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Nevada District's Special Education Program Under Scrutiny

In case you missed it, the Reno Gazette-Journal's Siobhan McAndrew did a masterfully complete job exploring the problems with special education in Washoe schools, Nevada's second-largest district, in a series that ran earlier this month. 

McAndrew spent two years on the project, and it shows. It's difficult to pull out just one element to highlight, but the overall package shows a 64,000-student district that is struggling to educate some of its most vulnerable students. Nevada has one of the largest gaps nationwide between the graduation rates of students with disabilities and typically developing students: 29 percent compared to 75 percent in the 2014-15 school year.

The school system has also held students with disabilities to a lower standard than their typically developing students. One student profiled was academically strong enough to earn a B in a history class, but that was one of the few general education classes he was able to take in his high school career. The rest of the time, he was enrolled in job training and life skills courses where he was told how to brush his teeth. 

"I really wanted to be part of high school," the 19-year-old told the reporter. "I already knew how to brush my teeth." 

Such investigations should be measured not only in what they bring to light, but what they're able to change. On this front, the district has acknowledged that the newspaper's work accurately showed that students with disabilities had been underserved for years. 

"We recognize that the issues with special education did not come into existence overnight, and unfortunately will not be fixed overnight. They will take continued focus and effort to solidify the cultural and structural changes that have begun to take hold," said a district statement

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