If we want every child to succeed, high expectations are critical. Research shows that if we expect children to fail, there’s a good chance they’ll fail. But if we expect them to succeed and if we give them the help they need, they’ll shine in school and life.
Unfortunately, some think it’s impossible for children with issues such as learning disabilities (LD), speech delays or ADHD to succeed in school. But that’s wrong. The evidence shows that, with the right support, students with learning and attention issues can do just as well as their peers. They can work at grade level. They can score well on exams and tests. And they can graduate with a regular high school diploma, just like everyone else.
“We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and career.”
The Achievement Gap for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues
Why are expectations so important? It’s no secret that kids with learning and attention issues struggle in school. Here are just a few facts:
- One-third of students with LD are held back in a grade at least once.
- Students with LD fail classes more often than other students.
- Only 68 percent of students with LD graduate with a regular high school diploma, versus 80 percent of all students.
After high school, many don’t reach their potential:
- Young adults with LD attend four-year colleges at half the rate of the general population.
- They drop out of college more often.
- 54 percent of adults with LD are unemployed or not looking for work.
These numbers are from NCLD’s reports The State of Learning Disabilities 2014 and Diplomas at Risk. They point to the massive achievement gap between kids with learning and attention issues and others.
This gap has big implications for kids’ lives. To take one example, a high school dropout earns only $471 a week, compared to $652 for someone with a high school diploma. A student who drops out is twice as likely to be unemployed as an adult. This is unacceptable.
Setting high expectations and providing support to kids is the best way to close the achievement gap.
NCLD Supports High Expectations to Help All Kids Succeed
Schools must expect every single student to succeed. Here are the policies we advocate for:
- Strong Academic Standards That Are Consistent Across States
Students across the country should have to meet high expectations. Where students live shouldn’t determine what they are expected to learn.
- The Same Goals for Achievement as Everyone Else
States should set the same academic achievement goals for all students. Students with learning disabilities should be expected to achieve just like other kids. There may be exceptions for students with significant cognitive disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome.
- Help for Kids to Meet Expectations
If kids are to meet high expectations, schools must provide help to struggling students. The help should include educational strategies, accommodations and assistive technologies that are supported by solid research.
- Graduation With a Regular High School Diploma
All students, including those with learning and attention issues, should be expected to earn a regular high school diploma. Alternative diplomas and certificates aren’t acceptable. These alternatives don’t prepare students for college or the workforce. In some cases, employers, colleges and even the military don’t accept students with alternative diplomas.