No Child Left Behind and Special EducationWhat are the effects of NCLB on special education programs and students?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Very interesting. As someone teaching in Britain I would be really interested to know from other editors what they would suggest needs to be changed to challenge some of the down sides of the NCLB policy that are listed above. What would you do if you could get Obama to apply your educational policies?

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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I disagree with epollock that NCLB has put standardization first and students second. I speak as a former classroom teacher who taught heterogeneously grouped students in an urban setting with a 16% rate of students categorized as special needs.

What NCLB has done is force public schools to start taking a look at ALL students and not hide low performing groups from public view. The shortsighted reactionary behavior of many districts does not mean that the law itself is flawed.

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archteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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I agree with the previous poster.  Even in situations where special-needs students are "accomodated", expectations still sometimes seem out-of-touch.  I teach in MA.  Naturally, every special education student cannot pass the MCAS.  So, the state has an alternate "portfolio" assessment.  Unfortunately, the students and their teachers spend so much time working on the portfolios that they miss out on valuable instruction time.

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lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Even with accommodations for testing, it is quite difficult for students with some types of special needs to perform as the gov't. says they should. I am a special educator, and we work very hard for our students. However, despite our best efforts some of our students are simply not able to reach the standards set for them. While I am glad that there is an effort to make sure that kids with special needs are included as much as possible, it seems that these goals have been written by people who have no idea what they are talking about. Rather, they seem to have been written by people who have not been in a classroom since they themselves left high school, and in large part most of that time was prior to the first legislation in the 70's requiring inclusion in least restrictive environments. My point here is that even when they were in high school, it is likely they did not see kids who had highly involved disabilities.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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I think you can find different approaches to NCLB and special education.  On one hand, I think it is wonderful that Special Education and its students have received enough attention so that they are simply not "put behind the boiler room."  The positive element of NCLB is that Special Education needs have been brought out to the forefront and in this discussion more regular ed students have also been included (those general education students who need something but have not qualified for special education.)  However, the demand of specific benchmark percentages of SPED students to meet criteria is arbitrary and fails to take into full account the idea that each child learns different and progress and improvement should be the ultimate benchmarks.  For example, if a student jumps from 42% comprehension to 60%, this is simply astonishing.  Yet, if the NCLB determined benchmark is 68%, this student is deemed as not making the standard.  This is one of the problems with NCLB's special education assessment component.

Yes, for those very reasons it seems as if NCLB is leaving a large portion of our special education students (and their achievements) behind.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think you can find different approaches to NCLB and special education.  On one hand, I think it is wonderful that Special Education and its students have received enough attention so that they are simply not "put behind the boiler room."  The positive element of NCLB is that Special Education needs have been brought out to the forefront and in this discussion more regular ed students have also been included (those general education students who need something but have not qualified for special education.)  However, the demand of specific benchmark percentages of SPED students to meet criteria is arbitrary and fails to take into full account the idea that each child learns different and progress and improvement should be the ultimate benchmarks.  For example, if a student jumps from 42% comprehension to 60%, this is simply astonishing.  Yet, if the NCLB determined benchmark is 68%, this student is deemed as not making the standard.  This is one of the problems with NCLB's special education assessment component.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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No Child Left Behind's biggest effect on special education has been the inclusion of these students in school district testing results in order to determine school accreditation. Not sure about all states but in my state the special education subgroup rarely meets the required standard. In my opinion these students should be tested and included for accreditation, however the testing needs to be done in a way that is fair to the special education student.

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drvicki | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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The NCLB Act has had both positive and negative effects on the special education population.Let us examine the negative aspects first.  The NCLB Act has created standards that are unattainable to most special education students.  Even with accomodations, most of my students do not pass the test.  As was mentioned before, though a child may have made significant gains, if it is not within the government's standards of meeting expectations, then it just isn't good enough. If my students do not pass, they are required to retake the test two more times.  If they fail, they can be retained.  My biggest problem with the standardized test is that if one of my LD students is working at a 3rd grade level (in the 5th grade) then they should be assessed at their functioning level, that's why they are in special education in the first place! Of course the teacher is looked at with down turned eyes, because you are supposed to be the expert for these kids.The positive aspects are many. It is requiring teachers to be highly qualified.  It is makingteachers to teach students with exceptionalities the required standards. It is opening the doors for exceptional students to work and learn alongside their peers and benefit from this educationally and socially. What is really interesting is that no one in my present school knows that my students are special education students.  They just know that I am a teacher and that I give some students a bit of help in various subjects.

 

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The greatest effect of the NCLB Act is that it put standardization first and students second. It pretty much marginalized them to a point where testing is the most important part of it and testing well to maintain government funding.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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As an educator who specializes in special education and as a parent who has adopted and raised foster children with special needs I have had the opportunity to witness the impacts of No Child Left Behind first hand.  I would like to state the positives first.  Prior to No Child Left Behind most special education alternative classroom programs provided minimal educational type instruction.  The contention was that the students did not need to learn the same curriculum as the other students.  Text books in special education classrooms were usually leftovers or out dated; when they were available.  For this reason, I started pulling my children with disabilities out of public schools and home schooling them.  They learned to read and write and their educational skills were far better than students with similiar development/IQ's.    The second thing that is good is that students are to be placed in the least restrictive environment.  My mother was a special educator and she saw many young black males in her time boarded in special education classrooms when they should have been receiving their education in general education classrooms.  

The negative effects have been that there is no test that is really fair at measuirng the growth and abilities of all students.  Now that the children with learning disabilities and IQ's that limit their ability are expected to pass the End of Grade tests there is an increased sense of failure.  I had three students vomit two years ago from the stress of the tests.  Two of the students had no ability to read and they were in the fifth grade.  They were smart children that could orally tell you about many things that are considered to be intellectual including William Shakespeare's works, but they could not pass a reading test.

The expectations placed on special education students has been unfair.  While one part of the government is making developing a students educational plan more personal and person centered, the other side is saying that the students are now subject to the same norms as every other student.

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