Phi Delta Kappan’s November issue, themed “What Makes a Good School?” featured a piece by Lauren Morando Rhim, arguing that a school cannot be good unless it is good for all students, including students with disabilities.
In 2018-19, 14% of students in U.S. public schools received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (National Center for Education Statistics, 2020) and advocates propose closer to 20% of all students would benefit from additional supports and services due to how they learn (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2019). Yet, conversations about school quality are often silent on the question of how to ensure the effective inclusion of students with disabilities. For instance, the national school review website Public School Review does not report any data regarding students with disabilities in neighborhood schools, although it does post information about “special education schools.” Similarly, the rating site Great Schools.org limits data related to students with disabilities to enrollment percentage and, if the school is large enough, standardized test scores. However, neither site provides any data regarding access to the general education curriculum or the quality of special education and related services. This is a strange omission, for how can a school be considered good if it does not recognize and embrace the unique learning needs of students with disabilities, creating an environment in which all students can thrive?