DOES INCLUSION PROMOTE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT AMONG 6 TH GRADE SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS IN AN URBAN SCHOOL? Dr. Onetha J. Gilliard, Principal Susana Mauri, Assistant Principal Nidia Ashby, Teacher Leader Superintendent’s Urban Principal Initiative Miami Edison Middle School 2005-2006
In order to promote academic achievement among 6 th grade Special Education Students (SPED), placed in an inclusive settings, ongoing staff development and support was provided for general and special education teachers. This resulted in a greater level of comfort and productivity from teachers and students.
As more special education students are placed in inclusive settings, on-going staff development and assistance must be provided to support the general and special education teachers. Some of the general education teachers have limited knowledge or skills as to what works with special education students. Approximately a third of the students enrolled at this targeted middle school are SPED students. The inclusive models provides the least restrictive settings for SPED students to access a free and appropriate education.
This targeted middle school serving students in grades 6-8 is a Title 1, inner city school located in the heart of a community recently named “Little Haiti”. The immediate neighborhood is made up of small shops and family operated businesses.
According to Miami-Dade County Public School Office of Research Services, 84% of the student population is of Haitian decent, born in America. Sixty percent of the students begin their schooling experience as non-English speakers. Many of the parents of these students have little or no formal education. Ninety-six percent of the students receive free or reduced priced meals. The mobility rate of students transferring into and out of the targeted middle school is 51%. Taking into consideration the aforementioned factors, and based on Chapter 1 (Title 1) Legislation enacted in 1965, these students are labeled at-risk.
In 1975, P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was passed by Congress and later amended in 1997 as the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to support and ensure children with disabilities access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) and avoid discrimination based on their disabilities.
This law grants parents or legal guardians of children with disabilities the right to be equal partners in the development of the individualized education plan (IEP) for their children (Bateman, 2002).
IDEA embraces the notion that children with disabilities should be educated in the setting with the least amount of restriction, but the statute does not mandate inclusion in each case involving a child with disabilities (Essex, 2002, p.104-105).
For inclusion to be successful in education, school leaders need to carefully plan by identifying factors that may affect the implementation process (Forest & Pearpoint, 2001).
Inclusion teaches children to work together and gives them a sense of belonging, value, and self-worth. Additionally, they attribute higher graduation percentage rate of special education children due to inclusion (Deloney & Tompkins, 2001).
Two influential cases, which drew major national attention to the needs of children with disabilities, were P.A.R.C. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills v. Board of Education. In the P.A.R.C. case, the district court ruled “that the state’s children with mental retardation were entitled to a public education and, whenever possible, should be educated in regular classrooms rather than classrooms that were isolated from normal school population” (Essex, 2002, p. 96).
In Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), the Special Education program works collaboratively with an array of partnerships in order to provide educational services and resources that would comply with IDEA and meet the needs of students with disabilities. MDCPS continues to make strides in promoting and supporting inclusive practices in school.
According to the accountability report Office of Program Policies and Government Analysis (OPPAGA)---in MDCPS over 175 schools are implementing inclusive education. However, the district average reflects only 28.2% of the students with disabilities spending 80% or more of their day in general education classrooms. It has become the goal of the district to increase the percentage to 40% (MDCPS, 2004).
Attendance 311 A 623 T 317A 146 T TOTAL 021A 02 T 001A 00 T J.M. 007A 29 T 017A 07 T F.N. 016A 111 T 006A 40 T V.S. 016A 03 T 016A 04 T C.C. 000A 00 T 004A 00 T J.B. 008A 69 T 018A 30 T C.H. 069A 69 T 043A 07 T D.G. 003A 54 T 007A 15 T T.A. 038A 77 T 014A 18 T C.W. 010A 45 T 022A 14 T J.L. 011A 18 T 008A 01 T R.J. 010A 10 T 014A 04 T D.J. 002A 22 T 003A 01 T N.C. 032A 56 T 035A 00 T K.C. 037A 49 T 102A 03 T J.N. 031A 09 T 007A 02 T L.C. 2006 Attendance 2005 Attendance Students
Discipline * Suspension were given at previous school before attending Edison Middle 31 53 TOTAL 10* 01 J.M. 00 11 F.N. 03 00 V.S. 00 00 C.C. 00 00 J.B. 00 05 C.H. 01 00 D.G. 00 03 T.A. 00 00 C.W. 01 05 J.L. 00 01 R.J. 04 00 D.J. 00 00 N.C. 00 00 K.C. 00 20 J.N. 12* 07 L.C. 2006 Suspension 2005 Suspension Students
The Miami Dade County Public School District is mandating Inclusion throughout all schools and grade levels. As such, the support from the District is necessary to ensure the academic success of all students.
The transition from the elementary setting for SPED students can be difficult. A supportive student services systems must be provided.
The general and Special Education teachers must have ongoing staff development scheduled in a timely fashion.
Both general and Special Education teachers are equal partners with job duties, as well as have dual ownership and responsibility for all students.
Exemplary professional skills in the subject matter and classroom management are requirements for both teachers.
Parents need to be proactive in their children’s education to ensure gains and strive towards academic improvement in the general education curriculum courses.