Are we perhaps doing a tremendous disservice to students?
Many years ago I worked at a middle school at which I worked very closely with one of the special education teachers. One day she told me she was moving one of my math students from one period to another, and I asked why. "He can't read. His current social studies teacher goes thematically, bouncing all around in the book. I'm moving him to this other teacher, who goes linearly through the book. I have the book on tape; he can listen to the tape easily this way and learn." I asked, "What are we going to do to teach him to read?" Her response was she hadn't thought of that, she was just trying to solve the immediate social studies problem. We were a middle school, we didn't teach reading! Turns out we had a (very) remedial reading class on campus, part of a program for which this particular student was not a part. After I posed the question, though, she put the student into that reading program. I consider that one of my personal successes in teaching.
Fast-forward to today. I've written before about the new "gold standard" in 504 Plans and IEP's, "anxiety". If a student has a 504 Plan or an IEP I as the classroom teacher am supposed to "accommodate" their anxiety and do whatever I can to help them "access the curriculum" despite their anxiety--or any other disability (ADD, anyone?) they have. I have so many students authorized to take their tests and quizzes in an alternate location that I don't see how that particular accommodation helps reduce anxiety anymore! In fact, most students prefer just to stay in my room for tests and quizzes, rather than take advantage of the so-called accommodation to which they are authorized.
As I have for over 7 years now, since I wrote this post, I lean towards the theory that we should help students to function despite their diagnoses, and not to expect the rest of the world to accommodate them. Outside of school, no one cares. If you can't function you get fired. DMV doesn't care if you get "anxiety", either pass the driving test or don't get your license. The world isn't being harsh or cruel in such cases, it's merely putting responsibility where it rightly belongs. It's a modern version of "we all have our crosses to bear".
So I look at what we do with so many of our special ed and 504 students and I ask: are we accommodating their disabilities, or enabling them?