I know...school's out so who wants to think about it right now. But here's the thing - there's a situation impacting millions of children and their ability to succeed in school. And the implications go beyond high school graduation. Many parents understand it, yet many are struggling to get beyond it. Decisions are being made by schools every day about whether a child should receive "x" service or support that they clearly need based upon whether someone believes it's "required" or "desired." And I'm not talking here about what special education laws or IEPs dictate.
Let's take tutoring over the summer, for example, when a child is struggling with reading. Many schools (but not all) would say that it's required because they're accountable, particularly if the child has an IEP, for helping the child read at grade level. So many schools provide this support. Now let's look at social issues - e.g. the ability to have a conversation with a peer or the ability to interpret non-verbal cues. Many would say that this is less of a necessity (i.e. it's not required) so no need to address it over the summer...or even during the school year.
Not a week goes by when a parent doesn't ask me this question - "Can we put social skills on our child's IEP?" Somehow the message that academics are the only thing that matters remains pervasive even though anyone would say that living in a social world requires social skills and understanding. It seems as though being able to read a college syllabus (certainly important) trumps being able to work on a team. Since when?
We tend to categorize things in order to prioritize them - the basics before the flourishes. The problem here is that the scale of priorities is painfully out of whack. Schools are making decisions about what they believe are the "must have" vs. "nice to have" skills with little grasp of the long-term ramifications of *not* developing skills that they see as less than critical.
Ranking academics above other skills using a "required or desired" model is failing students miserably, as it ignores the needs of many children in their quest for success in school and beyond. And when a parent asks if social skills can be included on their child's IEP, it conveys plenty about the information they lack or the misinformation they're receiving.
I doubt that anyone would want a child to be unable to meet tomorrow's expectations in college or on the job because those who weren't looking or thinking ahead decided what was required. Parents know, yet they are often ignored when these critical decisions are made.
Many struggling children grow into struggling adults. And if the purpose of school is to prepare children for adulthood, we're failing them in this regard. Forget the semantics. If we want our struggling children to be ready to transition out of high school and into the "real world," it's time to see their needs today and plan for tomorrow.