Full inclusion of special needs students requires extensive work
- A school district south of Portland, Ore., includes all students with disabilities in the regular classroom — a practice that has taken about six years to implement, according to K5 News.
- When a child with special needs is disruptive, general education teachers in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District will move other students to a different spot so special education teachers and aides can work with the child who is being disruptive.
- The district added and moved around staff members to make sure all classrooms had enough support, and it also adapted professional development so all teachers receive training in working with special needs students.
In a recent blog post, Sarah Barnes, an education specialist program manager for High Tech High Charter Schools, based in the San Diego area, wrote that while research and student outcome data show that inclusion benefits students with disabilities, about 53% of students with special needs in California, for example, are educated in regular classrooms. “As we address the stall in our ability to meaningfully include a greater number of students with disabilities, we need to update our inclusive approaches to include student voice and advocacy while making room to celebrate a student's success through a deeper learning lens,” she wrote.
In the Escondido Union School District, also near San Diego, there are not enough general education settings to accommodate children with different disabilities or enough instructional aides to support their needs in the classroom, according to a report the district commissioned due to increases in the population of special needs students in the district.
While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires students to be educated in the “least restrictive environment,” officials sometimes have different interpretations of that language. In a recent interview, Glenna Gallo, Washington state’s assistant superintendent in charge of special education, responded to questions about children with special needs being largely separated from their peers.
“Special education has become very siloed. But the intent of the IDEA is to supplement, rather than replace, content instruction. Special-education teachers are not all trained in content. And kids need that — they need content experts,” she said in the article. “Should more students with disabilities be included in general-education classrooms? Possibly.”
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