Ridgefield spends over $10 million a year on fewer than 500 kids, the school district’s special education students. It’s hard to think of money better spent.
The special education budget is about $10,431,000 for the just-ended 2012-13 year, with $10,623,000 budgeted for 2013-14 — up about 2%.
A June 24 year-end report by Special Education Director Karen Berasi said the school system had 494 special education students.
Close to 12.8% of the school system’s 2012-13 budget of $81,269,000 was for the special education of about 9.4% of the 5,233 enrolled students.
Mr. Berasi reported that in the elementary schools, 73% of special education students had met the reading goals outlined in their Individual Education Plans, 94% had met their writing goals, and 84% had met their math goals.
Still, on the tough “adequate yearly progress” standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law, state testing found Ridgefield falling short, with 91% of special education students required to reach “proficiency” and 85.1% doing so, while in reading 89% were required to reach proficiency and 76.2% met that goal.
The No Child Left Behind law sets high standards for special education students, and then increases them with the “adequate yearly progress” measures designed to push for the goal of having the special ed kids perform as well academically as the school’s general population. It’s ambitious, controversial — and something strive for.
But that’s just the numbers.
Special education today takes kids with a wide range of problems and challenges, sets ambitious academic goals for them, and then teaches them mostly within the same schools and, often, the same classrooms as the town’s regular students.
This represents society’s commitment to include its most vulnerable members in the life of the community.
Perhaps most interesting in Ms. Berasi’s report was her story the “High Rise” program at RHS, planning and making a field trip to New York City to see a Broadway play.
“Students had to figure out the cost of the trip, plan out where they would eat and decide how they would get around the city,” she said.
Those are real-life skills that will help the students make their way in the world — the truest measure of the special education.