Today I read an interesting piece in the Los Angeles times about the relatively new high school exit exam that has been mandatory in california for a bit of time now. 2008 was the first year that special ed students were required to take it alongside their nonhandicapped peers.
In spite of the pie-in-the-sky promises of the IDEA, ABA for autistic children etc., it came as no surprise that only 53.8% of those special ed students passed the exam while 46.2% failed. So nearly half of all children in the california high school classes of 2008 who receive special ed services won't be receiving their diplomas. By comparison 93.6% of non-handicapped high schoolers passed the exam.
Sid Wolinsky from Disability Rights Advocates who tried to exempt special ed kids from the exam was quoted as saying that the psychologic damage to these children is horrific. Dozens of parents of these children offered Wolinsky sworn declarations of their children's depression from failure of the exam. It must be noted that the California state law only applies to public schools and private school students are exempt. It was the class of 2006 who was first required to take this test. Special education students were exempt in 2006 and 2007.
State supt of public instruction, Jack O'Connell who sponsored the exit exam bill for then governor Gray Davis was quoted as saying that exempting special ed students from the exit exam was not helping them and setting them up for failure in the workplace.
One of the reasons for passage of the Education for all handicapped act in 1975 (later to become the individuals with disabilities education act when it was reauthorized in 1991) was that if handicapped students were to receive educational opportunities, that this would help them succeed in the workplace and welfare, SSI, etc. would be greatly decreased for those handicapped children who received IEPs under this law. Someone named Jacobson also did a cost benefit analysis of ABA for autistic children stating the exorbitant costs of ABA therapy were greatly exceeded by the costs of a life on the dole and claimed that ABA was saving autistic children from life on the dole. The quality of science in this analyses was typically very bad, as no adult outcomes have been published in the peer reviewed literature for ABA. Jacobson only used an informal presentation at a conference to prove ABA's efficacy in preparing adult autistics for the workplace.
The IDEA has now been in existence for over 30 years, spending on special education increased 60 fold in less than a 30 year period. One has to wonder if the nearly half of special ed students who failed the exit exam won't have significant problems in the workforce starting at age 22 when they are aged out of special ed services. Perhaps it is time for reexamination of the IDEA and whether or not this law should be abolished.