Dear future President,
My name is Kate, I am a student at Clarkston High School and
the younger sibling to an 18 year old brother with Autism. Alex is a senior also attending Clarkston. I’ve noticed throughout the year of working with kids with disabilities and listening, along with being apart of conversations about my brothers education, how poorly supported the school’s special education program is. The education for these kids is not what it needs to be, and something needs to be done.
The first thing I’ve come to notice, is that some of the special ed teachers don’t have the resources to get enough support for the kids. These kids look at you and wait for you to give them the answer, they have no independence to their thought process, they are smart kids that have amazing ideas that need to be shared with the world. But, with the limited resources they are not being taught the way they should. The special ed classes are not challenging them. I asked Alex what classes challenge him. He said, his computer software class. It is a class that is not apart of the modified curriculum, a class where they make short films and he essentially sits out just watching the other kids do the work. His math class does not challenge him nor does his ELA class.
Another thing that has been brought to my attention is that Alex has not had a science course since grade nine. Science is the basis for a lot of jobs, and the educational program for students with special needs takes them out of the science classes in grade ten. This means, that they will not have the experience for jobs that require science knowledge. According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average science scores compared to 2006, have made slow progress at grade four, they will come to a standstill at grade eight, and by grade twelve they’ve lost ground. There was a study conducted by researchers Margo Mastropieri and Thomas Scruggs. In this study they put together 13 classes, each with 213 students. 44 of them classified with disabilities, they had control conditions and they had experimental conditions. The students in the controlled condition were taught with the lectures, projects, worksheets, and note taking. As for the students in the experimental condition, students received the same teacher presentation, the difference was that there was peer assisted learning, which took the place of work sheets. Teachers randomly paired students needing help with a higher achieving student, and directed the pair to begin with level one activities and move higher as proficiency was achieved. Their results from this study, found in the article “Science for student with disabilities”, were shocking. The experimental condition had higher academic gains for everyone, scores on posttests and state high-stakes achievement tests show that students with learning disabilities outperformed their peers in the comparison group by 42.5 percent. What all this means is that having people paired with someone with learning disabilities is beneficial for everyone!
Because of the poor support schools are reviving these kids won't have the opportunity to get their ideas out to the world. Kids with disabilities have some of the most creative minds, they just don't know how to process their thinking. There is a school they go to after they graduate called post secondary school. It’s where they go to get prepared for life outside of high school. In the article “Transition to Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities” it states that the post secondary opportunities for students with disabilities is expanding due to increase accessibility. If these amazing kids got the proper education they need from pre-k to senior year, they wouldn't need to go to postsecondary school. The fact the the opportunity for students to go to postsecondary schools is expanding is horrific, majority of the special needs population that attends post secondary are not able to get a job or do what people without a disabilities can do.
It's up to you future President to give our schools financial support to get these outstanding kids the educational support they need and deserve. Schools need to challenge them more, put them in more non modified classes that allow them to think more. They should be learning at a young age how to process their thoughts and to work on their own without being so dependent of others. Only you can make the changes that they need and deserve.