Slighting Special Education

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Regarding the Oct. 2 editorial "Schools Support":

Expanding early childhood programs, funding smaller classes and providing all-day kindergarten are feel-good initiatives that have enticed Montgomery County politicians to jump on the Jerry D. Weast bandwagon.

Unfortunately, Mr. Weast, the superintendent of the Montgomery County public schools, hasn't shown exceptional leadership with regard to the county's exceptional students: the more than 17,000 children who receive special education services.

These students haven't shared in the gains, probably because increases in special education funding have gone to cover only enrollment growth and have not been used to provide meaningful improvements to services. Mr. Weast needs to explain why almost half of white students with disabilities pass the English 2 Maryland High School Assessment but only about 1 in 10 African American and Hispanic students with disabilities do so.

The Montgomery school system has one of the worst records in the state on placing special education students in the least restrictive environment, and Mr. Weast's own numbers show that fewer of those students are "college capable" than when he got here.

Given that passing scores on the HSAs will soon be required for a high school diploma, somebody needs to do some "intrusive meddling" to ensure that students with disabilities receive the services they need to prepare them to pass those tests.



The writer is a member of MCneeds, a Montgomery County nonprofit organization that advocates for the disabled and their families.

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