We are blessed with an education system that is free and open to all without regard to race, creed, gender, or ability. In theory, any individual may find the means to improve their economic situation and quality of life through free and equal access to public education. However, the downside is that we often approach public education with a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Some argue that we have made improvements by training teachers to reach different learning modalities by diversifying their communication style, as well as applying cutting edge classroom management techniques. While teacher development and training programs HAVE come a long way in the last 50 years, the reality is that our public school teachers face ever larger class sizes. A government survey done in 2012 showed average class sizes in excess of 20 kids across educational levels. In subsequent years, classroom sizes have increased even further, with some states averaging upwards of 30 students per classroom. I personally taught a first-grade class in California that maxed out at 25 students.
Regardless of training, increasing classroom sizes and insufficient public funding consistently exacerbate teachers’ already challenging job providing necessary attention to the average child, let alone the exceptional learner. Additionally, many districts resist identifying learners as exceptional, given the shortage of public funding necessary to provide resources in compliance with government regulations regarding exceptional learners. Increasingly, it falls to parents to ensure that their child’s educational needs – whether average or exceptional – are met.
My next installment will cover the laws for educating exceptional learners, as well as the process for identification. Lastly, we will discuss some practical steps you can take to serve and advocate for your exceptional learner, starting with expediting the process of identification.