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Support special-needs

Posted: December 25, 2008 3:39 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 4:30 a.m.

I'm honored to have served on the Newhall School District Governing Board for eight years from 1995-2003. During my tenure, I was a strong advocate of improving our programs for special-needs students.

I am proud to say that my fellow board members, Superintendents McGrath and Winger, our principals, and our wonderful teachers were equally supportive of these initiatives.

Indeed, the special-needs programs the district has in place today are among the finest in the state.

That said, it troubles me that, while we provide our special-needs children with the tailored instructional and intervention programs they so urgently need, we subject them to the same normative test batteries taken by our "normal" and gifted students.

I recently spoke to a senior class of special education students at Verdugo Hills High School. Each student in this class of 12 has taken the state of California High School Proficiency Examination several times without success.

They have one more chance early in 2009.

These kids have special talents that one day they will take outside the classroom. Some are brilliant artists, a few are talented musicians, one has an extraordinary mechanical talent and will one day make a fine auto mechanic.

Without a high school diploma, though, their chances to secure a solid job are sorely impaired, not to mention the blow to their self-esteem this represents.

These kids work harder than any other group of students because learning is so difficult for them. While we carve out 12 years of special education for our special-needs students to take them to the highest academic level possible, they simply do not have the capacity to be judged on the same level as their non-special-needs peers for the No Child Left Behind tests and California High School Proficiency Examination.

These kids are proud of their accomplishments, and it greatly troubles me that we effectively tell them they are failures when we expose them to tests they cannot hope to score well on.

If we have special-needs programs for these children in our classroom, then we need special-needs tests that fairly evaluate what we truly can expect of them.

They deserve high school diplomas designated at the special-needs level. In short, they deserve much better than we are giving them today.


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