If Full Inclusion is so great, why are kids dropping out?
The National Center for Children with Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has released a study with data from the 2015-16 school year. The data show that kids with learning and attention disorders are three times more likely to drop out of school than are their more typical peers. According to the report 1 in 5 school aged children face these issues and they are not being addressed in the mainstream classrooms. The report chastises schools for not doing everything that it can to identify kids with these issues. But after the children are identified, they do not receive specialized instruction. In fact, children with IEP’s who are supposedly receiving an individualized educational program (IEP) are still 85% more likely to repeat a grade than are students NOT receiving the specialized instruction.
Under the federal law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), thirteen different disabilities are identified. In 2015-16, nearly 39 percent of the children identified as having a disability were identified as learning disabled. Why aren’t we doing more to help these kids? They are dropping out at a rate of 18.1% compared to the 6.1% of their typical age mates.
Most kids with learning disabilities are thought of as being mildly disabled. Yet what is happening to them is far from mild. Teachers, and sometimes families, think of these children as lazy and unmotivated. It is quite common for people to exhort them to “try harder”. When in fact what they need to do is to try differently. And teachers need to teach differently.
Unfortunately, education seems to be a bandwagon profession. We decide on the latest and greatest way to teach reading and then insist that all students must learn that way. For some of those students, their learning disability might make learning to read by that method much too difficult. Consequently, we create a doubly disabled child, first disabled by the learning disability and again by the instructional method. Putting these students in the general education environment where the teacher is already overwhelmed by the complex mix of students only compounds the problem.
People love to identify the famous people who have succeeded in spite of their learning disabilities. That is great! But why should children have to succeed “in spite of”. We can’t afford to lose a single brain in our country’s youth. Maybe if we taught kids the way they learn, rather than the way the latest research study tells us to teach, we might not be wasting so much of our nation’s greatest resource- the brain power of our kids.