Master’s-Educated Special Ed Teachers Advocate for Uniform Graduation Standards
As of 2014, there were 70,000 students enrolled in special education programs throughout Louisiana’s schools:
- About half of those students had a learning disability
- Thirteen percent had an intellectual disability
- Five percent had autism
Unfortunately, only 37% of special education students in Louisiana graduated from high school on time, which stacks up poorly to Louisiana’s 74% graduation rate for the general population of students.
Louisiana schools have been improving. From 2003 to 2013, special education students have received improved scores on mathematics and reading tests.
In order to improve Louisiana’s special education programs, the Louisiana Department of Education has developed a State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) to help students graduate on time. The DOE focuses on early intervention and individual education plans (IEP) in order to help students succeed.
In 2014, a bill that allowed special ed students to graduate under lower standards was signed into law. However, many special educators feel that the new standards devalue students’ education by pushing them through the system without requiring them to master the basics in mathematics, reading comprehension, history, and science.
Special educators feel that lowering the standards for special education students has only “segregated” the students further from their peers.
In an effort to create the best possible Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for special education students, Louisiana schools are now employing teams of special educators who draw on their advanced education to develop courses and graduation standards for different populations of students with disabilities.
Dedicated Schools for Special Needs Students Rely on Master’s-Prepared Educators
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) offers annual awards to schools that have house excellent special education programs with proven track records. In 2015, NASET recognized Belle Chase Academy for their special education program.
Belle Chasse is a military-based charter school that serves children of military service members. The instructors at Belle Chasse work with the children individually, catering to their distinct needs. Because of the excellent staff, the school was nominated for the NASET award.
There are four other dedicated special education schools in Louisiana:
- Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy—Baton RougeThe GBRH Academy serves a wide population of special needs students, including students with various learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Down syndrome, cognitive disabilities, and dyslexia. The Academy also takes students who excel with more personal attention, even if they don’t have a diagnosed learning disorder.
- The Chartwell Center—New OrleansThe Chartwell Center serves exclusively autistic students, though students’ diagnoses range from mild to severe. The teachers use applied behavior analysis to systematically educate students. Not only does the school serve students ages 6-21, but it hosts programs for autistic adults to learn life skills.
- The Brighton School—Baton RougeThe Brighton School specifically serves K-12 students with dyslexia. Because the school focuses on such a specific population, all instructors are trained in appropriate intervention methods for students with dyslexia and have excelled in Brighton’s programs.
- Michael Special School—New OrleansSt. Michael Special School also serves a variety of special needs populations, including students with learning disabilities, developmental delays, autism, down syndrome, or other impairments.