Before requiring disabled students to pass an exit exam to earn a high school diploma, California should improve special education classes, says a report to the Legislature. The graduation exam, already delayed, will go into effect for the class of 2006. The report recommends a two-year delay for disabled students.
During that time, the state should vastly upgrade the quality of special education classes, making sure that students are taught what they need to know, and should develop alternative assessments tailored to students with disabilities.
Most special education students are diagnosed with learning disabilities of various sorts; they’re capable of doing high school work. If the graduation exam forces higher standards for special education students, it will do a great favor for most of them.
Of course, a small number of disabled students aren’t capable of learning the high school curriculum even with the best possible special education program. I think they should get a special diploma, reflecting effort, rather than a regular diploma, which should reflect academic achievement.