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Minneapolis Turns Its Back on Special Needs Students

Posted on the 02 August 2012 by Candornews @CandorNews

Minneapolis turns its back on special needs students

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Last week, the one-year-old charter school Minnesota School of Science informed the families of 40 North Minneapolis students with special needs, such as Autism and Down’s Syndrome, that they would be breaking their promise of allowing these students to return to class in September. The school took over the district’s Cityview Elementary School in August 2011, which was closed down due to poor test scores. The replacement plan mandated that special needs classrooms remained in the building, that their students would remain, and that MSS provide a mandatory 1-year opportunity for special needs students from Cityview to interact with their peers. However, with problems that arose in spring this year, the board of the school realized that there would be “some difficulty” in maintaining this arrangement, and as such, on July 9, the board informed the district that they would not welcome back students with special needs in the fall. In other words, the students, many of whom reside in North Minneapolis, will have to attend Pillsbury or Sheridan Elementary School in the Northeast.

While Charter Schools, as, contentiously, part of the public education system, should, by principle, be open to all students, Rob-Paning-Miller, according to the Huffington Post, cites this latest “forced exodus” of special needs students as “just the latest evidence that charter schools do not serve all students.” Furthermore, statistics show that 11% of students enrolled in traditional public school had special needs, compared to 9% in charter schools, hinting at a severe problem within the special needs education system.

As Diane Ravitch questions, “is this what no child left behind means?” Indeed, I’m feeling ridiculously livid as I read articles on this subject. It seems to me that MSS’ board is turning its back on and walking away from special needs kids for the sake of bumping up test scores to avoid being shut down like Cityview was. While I agree that paper qualifications like performance of standardized tests may be important, I don’t believe that schools in the public school system are in any way justified to marginalized (read: expel) students that they feel are holding the school back – or that they simply do not have the resources, and think it will be “a challenge” to provide education for special needs students. It’s disappointing that the families of special needs kids are being bounced around to other schools, and are not given equal treatment in the education process. If we believe that one of the aims of education is to bring every person to distinction and to his best, and if America really wants to make sure that no child is left behind, it needs to strive towards more inclusive (public) education with schools that truly address their needs: one that gives special needs children the same level playing field as their mainstream peers.

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