Inclusion in education for students on IEPs has had many positive aspects. But we need to do better than putting resources and energy into the acquisition of a diploma. IDEA has a bigger purpose than a diploma, with the mandate to prepare each student for further education, employment, and living as independent as possible. Also, general ed is falling short of meeting the needs of many students without special needs by not providing opportunities for all students to feel success or valuing outcomes beside a path to a 4 year university. I am all for inclusion, but when general ed is not offering worth while opportunities for each student's development, why put effort into being part of that. Special Ed offers an individualized plan for each student, general ed does not. Many students need an expanded core curriculum that focuses on communication skills, social skills, organizational skills, self determination, career and work skills, and community living skills. These skills are not addressed by general ed, not valued as part of a diploma, and as a result no time in the school day for students to receive instruction in these important areas. In fact what time students have outside of their academic classes with SPED teachers is focused on helping them get through their academic classes. Now classes for students who are I/DD are also trying to emulate what general ed requires, by trying to represent various skill training under academic headings for diploma credits. Why can't we value functional skill training on its own merits?
1. Develop individualized plans for all students, not just students on IEPs
2. Develop ways to address, value, and acknowledge the hard work and diverse accomplishments of all students
3. Getting a diploma in four years should not be the top prize for students who need an expanded core curriculum. These important non academic focus areas need to be addressed throughout the traditional 4 years of high school which might add additional time beyond the 4 years for some students receiving a regular diploma
4. Students with I/DD should be as much a part of the high school experience and culture, but not at the cost of sacrificing what IDEA says needs to be addressed regarding transition requirements
We have lost our way, not only in what the purpose of IDEA is, but also in what general ed values. As a result resources and energy go into supporting a structure that has a misguided outcome of a "diploma". We need to revisit the "appropriate" in FAPE for every student