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Plan for special needs students a good start

Last week a federal judge signed a settlement that will affect a quarter of a million special needs students in Ohio.

Disability Rights Ohio has been fighting the Ohio Department of Education for nearly 30 years over low test scores and seclusion of special needs students. Now, the work must begin on a five-year settlement plan meant to end that fight.

An advisory board will be put in place to come up with a plan. The idea is to shake up everything from state resources to attitudes among teachers and administrators. That is a tall task, but our students deserve the effort.

Year one will involve coming up with a plan, while year two will be for implementing the plan. But years three through five are when we find out if all that effort was change for change’s sake, or actually did good things for kids.

“(We’re) thrilled that we accomplished something meaningful for students with disabilities. (We’re) really excited that it’s going to focus on improving outcomes, and we’re also ready to roll up our sleeves and making sure it happens. It’s going to take work to get there,” Kerstin Sjoberg with Disability Rights Ohio told another media outlet.

Focusing on improving outcomes and raising test scores are not the same thing. Higher test scores do not always mean a better outcome for students, and those in charge of determining whether any plan has been successful must remember that. They must also work to avoid the pitfall so many teachers have already experienced — teaching for the sake of a test score, not for the sake of helping students learn and grow, and be prepared for life after graduation.

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