not been given equal treatment in terms of proper evaluations and their parents remain powerless to act. In 1975, legislation was enacted to address these inequalities. Not much progress has been made since then.
In spite of Federal Law insisting that special needs children have customized education plans in accordance with their unique needs, one commentator reports that the system is still failing over 700,000 children. The suspicion is that discrimination has continued unchecked.
The Road Ahead
The state’s best educational minds have investigated these flaws, producing a report which asks for one system to be developed to serve the needs of all students. The road ahead appears to remain bleak for despondent parents who have endured one too many traumatic experiences with the system.
Mildred Brown is an education bureaucrat on California’s Advisory Commission on Special Education. She believes that discrimination is acute for African American and Hispanic students. Incarcerated as special education students, these groups are also precluded from joining the military or obtaining specific jobs as adults.
Brand New Teaching
Alice Parker, a long-serving assistant superintendent of special education, argues that it is important that teachers focus attention on achieving higher learning outcomes for their children while still observing their civil rights. This is one step towards a transformation of the entire system.
Selma High School
This school is named after a town in which the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and hundreds of supporters marched to demand voting rights and access to voter registration for African Americans. Young teachers at this school share similar passions when it comes to teaching and treating their students as equals.
Money is Always an Issue
Radical reform is costly. Re-educating teachers through new university programs designed to reorient them and prepare them well is also expensive. But it is also argued that it costs twice as much to educate special needs students than their general education peers.
Ultimately, integration will save both money and children's futures. Excellence in the classroom becomes a greater prospect for children who are empowered as equal members of the greater learning fraternity.