Florida’s special-ed students must take college-prep classes required for a standard diploma, reports The Ledger. A new state law has abolished the special diploma alternative. .
At Roosevelt Academy, a school for learning-disabled students in Lake Wales, ninth-graders were transferred from intensive math to Algebra I two months into the school year to comply with the law.
The special diploma is not accepted by state universities and may not be accepted by state colleges, technical centers, employers or the military.
But at Roosevelt Academy, teachers don’t encourage their students to go to college.
“We tell them that if you want to go to college, don’t come to our school,” said Phillip Miles, a life skills math teacher. “We’re preparing you for work, not college.”
Miles’ students are way behind in math. His class taught practical skills such as how to make a budget or calculate sales tax.
About 80 percent of Roosevelt Academy graduates have jobs by the time they collect their special diploma. That’s goal they and their parents set when creating an Individualized Education Plan.
Till now, special-ed students could earn a special diploma by mastering the “employment and community competencies” in the IEP and completing a semester of successful employment.
Now all students will have till age 22 to pursue a standard diploma — or settle for a certificate of completion.
Teachers are supposed to make college-prep courses accessible for disabled students.
In geometry, for example, a student who has trouble writing or speaking might point to an equilateral triangle rather than draw one or explain why it is equilateral.
. . . “They have to fail for four years before they even get a certificate of completion,” said Henry Smith, vocational teacher and career placement coordinator for Roosevelt. “I guarantee you the dropout rate is going to be astronomical.”
Seventeen states offer only a standard diploma, according to a 2013 report by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.