Learning disabled students face extra difficulties without diploma

June 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Learning disabled students face extra difficulties without diploma
For many graduates from Hahnville and Destrehan, life is full of promise and possibility because those students have a high school diploma in their hands.

Last week, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, decided to table a measure that would allow children with learning disabilities to earn a diploma too. Parents will have to wait until August to find out if the measure will be re-introduced.

Destrehan resident Karen Scallan, president of the Louisiana chapter of the Down Syndrome Association of the Greater New Orleans area, says right now, disabled students just receive a certificate of achievement,which is basically for attendance only.

"It doesn't get you into any post secondary education," she said. "You cannot enter community college, vocational training or other training for credit with a certificate."
Scallan says in order to attend those types of post-learning facilities, a student must have  a diploma or GED.

"So, students who receive the certificate then have to take GED classes and pass the GED exam in order to continue their learning," she said. "This is no small feat, especially for students with disabilities."

Scallan says there are many students with disabilities who would be able to go on to vocational training or community college, but as of now, they cannot do so until they get a GED.

In developing the No Child Left Behind Act, which is dedicated to including all children, Scallan says the U.S. Department of Education recognized that there would be some students with disabilities who couldn't do the standardized tests. 

"But they didn't say that a child shouldn't have an opportunity to earn credit and have a diploma that recognizes their achievements," she said. "The current diploma system in Louisiana emphasizes college-bound studies."

Based on this fact, students with and without disabilities, who are more proficient in technical skills, may have difficulty achieving the standards of the current diploma system.

"This doesn't mean they aren't smart. They may be better at hands-on things or technical work," Scallan said. "For these students, alternative diplomas are very important if they want to move on to meaningful employment and continuous education in their field of interest or aptitude."

The BESE board will again make a decision on whether or not to vote on the measure when they reconvene in August.

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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