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Schools Test Online Learning for Disabled Students

Schools Test Online Learning for Disabled Students

New technology is allowing digital lessons to be adjusted to different learning styles, and a growing number of programs are evolving to help students with disabilities take online courses.

"While such options are still not readily available for most students in special education, virtual programs are being seen as a means to fill gaps in special education services in cost-effective ways," according to an article on "Some schools are offering online speech therapy classes that feature video interactivity, for instance, while others are turning to digital curricula designed specifically for special education students, rather than trying to adapt existing online courses to meet the needs of students with disabilities."

According to the article, "these developments—which are part of a bigger trend to blend face-to-face and online learning in public schools—are raising questions about the role and effectiveness of online course taking for students with disabilities because there is little evidence that the approach improves student achievement for those students. Some educators also question whether companies touting new online-learning services for special education students truly appreciate the investments they will need to make to meet the needs of those students."

"This is very time-intensive, and it's not one-size-fits-all," said Michelle H. Lourcey, the chief academic officer for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, in the article "I don't know how many for-profit companies would be willing to put in the money and effort needed."

The article looked at the day in special education teacher Lindsey L. Taylor's Classroom in North Carolina. In the classroom, the article said, "students take applied science, introduction to math, and algebra courses all developed by the state's virtual school. The students in her class have a range of disabilities, including bipolar disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiance, autism, and cerebral palsy."

"But the students have been able to navigate through the online courses, boost their knowledge, and this year they are taking the same assessments as students who are not in special education, Ms. Taylor said.

"She's seen a measurable impact from using the courses: In last year's biology class, for example, the state [which makes predictions for student test scores on state tests] predicted one student would score in the second percentile, but that student instead scored in the 82nd percentile. The majority of her other seven students made significant gains too. 'Even though my students might not be on grade level, the growth they're making is enormous.'"

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Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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