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Students with Disabilities Being Failed by our Education System

The Education Oversight Committee met on Tuesday to hear a presentation on the status of students with disabilities in our public education system. During the 2007 long session the general assembly passed House Bill 17 (Session Law 207-295) which required the Department of Public Instruction to identify various models being utilized to deliver education and other services at the high school level to children with disabilities.
The presentation on Tuesday was a direct result of this law, and the numbers and recommendations left more questions than answers. Let’s start with the numbers.

In regards to student performance, “fewer than 42% of students with disabilities scored Level III or above on the 2006-2007 End-of-Course Tests in core academics.” Looking at service delivery models as dictated by House Bill 17, we learned that in 2006-2007 48,387 students with disabilities were enrolled in grades 9-12. Of those students, 51.4% spent 80% of their day in general education, 22.4% spent 40-79% of their day in general education (resource setting), 21.9% spent 39% or less of their day in general education (separate setting) and 4.3% were in a separate school or homebound educational setting.

The bombshell of the day came when the presentation turned to student outcomes. 6 LEAs (Local Education Agency) had over 80% of students with disabilities exit with a diploma. 24 LEAs had 75% of students with disabilities exit school with either a diploma, a graduation certificate or a certificate of achievement. However, how that percentage broke down among those categories was never specified. Then there were the 4 LEAs that had 100% of students with disabilities exit school as dropouts.

You read that correctly. In 2006-2007, 4 LEAs reported that 100% of the students with disabilities exiting school were dropouts. The presentation did not discuss which LEAs are in this last group or how many students are represented by this abysmal percentage. To me it does not matter if it is one student or 20 students. It does not matter if it is a small LEA or a large LEA. The fact that in 2006-2007 in these 4 LEAs not a single student with a disability exited with a diploma, or a certificate of achievement, or a certificate of attendance but simply dropped out is disgraceful.

We have got to stop throwing away our future. We need to invest in an equitable academic opportunity for youth with disabilities. As ruled in the Leandro vs. North Carolina, the North Carolina constitution mandates that all of our citizens have a right to a sound, basic education. All includes students with disabilities.