Ways to Improve American Special Education

Our educational system today faces unique challenges as it looks to provide services to our students with special needs. As a society we need to assess what these services and focus on helping these children grow to be productive and happy members of our society.

Schools are becoming increasingly focused on high stakes tests. While much of the educational dollar is heading to improve student’s tests scores, the students who need special services are truly being left behind. To improve the future for these children, we must improve our basic services, look at student’s individual goals and objectives to assure they fit that child’s needs, and include vocational training at the high school level for students who need those services.

Students enter school to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, yet in the push to teach to a test, a child who learns at a much slower rate are often left behind. Children who use special services will often times need to practice skills repeatedly to obtain mastery. If a math teacher must teach several skills in a week this child will never gain the needed skills to grow and become successful. Forcing a child to move on to the next skill only forces the child to fail. This might not be apparent at first, but eventually the lack of mastery will pull a struggling student further behind. To truly help a child obtain mastery of a subject, the student using special education services will need to be able to slow the curriculum to fit their needs.

A student’s goals and objectives must be carefully evaluated and realistically set. To often school administrators and counselors set a student’s goals and objectives with very little input from the teachers. When a student’s goals and objectives are set, each teacher should be free to set those objectives in their subject. It seems ironic that a student’s goals and objectives would be set by an administrator who does not spend time in the classroom with that child. The one individual who should set the goals and objectives of a student should be the teacher, not an administrator.

Finally, for students who are of high school age, the steady progress toward graduation also leads to the child’s future vocation. In an educational system that is focused on preparing students for university classes, we also need to rethink the addition of high quality vocational classes for students who need them. Many of our students could be well served by providing them with the means to support both themselves and their future families.

In order to improve the services offered to our students with special needs, we simply need to revisit the basics of education and allow our special education students to work at their own pace, review how goals and objectives for these students are set, and offer high quality vocational training for these students once they reach high school age.