Twice Exceptional

Can high-achieving students with special needs take AP courses?

Last year, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said he wanted to increase the number of students passing Advanced Placement tests. But for high-achieving kids with special needs, taking AP classes can be near impossible.

This week, I talked to a parent about how hard it was for her to find a high school that says it will offer AP classes to her child, a high-achieving eighth-grader who is legally required to be placed in a team-teaching setting.

Specifically, this student must be in a Collaborative Team Teaching class, where two teachers, one with special education certification, work with a class made up of some students who have special needs and some who do not.

Despite her careful research, the mother told me, it hasn’t always been clear which high schools will meet her child’s needs. In the high school directory released each year by the DOE, most selective schools say they will offer special education services “as needed.” Some schools have reputations for including kids with all kids of special needs in their most challenging courses, but others do not.

When the mother spoke to an administrator at one high school well known for its special education programs, he told her that the school does not offer AP courses in the CTT format. Instead, he recommended that she try to have her child’s needs legally recategorized to require general education classes. That way, the administrator said, her child could take AP classes and receive extra help or counseling during the school day. But her child wouldn’t be in the most appropriate class setting.

AP classes aren’t guaranteed, and schools make the decision whether to offer them, DOE spokeswoman Maibe Maibe Fuentes-Gonzalez told me. Because CTT classes are mandated to have a 60:40 ratio of general education to special education students, it could be hard for schools with few high-achieving kids with special needs to provide AP classes for them. Small schools in particular could have trouble opening AP classes to students who require a CTT setting.

“Resources are limited, and not every school offers every option,” Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children told me. “If it is true that the only way that this young person can be served is in a CTT class, and can do the AP academics, then the DOE should be working with this particular student to find a school that offers that, but it can’t force a particular school to offer that.”

But Moroff said it’s tough to figure out before enrolling which high schools offer what kinds of services. That’s why AFC is pushing for the DOE to improve access to information about special education, said.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.