Opinion
Special Education Letter to the Editor

Severe Disabilities Raise Different Equity Issues

July 09, 2013 1 min read

To the Editor:

The recent article “A Spec. Ed. Twist on Common-Core Testing” (May 22, 2013) makes the point that students with severe disabilities are better served when they are included in standardized assessments and general curriculum.

Students with severe cognitive disabilities are different from students with noncognitive disabilities because their options are limited. Going to college is not an option or consideration for many because of the lack of opportunities.

Advocate Allison Wohl, the executive director of the Washington-based Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination, was quoted in Education Week saying that there is a connection between the content students with severe disabilities are exposed to and their post-academic destinations. I wish it were that simple.

The reality is that it takes more than just content to get a student with severe disabilities to college. It takes resources, available programs, collaboration, training, and strong advocacy.

It is a challenge to prepare students and parents for a post-academic environment that is not linked to content, unlike the general education students, who are prepared for jobs or academics. The idealistic philosophies that cause people to make comments advocating for No Child Left Behind or the idea that all students will go to college do a disservice when they are applied to students with severe cognitive disabilities.

Such meta-narratives marginalize the students and teachers who are left behind and those who will not go to college. It creates an environment or expectation of winners and losers. When was the last time someone celebrated the graduation of a student to a group home?

I would welcome a more pragmatic philosophy, one in which the needs of the students are addressed, rather than the expectations of the government. Equity does not need to mean that all people will have the same outcomes. Equity can also mean different outcomes with similar attention to the needs and destinations of the students.

Peter Dragula

Doctoral Candidate

Capella University

Case Manager, Special Day Class

Dublin High School

Dublin, Calif.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Severe Disabilities Raise Different Equity Issues

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