Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How do you solve a problem like inclusion?

About 70% of general education teachers feel they lack the expertise to address the needs of students with disabilities in their inclusive classrooms.  In 1990 about 34% of students with disabilities spent most of their time in a general education classroom.  By 2011 this percentage had increased to 61%.   And it is the teachers in those general education classrooms who do not feel competent to teach these children.  Clearly there is a very strong disconnect between these two situations.  So it is not surprising that researchers have tried to come up with a way to resolve the problem.    And here are some of their solutions.
First of all, principals need to assert the kind of leadership that teachers know there is a strong value in the school for inclusive education.  Check.  Got that.   Now how does that value translate into improving the skill set of those 70% of teachers who are asking for help.
That comes in recommendation 2.   Schools need to have a strong data system that monitors students' progress all during the year.  Data indicate that in spite of No Child Left Behind's requirement for annual testing, kids with disabilities are still far behind their typical age mates.  So evidently that testing is not sufficiently informing teachers re: improving instruction.   Clearly this second recommendation is one that suggests we need to do more of what isn't working.  We can double the dose and see how that works.
Recommendation #3 is that school leadership needs to develop better trust between the leadership and the teaching staff.  Demonstrating trust and support for teachers provides the foundation for developing good relationships with teachers.  I couldn't agree more.   What I am missing is how this trustful relationship will morph into better teaching skills.
The elephant in the room is the sequence of this wonderful new policy.   Why were teachers not trained before they were asked to provide the education for these students?  Why were educators more concerned with political correctness than they were about protecting the interests of these vulnerable learners?
The answer to the question of "how do you solve a problem like inclusion?" is the old Boy Scout motto, be prepared.   Educators did what was politically and fiscally convenient.  The taxpayers may have saved a bundle, but the students involved have lost a great deal.

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