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Friday, October 09, 2015

G is for Graduating

Following on the heels of my expectations post is this one about graduating from high school.

Throughout Kayla's earlier years I heard a lot of stories about students with Down syndrome graduating from high school and that we shouldn't take her off the diploma track when it came time to make that decision (in elementary school no less).

But then reality set in. She started school. We moved to SC. Every state has different laws about what a student needs to do to earn a diploma. Some states allow students with disabilities to receive a diploma even if they aren't completing all the same levels of coursework requirements. SC does not. They do not have a diploma, at this time, for students with intellectual disabilities. Here is a link that shows the different options for all the states; and the map shows which states do not allow for a regular diploma if the student is taking the AA-AAS (Alternate Assessment for Alternate Achievement Standards) - SC is one of a handful of states that doesn't have a regular diploma.

The requirements for the diploma itself are probably pretty standard - must have 4 credits or English, 4 credits of Math etc, etc. You can not earn those credits if you are receiving a modified curriculum. There are some students with Down syndrome who can 'keep up' with their peers and classwork and don't need modifications to the curriculum, only accommodations; but Kayla is not one of those students and we realized that early on. ADHD might have something to do with that - if she is so easily distracted and losing focus she is losing precious time on gathering and digesting and learning the lesson.

So what does SC offer? They offer certificates. One of which basically says you attended high school, and the other says you completed the 4 yrs of Life Skills English/Math etc, etc. (which means all your academic courses are in a self-contained classroom.)

There is legislation in the works for SC DOE to offer a Special Education Diploma. A diploma that looks just like a general education diploma except it would state Special Education. At first I was pleased to see progress made in that area. I would like Kayla to receive something more than just saying she showed up, or that she had Life Skills. However, the language in this bill is similar to the Occupational Certificate that's now available; it seems to be written with the intent that the students will be in segregated, self-contained classrooms. That is a disappointment.

We could keep her on the 'diploma track' but I know she wouldn't be able to do the coursework without modifications, that is just the reality of where we are right now.

It hasn't been an easy road to accept this; what parent doesn't want to see their child be able to graduate from high school? But someone pointed out to me that all those college programs you can find on Think College don't require a H.S. diploma. They are there for the students like Kayla - the students who can't earn a general education diploma, because if they could earn the diploma without modifications they wouldn't need to enroll in one of those college programs, would they?

There is still a bit of sadness for me, that she won't be able to get a traditional diploma; even if she attends the private high school that her current school 'feeds' in to, they offer a certificate too.

I don't know what the answer is. Of course I'm not saying that Kayla should be handed a diploma, just because, when she didn't earn the right to the diploma by being able to pass the general ed classes without modifications, but I wish our state had something similar that other states offer - something that wouldn't guarantee she would have to be in self-contained classes to get said diploma.

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Anonymous said...

sad, michelle for sure,especially when you know other states will give a high school
diploma. love mom

Jan Steck Huffman said...

You know it. Welcome to middle school, and below, where school districts move our kids to "non diploma track" to keep good school scores. Nash is on 9th grade. We have until age 22 to earn a general diploma with him. But they are upping requirements http://in.chalkbeat.org/2015/09/16/parents-educators-worry-new-diploma-options-exclude-kids-with-special-needs/#.Vhwq84HD_qA