Opinion

Students with disabilities have advantage in W.Va.

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia public schools do not always compare well with those in other states, when ranked based on one piece of data or another. But in one field, the Mountain State is doing quite well for its students, when measured against the national average. Students with disabilities are graduating high school at a higher percentage than in much of the rest of the country.

That is excellent news for parents, but also for educators who have struggled for decades to come up with the best plan for educating students whose needs are different from what works for the majority of students.

According to “Diplomas Count 2015: Next Steps – Life After Special Education,” nearly 73 percent of West Virginia students with disabilities, ages 14 to 21, left high school with a regular diploma in the 2012-13 school year. The national average for the same group of kids is 65 percent.

Data show more than 97 percent of West Virginia students with disabilities spend more than 40 percent of the school day in regular classrooms. The national average is approximately 92 percent. Moreover, West Virginia’s graduation rate, as a whole, rose to 81 percent in 2013, from 79 percent in 2012.

Those numbers show good things are probably happening for all students in our schools – though there is the chance the numbers are an indicator of educators and administrators who have begun graduating students of all ability levels, regardless of actual performance and proficiency.

Let us hope that is not the case. Let us hope, instead, that West Virginia teachers and school systems have begun to find a system that works, that truly educates students and prepares them for their next steps. The mission, now, is to expand on that success in a way that translates to other aspects of the educational process. One data point improved, many more to go.

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