kitchen table math, the sequel: palisadesk on full inclusion and funding

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

palisadesk on full inclusion and funding

re: Do general ed parents really want 'relief' from special education mandates?

palisadesk writes:

When they went for a full inclusion policy here, the senior bureaucrats were quite frank (at least in-house) that it was for financial reasons. While providing appropriate support to kids with exceptionalities in general ed classrooms is in fact very costly, providing pseudo-support and platitudes is relatively cheap.

The move from the top was, perhaps synchronistically, aligned with a lot of pressure from parents and groups representing children with disabilities for full inclusion. I can remember a time when many parents fought to get their kids into special classes for LD, language impairment, Total Communication (for deaf kids) and so forth. Those programs had a record of long-term success in getting students caught up and capable of doing challenging academic work.

Fast forward to now.....the district stopped investing in PD for special ed teachers, most of whom nowadays have learned nothing at all about effective practices, specialized teaching curricula or methods (Orton-Gillingham, DI, Lindamood-Bell, etc. etc.) so results in special classes are no better than in general ed. No surprise there. If you aren't doing something different, why expect a different result?

OTOH, we still do have special programs for very violent kids, for kids with severe or multiple disabilities, and increasingly, for autism. To comply with the laws around least restrictive environment *some* special ed classes remain, even for LD or slow learners, but are hard to get into. That means many children who really need a segregated program may spend a number of years floundering in the full inclusion environment before any other opportunity presents itself.

At the elementary level, teachers are used to a range of development and ability -- but there are limits. If one classroom has several extremely disruptive students, or students 4-7 YEARS below the class norm, it makes effective teaching of the whole class problematic. Much teacher time is diverted to preparing individual lessons and materials for the outlier students (there is NEVER a budget for special materials for them), and these students need much more teacher attention -- which is taken away from other students. Aides also have been cut back so that often they are shared between a number of classrooms.

There are some positive effects of inclusion but the absence of the necessary supports for the learning needs of the included kids is a serious equity issue, IMO. The exceptional students are not getting the teaching theyneed, and the other students are inevitably deprived of some of the instruction -- and much of the enrichment for the high achievers -- that THEY need.

I see this as a false economy.


Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in the 70's, our suburb and the surrounding suburbs had a cooperation deal. Each school would specialize in one disability, provide extra services for those children, while they were mainstreamed for much of the school day. Our school had a sizable number of deaf kids, the next district over had blind kids. It seemed to work well for everyone. I also would think that the disabled students would have been happy to have a community of others with their disability for support, and to have several teachers who specialized in teaching kids with their needs.

I think the push for complete mainstreaming destroyed the system in the late 80's. It really seemed to be the best of both worlds.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think the push for complete mainstreaming destroyed the system in the late 80's. It really seemed to be the best of both worlds.

I agree.

momof4 said...

I know two families who chose to send their kids to the spec ed HS,as opposed to the local HSs with reputations as being good for spec ed kids. One kid was a fairly-high-functioning Down's syndrome and the other had non-Down's cognitive handicaps. One dad was a physician and the other was a very senior exec with a major multinational corporation. Both said that their kid would never be "normal" or be able to handle abstractions, so placing them in a regular-HS situation was a waste of time for their kid and a likely distraction for the others in their classes. In the spec ed HS (I'm amazed that it still exists), the kids received training to maximize what they could do and to maximize their abilities to enable them to hold jobs. Decades later, they have jobs with benefits and it worked.