Thursday, October 24, 2002

Cape board worried about non-graduates

Published in the Current

At a School Board workshop Tuesday, concerns were high about state-mandated local assessment standards for high school graduation, which will be developed by the end of this school year and will be applied to this year’s eighth-graders before they can get high school diplomas.

“We can tell already that we’re not going to be there” without additional help, said Superintendent Tom Forcella. “Otherwise we’re going to have a significant number of kids not graduating,” said high school Principal Jeff Shedd.

Students who do not have high school diplomas are allowed to enroll in school until July 1 of the year in which they turn 20, according to state law.

Board member Kevin Sweeney said that could prove costly. “We could potentially be looking at having them in school full time for (an additional) one, two or three years,” Sweeney said.

The board discussed with Shedd the study skills class offered to non-special education students. Shedd said the class serves 13 students, whom he described as “high-risk non-special ed students.” The class teaches them organizational skills to help them perform better in class.

School Board Chairwoman Marie Prager said she felt as if there were three large groups in the school, the average students, special ed students and the ones in between, which she called “marginal.” Serving the needs of the three groups, she said, puts a large strain on the school department’s resources.

“We’re building three schools within our one school,” Prager said. “That’s what I think is scary in terms of dollars.”

Board member Kevin Sweeney said there was a broader spectrum than just those three groups, including honors and advanced placement students, as well as special education students with very large needs (such as one-on-one assistance), and special education students with fewer needs.

Claire LaBrie, director of special education, said students in special education often take college placement and honors classes in some disciplines while needing assistance with other subjects.

Middle school Principal Nancy Hutton said the schools will need to change some of their efforts to reach all students, using more people, equipment and time. “There’s going to be a price to pay for all of that,” she said.

“We’re going to do the best we can for all the kids,” Hutton said, not just “most of them.”

Forcella said the schools had to be careful not to create “a new special ed for non-special ed students.”

Shedd agreed that there were ways to be cost-effective, but said, “a part of the solution is inevitably going to take time, and time costs money.”