Inclusion is a delusion- now we even have research
Many of us have said for a very long time that inclusion is a delusion that will not work for either children with disabilities or for plain kids. It is a system that painted over a plan to save money with cheap PC statements about how much the children with disabilities would learn from the plain kids and how empathetic the experience would make plain kids. Clearly these folks have never studied human behavior.
Some disability advocates have argued for ALL children with disabilities, regardless of the severity, to be educated in general education classrooms. Today more than 60% of children with disabilities spend 80% or more of their day in a general ed classroom. Not quite what the all-in advocates want but certainly enough to do damage to the kids with learning challenges.
Now comes some research that shows there is little academic benefit to the students and there is little evidence that the general ed teacher has the preparation to meet the unique learning and behavioral needs of students with challenges. Oh, and there is also the interest and the will to learn on the part of the general educator.
Unfortunately, common wisdom seems to be that the more a child with a disability is educated with plain students the greater the likelihood is that the program is appropriate. In this model appropriateness of program is based on setting not on instruction OR on academic growth of the student. One study looked at children with math disabilities who were taught with specially designed instructional methods. Their progress was compared with similarly disabled students who were taught in an inclusion class with instructional methods that included multiple means for students to express learning. This method is known as Universal Design for Learning. The two groups had very different results. The math achievement gap between students with disabilities who received instruction in general education was double that of those children who received specially designed instruction in a separate group. By year 3 the gap is even greater!
Favoring the placement of children with disabilities in general ed classrooms seems to ignore that the vast majority of these kids have already failed in general ed, that is one of the prime reasons they were identified as having special learning needs.
Teachers, too, are chiming in on their thoughts with their feet. Teachers without special education certification in North Carolina were 2.4% more likely to leave the school or teaching when 1/5thof their students had IEPs. Teachers with “inclusive” classrooms report spending less time on instruction and more time on behavior management. It is not clear whether the increased time on behavior management by the teachers was due to lack of skill on the part of the teacher or noncompliant behavior on the part of the child. Nationally, the number of teachers with special education certification has declined to the point that the ratio of special education teachers to children with disabilities is LESS than the ratio of plain children to general education teachers.
There are 3 stakeholder groups in this discussion: students with disabilities, plain students and teachers, both general ed and special education certified. All three of these groups would benefit from causal research into the benefits of inclusion on the achievement of all children.
Until we free ourselves from the preconceived notion that location of program is an indicator of academic progress, that research is unlikely.
We will continue to wave the magic wand, declare inclusion a victory, and move on to other fairy tales.