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Add 'disability' to our equity list

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

October 10th, 2017 2:39 PM

I have a serious concern as a special needs parent (Irving), educator, community member, and general education parent (Hatch). Currently, under key terms on the District 97 vision tab, "equitable" is defined as follows: 

Equitable: Is the practice of beliefs and creation of systems that provide access and opportunities for all students in order to eliminate the predictability of outcomes associated with race, gender and socioeconomic status. 

I am heartened by this language. As a classroom teacher and reading specialist of 12 years, I am familiar with children of color and children coming from poverty predominating the interventions list each week in data team. However, the other greatest predictor of outcomes (and of who will be on that list each week) is disability status. 

While every child is different, in general Individual Educational Plan (IEP) eligibility is a dramatically accurate predictor of lower academic success. Students with a disability are more likely to not meet growth targets, to not attend college, or to be employed as adults. Even more staggering is the predictability of outcomes of children of color who have a disability and are more at risk than their white disabled peers and children of color without a disability. 

To personalize this, I will use the example of my son's disability: his autism diagnosis predicts he is less likely to attend college, more likely to be unemployed, and is predicted to die at a younger age than his typical peers. Why are we not listing his statistically-limiting factor in our mission statement? What about the other approximately 900 students with IEPs, including the roughly 380 children of color with IEPs? 

Thus, I contend that the district should include the term "disability," as it is an equally great inhibiting factor on student achievement. Language matters. 

It is with our word choices we illustrate what is important to us as a community. By omitting disability status from this list, we communicate we are not serious about mitigating the effect of disability as a predictor of achievement. 

We also appear naive and unwilling to wrestle with the deeper barriers to achievement.

Erika Eckart 

Oak Park