Putting Education Reform To The Test

Should Students With Disabilities Count Toward School Grades?

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The UCP Bailes campus is an Orlando charter school with a mix of students with disabilities and without. Schools such as UCP could be hit by new state school grade rules..

One of the strings that comes with Florida’s exemptions from some No Child Left Behind requirements is that the state needs to include more students in its school grade formula.

This includes students with disabilities and those learning English.

Lawmakers are working on a bill and the state Board of Education will meet next week to discuss changes required for Florida’s waiver.

But state school superintendents fired off a letter to Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson yesterday, concerned that the new system would mean hundreds of state schools would suddenly earn failing grades.

A Jacksonville father of a student with disabilities has written a letter to the editor in the Jacksonville Times-Union. Here’s his concerns, referencing Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, after the jump:

My son fits right in. Every teacher who has worked with him has striven to be his Anne Sullivan. Magic sometimes happens: A teacher signs W-A-T-E-R into a hand.

Unfortunately, for my son the message has not yet arrived. Still not one teacher has given up.

I teach at the University of North Florida. Four years ago I began organizing a yearly course so that my own students could volunteer 20 hours a semester there. I wanted them to witness its dedicated teachers and take inspiration, as I do. Indeed, because of Mount Herman, a number of them have acquired a new sense of purpose.

Imagine my feelings, then, when I read that Mount Herman would be included in the calculation for school grades.

My son can’t see, speak and move. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is the furthest thing in the world from signing W-A-T-E-R into a hand.

Read the full letter here.

The Florida Board of Education will take up the changes at a Tuesday morning meeting.

What’s your reaction to adding English learners and students with disabilities to the school grade formula? Is the treatment for No Child Left Behind worse than the disease?


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