By Emily Le Coz | Clarion-LEdger | January 29, 2015
| (Photo: Special to The Clarion-Ledger)
An amendment tacked on to a bill separating Mississippi from PARCC would boost the state's graduation rate for special-needs students.
Proposed by state Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, the legislation allows special-needs students to graduate with a standard diploma if they meet the goals outlined in their Individual Education Programs.
Currently, those students must meet roughly the same criteria as their non-disabled peers to earn a high school diploma.
"Changing the graduation requirements as I've proposed helps our special education students graduate with a standard diploma," Baria said in a press release issued after the vote. " A diploma opens doors to jobs, education, training, and the military that are otherwise closed if a student with special needs leaves high school with only a certificate of completion. As parents, we want every possible option available for our children. My amendment opens those doors."
Mississippi has the nation's lowest special-education graduate rate at just 23 percent. It also has some of the toughest graduation requirements for this group of students.
Most states graduate 50 percent of more of students with disabilities.
The amendment was passed by the full House on Thursday as part of House Bill 385. That bill severs the state's ties to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and requires Mississippi instead to contract with a single entity for its end-of-year academic assessments.
The amended bill now goes to the Senate.