The Disadvantages of a Full-Inclusion Classroom
Full Inclusion is quickly becoming the norm in many public schools across the country. It's a goal that has the support of national and state laws as well as a few top educators. It's also a critical way of ensuring that students with special needs will receive the same form of education as their non-disabled peers. It is a step in the right direction. But, there's a lingering question: does it fully benefit the students it serves?
Unfortunately, the answer is "no." Despite its intended goal of mainstreaming all students with disabilities into the general education population, full inclusion still falls short of providing adequate education for all. One major problem is the way districts try to fulfill it. Also, some students with disabilities aren't adequately placed. It may be due to below-basic skills in reading, writing, or math; intellectual or emotional disabilities; or the student’s inability to access the education. Either way, this inability to reach certain students reveals the limitations of full inclusion.
What is Full Inclusion?
Full inclusion is the practice of including students with disabilities (in particular, those with learning disorders) in the same educational program as their non-disabled peers. The reasons are two folds:
• it gives students with learning disabilities more access to educational material and lessons they would not have had in a special education setting, and
• it adheres to civil rights and educational laws such as the American with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and American with Disability (ADA).
Should all schools adopt a full-inclusion model
As noble and ambitious as full inclusion is, it still suffers from a fundamental flaw: not all students have the same educational levels or degrees of disability. In many cases, students with intellectual disabilities such as mental retardation will not be able to access the educational material in an Algebra class, or students with physical disabilities such as quadriplegia will never join a varsity baseball team.
Inclusion into a general education classroom usually relies on effective accommodations. Accommodations are practices, technology usage, or assistance to help students with disabilities to access the educational material and lesson being taught. Also, it works well when the students have mild or moderate forms of disabilities. The students may able to read, write or do math at levels near grade level (usually two to three grade levels off). But, a little help such as repeating information, supplying notes, or giving the students a flexible seating arrangement can help them access the education being taught.
However, some students – even if all they have is a specific learning disability such as auditory processing disorder – may be severely affected to a point that they can not keep up with the curriculum despite all the accommodations made. For these students, they need a special day classroom to address their educational needs.
When mentioning inclusion, the term Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) often pops up
Student Designation is Critical
Another obstacle that can affect the effectiveness of full inclusion is the practice of screening and labeling students.
An example can be those labeled "SDC." SDC (Special day class) students, have academic skill levels that are far below their age and grade levels. They need extra help and modification – a change in the curriculum – to their education. Also, they spend more than 50% of their school days in a special education classroom.
When mentioning inclusion, the term Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) often pops up. The term often refers to the idea of placing a student in an environment that would be the least restrictive on his/her chance of getting an adequate education. In many cases, however, “restrictions” can have different meanings.
For students who are slightly below grade level in certain skills (usually called a Resource or RSP student), a restrictive environment may be the slow-paced or unchallenged curriculum of a special day class. For an SDC student, a general education classroom may be restrictive in terms of the complex and challenging material usually presented in these courses. Restrictive, in the case of LRE, is anything that restricts a student’s ability to learn.
While full inclusion has its advantages, it also has some disadvantages. It’s not for every student with a disability. Despite its restriction, it is just one more approach educators can use to help a student with disabilities get a free and appropriate public school education like his/her non-disabled peers.
How to Fix the Problem?
Full inclusion is a lofty goal. However, for school officials to obtain this educational prize, they must use various educational programs. They may include better screening of students, the use of remedial or reading recovery courses, and better tutoring systems. Also, some schools have utilized a system in which the special education teacher or instructional assistant will work in collaboration with the general education teacher in the same classroom.
The following programs have been used by various districts to help with mainstreaming:
- Response to Intervention (RTI). It helps in offering preventative measures. Also, it helps school officials keep numbers of referrals for special education down.
- Co-Teaching or Co-Taught: two teachers (one general and the other special education) teach in the same class. The special educator will monitor students.
- Assessments such as Woodcock Johnson (to measure their abilities).
© 2014 Dean Traylor