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December 9, 2003, Extra Credit
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December 9, 2003
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What NCLB Means To The Parent Of A Student With Disabilities

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new provision of the No Child Left Behind education reform law that will give local school districts greater flexibility in meeting the act's requirements for students with disabilities. Following is the statement of Mark Howard, a parent who spoke about his son at the press conference:

Good Morning. My name is Mark Howard. I have come here today to tell you about a very special member of our family, my son Nicholas. He's here on the stage with my wife Cheryl. Sitting in the audience are his two older brothers, Christopher and Jeremy.

My son, Nicholas is 8 years old. He attends Falmouth Elementary School in the Stafford County Public Schools where he is placed in the 2nd grade. A little more than five years ago he was identified as having developmental delays and probably autism. The autism was eventually confirmed.

At Falmouth when he was 3 years old he started out in an autism class. Through the years he has progressed to the point where he spends about half his day in a mainstream second grade class with his regularly developing peers.

He enjoys participating with those children in many of the school day activities. His favorite class is music. Music is one of the important vehicles that has helped in develop his speech. Nicholas is readily accepted by his peers. Some of them make special efforts to include him and help him with his mainstream activities.

In his free time at home Nicholas, likes to watch Blues Clues and Elmo videos. He also likes to jump on our trampoline, go swimming, or go to the playground. For extra curricular activities Nicholas participates in Cub Scouts (he’s working on his Wolf Badge right now) and goes to Catholic CCD religious education classes. He knows all the prayers required of the second graders and two weeks ago did his first penance/confession.

As you can imagine, none of these things come easy. It requires lots of extra time, patience, and work for him to complete cub scout badge requirements or know his prayers. But, as much as possible, we want him to learn and demonstrate that he knows things just like his peers. Our standard is that Nicholas does not get a free pass, because of his disability. Yet we need to be realistic, Nicholas doesn't do things or learn things the way most children do. However, we have found that he knows and can do a great deal.

And so it goes with his formal education. Four years ago, or one year into his schooling at Falmouth Elementary we first began to raise the issue of including academic goals into his IEP or Individual Education Program. Many of his goals were simple developmental goals but at that point we were thinking about the need for academic goals as well. I told the IEP team that Nicholas is going to college and we should develop his goals and objectives that end in mind.

Since that point we have been working with our local school district to make sure that Nicholas is sufficiently challenged in academic subjects rather than just limiting his school time to socialization and vocational training. Nicholas must learn to read as an avenue to future leaning and to write as an avenue to clearer thinking.

This is where the simplicity or I could even say the beauty of NCLB comes into play. NCLB requires that my son's school, my son's school district, and all the other school districts in Virginia, and in the US, look at children like Nicholas and determine how well they are doing in their own right. The requirement of NCLB to assess student progress, disaggregate the data, and hold schools accountable for ALL students, means that children who have historically not been expected to achieve are not buried in the details and ultimately left behind.

We believe that NCLB gives our family and others like ours the support we need to make academic mastery more than a dream.

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About Extra Credit
NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 12/09/2003