Separate but equal. Echoed throughout the public education school system for decades, this philosophy has denied several students access to educational opportunities based on their perceived differences — from race to physical impairments.
At W. Tresper Clarke High School, the East Meadow School District is taking a unique approach to differences with an educational culture that reflects and accommodates diversity.
The schools provide an education to its blind and visually impaired population with a wide range of vision services including assistive technology assessments, orientation and mobility training and educational support with special education teachers. Blind and visually impaired students also have access to the same core curriculum as their sighted peers, but with modifications and accommodations. Tactile graphics, computer software and Braille materials are just a few of the adaptations that students receive.
The educational setting that Clarke offers vastly differs from public education 50 years ago. In previous generations, blind and visually impaired students were confined to special institutions, isolated from their sighted peers. Without the appropriate social and academic skills, visually impaired students were ill prepared for the adult world.
At Clarke, special education teachers work together with their general education colleagues in providing access to the curriculum for their students on areas such as transcribing materials, using a SMART board and even how to set up an environmentally friendly classroom. These practices help the students thrive in mainstream classroom settings.
“We provide what every child needs to be successful,” said Patrice Dobies, director of special education and pupil personnel services for the East Meadow School District. “Every child has something special to bring to the classroom and our job is to help our students access the curriculum to learn.”