A single failure by a single student in a public school is evidence of a flawed educational process. Rarely, if ever, is there a single failure, however. In almost every public school in the U.S. there are multiple failures and in many public school districts in America there are hundreds or even thousands of students who fail. Multiply either of those numbers by the number of public school districts in the America and we are talking about an unacceptable number of children who are failing in school.
Would we accept that many deaths in a hospital emergency ward? Would we accept that many deaths or serious injuries because of a flaw in a major component of a make of automobile? Would we continue to dine at a restaurant if 30 percent or more of the meals we order were inedible? Teachers may well have done everything they can for their students within the context of the educational process employed by American public schools but since when have Americans been constrained from fixing something that is broken?
When a child arrives at school with a hearing or vision impairment we are required, by law, to take whatever steps are necessary to accommodate the child’s disability. The same is true if the child has some physical impairment or has been found to be mentally or emotionally impaired. These are not choices we make, these actions are required by law.
Within in the context of an socio/political environment governed by such laws as the American Disabilities Act, et al, how can we continue to deny such accommodations to children who, through no fault of their own, arrive for their first day of school with some level of “academic preparedness deficiency?” Making accommodations for children who are burdened with disadvantages resulting from insufficient academic preparedness is not nearly as costly as making our buildings handicap accessible or as burdensome as other extraordinary measures.
All we must do to meet the needs of children with “academic preparedness deficiencies” is to acknowledge what the evidence has been telling us for the last half century or more: “the educational process employed by American public schools does not work for children with these types of disadvantages.” These children both need and deserve meaningful accommodations. They desperately need us to take the time to understand how far behind they are and in what ways and then design an academic plan that gives them the time, attention, and support they need to be successful.
That educators have failed to recognize that the current educational process does not work for these children is one of the great mysteries of the last 100 years and it will be unforgiveable if we continue to ignore the needs of these youngsters. The only possible justification for perpetuating this gross injustice is if we truly believe poor children, children or color, or children for whom English is a second language are incapable of learning.
We like to blame poverty, discrimination, and segregation as the reasons why these children fail because that belief, we think, absolves us of responsibility. The truth is that discrimination is the only reason why so many of these children fail and why so many leave school as young adults with little if any of the knowledge and skills they will need to make a place for themselves in mainstream America.
The horrible and uncomfortable truth is that these children fail because the public educational process in America, and the professional educators who are loyal to that process, discriminate against these children. We discriminate against them because we ignore their unique requirements and insist on trying to push their quadrilateral peg through the round hole of public education and the educational process on which it relies.
Trying to force these boys and girls through the proverbial round hole has not worked for the last seventy years and it will not work for the next seventy years. The irony is that in seventy years it won’t matter, anymore, because the U.S. will be so far behind the rest of the world that it will be the United States of America that needs an accommodation.