Helping all students experience success in schools is the mission of educators everywhere. Teachers, paraeducators, principals, superintendents, AEA staff and others in the educational community work very hard to help students achieve at high levels, including students with disabilities. Unfortunately, data from Iowa’s most recent state report card (2013), show a significant achievement difference between students with disabilities and those without. For example, at the third grade reading level, students with disabilities are achieving 37 percentage points below students without disabilities. In the area of math, students with disabilities fall 28 percentage points below students without disabilities. While these numbers represent Iowa as a whole, we often see students with disabilities perform at a lower level then their non-disabled peers.
Many readers might be thinking, “well of course they don’t perform as well, they have a disability.” I would like to take this opportunity to offer a different perspective; students with disabilities should also achieve at high rates. Students with disabilities receive specially designed instruction from teachers who have been highly trained to teach students who have unique needs. Special education teachers may provide the instruction or collaborate with the general education teachers to provide this specialized instruction. Also, every child identified for special education services has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which outlines goals, services, and supports that are tailored to address the unique needs of the individual child. In addition to the IEP, advances in assistive technology devices are available to provide additional support for students.
Providing an education to ensure students with disabilities find success in school is no small task; it is a challenging task indeed. However, it is important for all of us to truly believe all students can find success. Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) is committed to continuing to work closely with teachers and local school district staff to provide high quality support to help all students achieve at high levels. This effort includes providing training and other professional learning opportunities to special education teachers and other key educators, working one-on-one with students, working closely with parents and families, and working to increase expectations about what students with disabilities can achieve.
Our mission at AEA 267 is, and always has been, to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education and reach their full potential. Today, more than ever, we must work together to achieve it.
Dr. Karen Aldrich is a Special Education Coordinator with AEA 267. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 60,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.