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EDUCATION REPORT - Learning Disabilities, Part 8: Conclusion - 2004-03-25

Broadcast: March 25, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we complete an eight-part series about learning disabilities. Such disorders interfere with skills like reading, writing or thinking. Students with learning disabilities are not considered slow learners. They are generally of average or above average intelligence. But many need help to succeed in school.

In the United States, some students with learning disabilities are placed in classes called special education. The teachers have been trained as specialists and work with these students full time. Other students remain in traditional classes, but receive help from specialists. The parents of these students may like this way better. Or they may not have much choice.

The movement in education is to include students with special needs in traditional classes, but to provide extra help. Yet limited school budgets often mean large classes and not as much individual help as parents would like.

Another concern is students who need special instruction because they are extremely intelligent. Parents say they worry that the needs of these gifted students may not be met.

American law guarantees all students the right to a free public education. Disabled students have special protections and rights under the law. For example, a student who cannot write the answers to a test may be able to use a computer instead.

But conflicts can develop with the current movement in American education to increase testing requirements in schools. Almost half the states now require students to pass what is called an exit exam before they are permitted to graduate from high school.

Some people say this is unfair to disabled students, who might not get the extra help they need to take the test. They say disabled students fail the tests in greater numbers than other students.

Lawyers for the rights of the disabled have brought actions in California and Oregon. And on March sixteenth the same group brought a federal case in Alaska. Parents in that state want more protections for disabled students who take a new exit exam in reading, writing and mathematics.

The test is to be given in June for the first time. Alaska education officials said they could not comment until they had time to study the case.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Internet users can find all of our reports at This is Steve Ember.