Much as I try to avoid it, there are times when I'm stuck driving on the highways during morning rush hour, driving to another school in the greater Boston area. I look around and can't help but notice the mini-vans with the "School Bus" signs, with kids being transported from their home towns to out-of-district placements.
They deal with the traffic nightmare daily, just to get to school. What impact does this have on kids, this long drive to school? What message are they getting from this daily routine that lengthens their school day? Is this reality maximizing student achievement?
Do you notice the kids in the vans? Do you wonder about the impact this has on their lives?
Or, do you just look the other way?
I can't look the other way. Instead, I have to ask, are we doing all we can to ensure student success in the least restrictive environment? Are we building in the supports that allow students to remain in their home districts? (Do we know what those supports are?)
Out-of-district placement costs are exorbitant. And the transportation costs associated with these placements place additional burdens on districts. (I will grant that some placements are necessary for some students).
But, what could we do with that money if we kept it in district?
Could we offer the best inclusion programs in the area? Could we identify the factors that will promote success considering the unique needs of our students? Could we hire the best special educators who understand UDL, differentiated instruction and learning style differences? Would it be possible to build a welcoming, inclusive community that supports all learners? Could we purchase the assistive technology that levels the playing field for all learners? Would we be able to provide the necessary professional support to ensure the effective and seamless integration of technology throughout the day?
Is this achievable or just a dream? After all, I do like to dream....
photo credit - http://flickr.com/photos/gloriapayne/2333220549/