Report Cards For Special Education

OPB | April 7, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:40 p.m.

What’s working — and what isn’t — with Oregon’s special education system?

When our Talented and Gifted program hit a commenting nerve — its 135 comments are still by far the most we’ve gotten on any thread — and when our autism show stoked regional passions, questions of special education were constantly lurking in the background. They jumped to the fore this week when the state released its latest special ed. report cards.

The results, based on the percentage of special education students from each district who graduated with regular high school diplomas, were a mixed bag — with serious disparities from district to district. In Central Oregon alone, three districts beat the state target of 58% (Culver School district hit 85.7%, for example), while Jefferson County, Bend-LaPine, and Redmond (at 37.8%) all fell short. Other parts of the state saw equally wide spreads.

Do these disparities hold lessons for what works in special ed. and what doesn’t? Do they point to the most effective ways to spend the $10,800 in state money that Oregon schools receive to educate a special education student? And when so many districts are already failing to meet the 58% graduation goal, is it appropriate to ask if even that goal is too low?

In a larger sense, is the “special education” umbrella still a viable designation when it lumps together students diagnosed with everything from autism and emotional disturbance to orthopedic impairment and ADHD?

What’s your experience with Oregon’s special ed. system — as a student, a parent, or an educator? And how would you fill in its report card?

Photo credit: lnx / Flickr / Creative Commons

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