Letter to the Editor

Sarah Trachte

Many parents looking into schools for their children base their research on school report cards. Produced by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the cards assess every publicly funded school in the state based on four different standards: student achievement, growth, closing gaps and on-track and post-secondary success. Schools are then placed into one of five categories, from significantly exceeds expectations to fails to meet expectations. Although the report card is often helpful to parents and districts, one of its aspects has had an unintended consequence. High school graduation rates, located in the closing gaps section of the card, are an important factor in determining the success of a district; however, in the push to graduation for all, some students with special needs have been overlooked. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students with an Individualized Education Plan are allowed to stay in school until the age of 21. The six-year cohort graduation rate, introduced in the 2011-2012 school year, allows students to stay in school an additional two years after the graduation of their four-year classmates before report card penalties are inflicted. However, the provision still penalized districts who allow students to stay in school until the age of 21, as districts of students aged 17 or 18 at the end of the senior year are penalized after students turn 19 and 20, respectively. This oversight on behalf of the government is unfair to schools working hard to meet report card goals. I urge you to write to our state superintendent of public instruction to ask for the creation of seven- and eight- year cohorts to meet the needs of students in a way that compliments the IDEA legislation. Please join me in promoting the welfare of districts friendly to students with special needs.