School district with large special needs population goes from “A” school to “F” school in two years

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NEWKIRK, Okla. – The public school report cards are in and more schools in Oklahoma are failing.

GRADES: Check your school’s grade here

Just two years ago Peckham Schools, just west of Newkirk, got an “A” but today they failed.

The district says it’s because they take students no one else will.

Over the past few years Peckham has started accepting more and more special needs transfers.

Those students have to take the same test everyone else does.

The superintendent says that’s why they’re failing.

Today he sent a letter to the board of education telling them he doesn’t care.

Peckham is a small school of just 100 kids, pre-k through eighth grade, in Northern Oklahoma.

Just two years ago they were labeled a reward school, top 10% in the state with an “A plus”.

Now the school is on the state’s naughty list.

Superintendent Gary Young accepts more special needs transfer than usual. 30% of their kids have severe cognitive disabilities.

They have to take the same standardized tests everyone else does.

“A lot of schools don’t accept transfers of special needs students because it lowers their grade on the state report card or causes them to fail,” says Young.

Young sent a letter to the State Board of Education asking for a waiver or special consideration because of their special needs population.

In it he says “I would rather educate students with special needs and receive a “F” grade, than discriminate against children with handicaps.”

This isn’t his first request for leniency. His past requests were denied.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said she wants to show the school how they can improve.

“We’ll take the opportunity to go and get one on one with them and show how they can definitely improve the education of those kids,” said Barresi.

Wendy Bond’s daughter has a severe learning disability. She transferred her to Peckham two years ago.

She says the state doesn’t need to change a thing about this school, just give them a break.

“She’s doing great. She loves it out here,” says Bond. “And it’s worth driving 25 minutes one way to get her here.”

The “F” grade breaks everyone’s hearts, from parents to teachers.

“It makes me feel like it’s my kids fault,” says Bond. “And it shouldn’t be.”

Special Needs Teacher Johnie Decker says, “Our teachers and our school staff we work really hard with these children. It’s just not fair.”

But their superintendent says he’s going to continue to stand for what he thinks is right.

Young says, “If that gets me in trouble or costs me my job or gives me an F then so be it.”

1% of a school’s students are allowed to take a modified test, but for Peckham that’s just one student, so they have to choose.

Superintendent Young says they learned 30 minutes before today’s state school board meeting that their latest request was denied as well.

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