EADM Policy Paper (2)

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EADM Policy Paper (2)

  1. 1. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 1 EADM 310 POLICY ANALYSIS Inclusion of Students with Special Needs EADM 310
  2. 2. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 2 All educators are well aware of the fact that each and every student they teach is unique and different in some way. Every student has different interests, strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. As a result, teachers have to prepare, teach, and make adaptations that will allow all of their learners to be successful. In today’s classrooms it is becoming increasingly common for students with special needs to be included in the mainstream classroom. Students with special needs can be defined as students that have intellectual disabilities, emotional or behavioural problems, or physical disabilities. The issue of including these students in the normal classroom is a complex one, with many possible pros and cons. The implications of inclusion are far reaching, effecting teachers, parents, students with special needs, and other students in the mainstream classroom. It also has large implications on the financial element of schooling. People who support either side of this issue have made their viewpoints well known, as their passion in support of, or against inclusion have been clearly communicated. Many questions arise when studying the inclusion of students with special needs in the mainstream classroom. Some issues that must be addressed include: -Do students with special needs learn better in a mainstream classroom, or in an isolated classroom? -Is the learning of other students positively or negatively affected by having students with special needs in their classrooms? -Should students with special needs spend their entire day in a mainstream classroom? Should special education and general education be combined or separate entities? -What are the implications for teachers? Are all teachers prepared and able to teach students with special needs? -What are the financial implications of inclusion? What is more important, learning at any cost, or the cost of learning? These are only a few of the questions and issues that must be considered when examining inclusion. Inclusion is very important in the development of both students with special needs and students who do not have special needs. The education system must evolve with the rest of society and the world. The days of segregating students with special needs must be left behind with other educational policies
  3. 3. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 3 that have been found to be ineffective. A large part of being an educator is possessing the ability to reflect upon and assess the effectiveness of current teaching practices. If examined closely, administrators, teachers, parents, and students will all realize that including students with special needs in mainstream classes will be beneficial to all parties involved. This being said, there is still a place for separate classrooms for students with special needs. Special education and general education can be combined in a way that will be of maximum benefit for the learning of students with special needs. A policy of ‘best place, best practice’ should be used in the education of students with special needs. There is a definite benefit to including them in regular classrooms, but there are situations where working in a separate environment would be more beneficial to their learning. Before examining the complexity of inclusion, it is first necessary to define and understand what it is. There are many different definitions available, but they all share the same underlying principles. In his book, From Disability to Possibility, Patrick Schwarz defines inclusion as: The attitude that all students belong everywhere, with everyone else, in the school community. The strategy behind inclusion is to design supports – innovative approaches to learning, differentiated instruction, curricular adaptations – for every student in the classroom, to include the entire spectrum of learners. (Schwarz, 2006, p. 34-35) The New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL) expands on this definition by including the following: Inclusion is about looking at the ways our schools, classrooms, programs and lessons are designed so that all children can participate and learn. Inclusion is about finding different ways of teaching so that classrooms actively involve all children. (New Brunswick Association for Community Living, 2000, p. 10) These definitions speak almost exclusively to the idea of having students with special needs present and learning in mainstream classrooms. It is important to remember though, that schooling is about more than just knowledge based learning. School is also an environment for the development of relationships and social skills. The NBACL addresses this aspect of inclusion as well, by stating that “finally, inclusion
  4. 4. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 4 also means finding ways to help develop friendships, relationships, and mutual respect between children with disabilities and their schoolmates, and between pupils in the school.” (p. 10) There is a long and storied history of the education of students with special needs. Going back over a century, there is evidence of debate of how to best educate these students. In the late 1800’s students with special needs were placed in special residential institutions. As the 20th century progressed, many public schools began to take in students with special needs. However, they were isolated from other students and were part of segregated classrooms. At this point, these students were living away from their families, removed from their communities. In the 1950’s and 1960’s families lobbied to have students accepted into normal schools, with the hopes of keeping their children at home and in their community. Their efforts succeeded and many schools began educating these students; at this point though, they remained in separate classrooms. Towards the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream classrooms has risen. However, the level and perception of inclusion has not been strictly regulated or defined. Across provinces, divisions, and even between schools governed under the same board, differences exist in what inclusion means. (Burge, Ouellette- Kuntz, Hutchinson, and Box, 2008, p. 3-4) There are no set standards for schools to follow. Many schools say that they include students with special needs in mainstream classrooms, but this is exhibited in different ways. Some students are in mainstream classes all day, some for half a day, some for only one period a day. In other situations, students are present in mainstream classes, but are not involved. Too often these students are ignored and just sit without participating, not learning any subject content or developing their social skills. As our society becomes more and more politically correct, many schools feel the need to give into the pressures of those members of society who support inclusion. Hence, these schools say that “inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms is the dominant policy,” and “acknowledge that placement of a student [with disabilities] in a regular class is the first option considered” when deciding how to best educate students with special needs. This may not actually be the case. Many believe that up to 40% of students with intellectual disabilities are still being educated in segregated
  5. 5. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 5 classrooms. (Burge et al., 2008, p. 2) Many people are shifting their attitudes about inclusion towards including them in mainstream classrooms. However, the best way to do this is challenging. There are implications for teachers, parents, and students that must be considered and addressed. There are no simple solutions, but a solution must be worked towards nonetheless. Canada is known for and is proud of its attitudes towards diversity, acceptance, and respect. Our nation is one where people of all cultures, backgrounds, and abilities are welcomed and encouraged to live with freedom and without restraint. Citizens are given equal opportunities to be educated and to be successful in all of their endeavours. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms states under Section 15 that: (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. And, (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982) All citizens of Canada are considered to be equal regardless of their mental or physical ability. Although there is no direct law referencing education it is reasonable to say that all citizens should be given equal access to education regardless of their mental or physical ability. Furthermore, all persons should be given access to the same education as their counterparts. Based on this interpretation, students with special needs have the right to inclusive education. Canadian society has been very supportive of inclusion. Persons with special needs are active and accepted in their communities. Burge et al. notes that “Canadians feel that people with disabilities should have the opportunity to participate in life to their fullest potential – that is part of the ‘Canadian way’ of doing things.” (Burge et al., 2008, p.2) They are not removed and placed in special institutions. Rather, programs and policies have been developed to help them be as active in society as possible.
  6. 6. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 6 Many persons with all types of special needs are able to function almost completely independently. Workplaces are not allowed to discriminate against persons with special needs when hiring for employment. Transportation options and building regulations have been designed and implemented to help persons with disabilities gain access to facilities. Actions such of these have been taken for the sole intent of giving persons with special needs the abilities to be included in society as much as possible. If the rest of society is making efforts and adaptations to include persons with special needs, shouldn’t education systems be doing the same? As mentioned above, there are many stakeholders involved in the debate for inclusion. Students with disabilities, students without disabilities, parents, teachers, governments and school boards all have interests and concerns that must be considered. It is not unreasonable to say that the people with the largest interest in inclusion are the students who have special needs. For years they have been kept out of regular classrooms, being told that it was in their best interest. But as education is evolving and new information from research is being released, it is becoming apparent that including students with special needs in the mainstream classroom has significant benefits for both their learning and social development. These results have been proven repeatedly through a wide variety of studies. Dealing specifically with academic success, it has been proven that those students with special needs who are educated in inclusive classrooms show greater improvement on standardized testing. They have better overall grades and show more motivation to learn than their counterparts who are educated in separate classrooms. Looking specifically at reading and writing, Banerji and Dailey found that students involved in an inclusive setting for three months showed improvements in their reading and writing skills that were similar to the improvements shown by the students who did not have special needs. (Salend, Garrick Duhaney, 1999) Speaking to the notion that the best form of education for students with special needs is to combine special education and general education, the results of a study conducted by Marston (1996) can be used as evidence. Marston studied students who were educated in three different groups: i) inclusion only – students taught in a general education setting only
  7. 7. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 7 ii) combined services – students taught in a general education setting with support from a special education classroom iii) pull-out only – students taught in a special education classroom The results showed that the students in the combined services group had significantly greater increases in reading ability than the students educated in the other two groups. (Marston, 1996) The implications towards the social development of students with special needs educated in regular classrooms are also very positive. Kennedy, Shukla, and Fryxell found that: Students who were educated in inclusion classrooms had a greater number of interactions and social contacts with students without disabilities, were the recipients of and provided greater levels of social support behaviours, had larger friendship networks that mostly included classmates without disabilities, and had more lasting social relationships with students without disabilities. (Kennedy, Shukla, and Fryxell, 1997) A concern that is often raised by adversaries to inclusion is that students with special needs will disrupt the classroom with behavioural problems. This concern has been shown to be untrue. Feedback provided by teachers and parents has demonstrated that students with special needs will follow the lead of their non-disabled classmates and act in a similar manner to them. (Banerji and Dailey, 1995) The second group that has a concern in the debate over inclusion is students who do not have disabilities. Many feel that the learning of these students will be negatively impacted if students with special needs are brought into their classrooms. Less personal time with the teacher, and disruptions caused by students with special needs are the two main concerns raised. The latter of these concerns has been proven to be untrue as evidenced by Banerji and Dailey above. It would seem plausible that having students with special needs in the classroom could be detrimental to the learning of other students. Students with special needs will often need extra attention and help. This, however, does not mean that teachers will be spending all of their time with these students. There are strategies that can be implemented to help all students. In many situations, aids will be present in the classroom to provide assistance to those students with special needs. Allowing and encouraging students without to disabilities
  8. 8. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 8 to help their peers with special needs is also a very beneficial strategy in a number of ways. First it benefits the student with special needs, because they have someone to assist them in their learning. Second, for the students that are assisting it helps to foster a level of respect and understanding. Finally, the social development of both parties is impacted in a positive way. A bond can be created that will lead to respect, communication and friendship between the parties. Rather than looking at the situation as having potential for being negative, strategies can be implemented that can quickly turn the situation into a positive. Studies have shown that the academic outcomes of students without disabilities are not negatively impacted in inclusive classrooms. It has been found that the amount of instructional time given to students without disabilities in inclusive classrooms is not significantly less than the time given to students in non-inclusive classrooms. Scores achieved in reading, mathematics and spelling have also been found to be unaffected. Contrary to the opinion of many, results have shown that students who actually participate in group activities with students with special needs can actually greatly increase their learning. (Salend et al., 1999) The social benefits of being educated in an inclusive setting are many for students without disabilities. It also appears that the earlier students are exposed to inclusion, the better the attitudes and understanding that is developed. Elementary students report that they develop an understanding of and respect for other regardless of their physical or behavioural characteristics. (Biklen, Corrigan, and Quick, 1989) Overall, students without disabilities of all ages report developing attitudes of understanding, tolerance, and increased personal growth. These are all values that every teacher and parent hopes their students and children will learn during their youth. Our society is based on a culture of respect, cooperation and understanding. The earlier children are exposed to difference, the earlier they will be able to develop positive attitudes towards it. If accepting attitudes are developed at a young age, the stereotypes and discrimination that are portrayed in our society will eventually be eradicated. If these attitudes and values are being developed in inclusive classrooms, it is hard to discount the value of inclusive education.
  9. 9. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 9 Some valid concerns are raised with respect to the interaction between the two groups of students in inclusive classrooms. In the studies that were conducted, students without disabilities reported feeling uncomfortable with the physical and social characteristics of some students with special needs. Some students also found difficulty in establishing relationships with students who had severe disabilities. In these situations, communication was often not reciprocated by the students with special needs, making it difficult and uncomfortable for non-disabled students. (Peck, Donaldson, and Pezzoli, 1990) These two issues can definitely be seen as challenges and detractors towards inclusion. Many adults feel uncomfortable and awkward being in the presence of persons with physical, behavioural and emotional disabilities. It is not shocking then, that children would feel the same way when first introduced to persons with special needs in their classrooms. This is not an unnatural reaction. It is however, a great opportunity for these children to learn and accept others who are different. Our world is made up of people with many different characteristics. Inclusion is becoming the norm in our society. Outside of schools people are going to be dealing with persons with special needs. What kind of interactions are going to be taking place if everyone in society is uncomfortable around people who are different from them. Including students with special needs in the classroom needs to be seen as a learning experience. Young children are innocent and have not formed concrete opinions of others. They are very open to all people, mainly because they do not pay attention to the differences that adults see in others. On the other hand, they are very impressionable. As they grow they begin to form opinions. Too often they are exposed to negative attitudes and stereotypes towards others, especially persons who have special needs. If students can be exposed to difference early in the educational careers, they will be given the chance to form positive attitudes towards others with special needs. Later in life, they will be able to resist the negative influence and stereotypes that others place on people who are different. Ideally, they will stand up to these discriminatory practices and encourage others to value and respect difference. This notion sounds very idealistic and utopian. Obviously just sharing a classroom with persons with special needs is not going to lead to positive experiences. Forming relationships with students who have moderate and severe disabilities can and will be difficult. Again, the opportunity must be taken to
  10. 10. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 10 encourage interaction between the two groups of students. It may take a long time and be uncomfortable and difficult at times, but eventually great relationships can be formed. Although concerns about socializing have been expressed by students without disabilities who are involved in inclusive classrooms, they are not the only ones who foresee problems. Parents of students with special needs have also expressed great apprehension and worry. Mary Kaplowitz is a Special Education teacher in Pennsylvania. She was a supporter of inclusion until she had a child of her own who was born with autism. She soon realized the negative impact schooling could have on her child. After only a short time in pre-school she noticed that her son was being rejected and isolated from the other students. None of the other children would play with him, and eventually they started making fun of him because of his disabilities. (Tomsho, 2007) Stories such as this are not uncommon among families that have children with special needs. The benefits of being educated and socialized with students who do not have special needs are many and have the potential to be positive. But there is a risk of these experiences becoming very negative. A lot of care and supervision must be exercised within inclusive classrooms by teachers and administrators. Students that do not have disabilities have to understand the differences of their peers and understand their roles and responsibilities. Positive attitudes must be reinforced and negative, disrespectful behaviours must be dealt with quickly and sternly. Including students with special needs in the mainstream classroom presents a number of challenges to teachers. Teachers, in general, are not trained to teach children with special needs. Many university teacher education programs will touch briefly on teaching the ‘adaptive dimension’, but unless a teacher is a special education major or minor, they will have had very limited training. Each student with a special need has unique abilities and disabilities. There may be certain strategies and aides needed that will enable them to learn best. The majority of teachers will not be as educated as they need to be to understand the uniqueness of each child’s disability, and will therefore not know how to help them learn best. If teachers are placed into a situation that they are not trained for, it is not unrealistic to expect a negative outcome. The child with the special need will not be taught as they need and deserve to be. The education of the other students in the class may suffer because of the teacher devoting a majority of their
  11. 11. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 11 time to the students with special needs. And finally, the health and success of the teacher will be put at risk. It is obvious that being placed into an uncomfortable position will cause great amounts of stress. With this will come failing health and job dissatisfaction for the teacher. In this case, both the students and teacher will suffer. For inclusion to work, supports need to be put in place. It is not as easy as just putting the children with special needs into the classroom and waiting to see what happens. Teachers need to be given training on the nature of the disability of each student. They must know what the capabilities of the students are, and what the areas of weakness are. Throughout the school year, teachers will need constant assistance in developing teaching materials, and in monitoring the learning of their students. There are a number of ways that teachers can be assisted. Administration, firstly, must be fully supportive of the teachers, and provide them with the necessary materials and aides. Consultants specializing in the education of students with special needs should be available to teachers whenever needed. At times, teachers may require aides in the classroom to provide one on one help to students. With a strong support system in place, there is no doubt that the inclusion of students with special needs into the mainstream classroom can be a successful venture. The final group with an interest in inclusion is governments and school boards. The main interest of these two groups is the financial implications of inclusion. Education is becoming more and more expensive and the organizations funding it are always looking for ways to cut costs. Supporters of inclusion insist that it is much cheaper to include students with special needs into the mainstream classroom than it is to segregate them in their own classroom. This makes sense, as the number of classrooms, teachers and aides required could be reduced. Adversaries of inclusion counter by raising the question: What is more important, the cost of education, or the quality of education? Is it more important to cut corners and jeopardize the quality of education, in order to save money? Most would agree that the quality of education is much more important. Most would also agree though, that what is correct and best for students is not always what happens.
  12. 12. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 12 It has become quite clear that inclusion is a much more complex topic than it may seem. There are many stakeholders with valid concerns and interests in the issue. Everyone involved in the issue is very passionate about their beliefs and views. This is understandable, as the lives and futures of many of our youth are being affected. When all sides of the issue are studied, I believe that the most effective educational strategy for all parties involved is to include students with special needs in the mainstream classroom as much as possible. However, I do still feel that isolated classrooms need to be incorporated at times. The learning that takes place in mainstream classrooms can be reinforced in settings where students with special needs are removed from their peers. These settings may also be the best place for learning of some subjects to occur. For example, students who are easily distracted may learn reading skills better when in a quiet, removed setting. The benefits of inclusion are too many to keep isolating students with special needs from mainstream classrooms. The educational benefits and effects on learning have been evidenced. Students taught in a general education setting with support from a special education classroom have been shown to have the best academic success. It is also important to consider the life skills that students with special needs must learn while in school. Social skills, including appropriate interaction and communication with others, are important skills that all students learn in school. Isolating students with special needs from their non-disabled peers prevents these students from improving their social skills. It has also been shown that non-disabled students do not suffer when they have students with special needs included in their classrooms. In fact, they can benefit. Their academic success is not affected in any negative ways. Conversely, in some situations their academic success can be increased. Their social skills are also improved when exposed to students with special needs. They are able to establish relationships, and are able to develop an understanding and respect for people who are different from themselves. Thus, inclusion is a benefit for all students and society in general. It is true that inclusion does have many challenges. Change is never easy. But change never happens if challenges are not addressed and overcome. Issues raised by parents and adversaries to inclusion are valid and credible. Some studies have revealed that students with certain disabilities do
  13. 13. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 13 learn better in isolated settings. For example, Cohen found that “research shows significant gains as measured by performance intelligence tests of deaf children who attend schools for the deaf – gains that are not found in deaf children who attend mainstream programs.” (Cohen, 1994) This research cannot be disregarded. It can be used to support the argument of combining general education with special education. At times, isolated settings are better for learning. But the additional benefits of inclusion (social, feelings of worth) can also not be downplayed. They are just as important as the academic benefits of inclusion. Change takes time, dedication and commitment. There are many changes that must be undertaken for inclusion to be successful. Supports must be put in place for students, parents and teachers. School boards and governments must change policy and funding frameworks for the necessary change to be implemented. As changes are introduced, and the results start to become evident, it will be apparent that an inclusive strategy involving the combination of general and special education is the best educational practice for students with and without special needs.
  14. 14. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 14 References Banerji, M., & Dailey, R. A. (1995). A study of the effects of an inclusion model on students with specific learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28, 511-522. Biklen, C., Corrigan, C., & Quick, D. (1989). Beyond obligation: Students' relations with each other in integrated classes. In D. Lipsky and A. Gartner, Eds.,Beyond Separate Education: Quality Education for All. Burge, Ouellette-Kuntz, Hutchinson. (2008). A quarter century of inclusive education for children with intellectual disabilities in Ontario: Public perceptions. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 87, 1-22. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982. Department of Justice Canada. Cohen, O. (1994). Inclusion should not include deaf students. Education Week. Kennedy, C.H., Shukla, S., & Fryxell, D. (1997). Comparing the effects of educational placement on the social relationships of intermediate school students with severe disabilities, Exceptional Children, 64, 31 – 48. Marston, D. (1996). A comparison of inclusion only, pull-out only, and combined service models for students with mild disabilities. Journal of Special Education 30, 2. 121-132. New Brunswick Association for Community Living. (2000). Achieving inclusion: a parent guide to inclusive education in New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB. Peck, C. A., Donaldson, J.,& Pezzoli, M. (1990). Some benefits adolescents perceive for themselves from their social relationships with peers who have severe disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 15(4), 241-249. Salend, S., Garrick Duhaney, L. (2000). The impact of inclusion on students with and without disabilities and their educators. Remedial and Special Education, 20, 114-126. Schwarz, P. (2006). From disability to possibility. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  15. 15. EADM 310 Policy Analysis 15 Tomsho, R. (2007, November 27). Parents of disabled students push for separate classes. The Wall Street Journal. p. A1.

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