Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Special Education Stories of Note

This story from Education Next - The Better Question: How Can We Improve Inclusive Education? - came from a previous story they had published - Has Inclusion Gone Too Far? - which in turn came from yet another story - How Can We Improve Special Education without Asking Uncomfortable Questions?"  (Links for other stories at the first one.)

From How Can We Improve Special Education without Asking Uncomfortable Questions? by Allison F. Gilmour
Schifter and Hehir comprehensively review the policies and court cases that have established the preference for educating students with disabilities in general education settings. The general education setting is the least restrictive environment for most students with disabilities, and the push for educating students with disabilities in their neighborhood schools and in general education classrooms is an important extension of the civil rights movement. 

At the same time, Schifter and Hehir conveniently ignore the requirement that students with disabilities receive an appropriate, and individualized, education. An appropriate education means that students are receiving the services and interventions that they need in order to make progress in the general education curriculum.

While they acknowledge that settings and services are not the same, Schifter and Hehir continue to defend causal interpretations of the finding that students with disabilities have better outcomes when they spend more time in general education settings.
Examining if and how students with disabilities influence their peers and teachers, and if and how peers and teachers influence students with disabilities, is a necessary step to understanding the current state of inclusive education and what works, for whom, and under what conditions. This line of research may result in findings that make people uncomfortable, such as those linking students with emotional/behavioral disorders to teacher turnover or classmates’ absences.
From The Better Question: How Can We Improve Inclusive Education? by Laura A. Schifter and Thomas Hehir:
While several of Gilmour’s points are true on their face, her assumptions lead to problematic conclusions. In particular, she suggests that researchers should examine whether students with disabilities have negative effects on their peers and teachers in order to determine if students should be placed in inclusive settings and ultimately argues that policymakers should rethink the law’s emphasis on inclusion. In our view, these conclusions are misguided and even dangerous.

Gilmour’s positions are hardly new, but they are important to counter. Her argument is rooted in the following ableist assumptions: 1) Students with disabilities should have to prove success in order to be included in general education; 2) Students with disabilities are distinctly different from students without disabilities; and 3) Inclusion is a type of special education. Additionally, she takes a deficit-approach in which any failure of students with disabilities is attributed to inherent problems within the students—they do not succeed because they cannot succeed—and relies on this argument to justify their removal from general education.

We flip these assumptions, acknowledging: 1) There is inherent value in educating students with different backgrounds and learning needs together; 2) Students with disabilities are not distinctly different from other students, but rather require additional supports, services, interventions, and accommodations in order to make progress in general education; and 3) Inclusion is a placement where students can receive special education services and research-validated interventions such as those Gilmour cites. Above all, we assume that the success or failure of inclusion depends on the quality of instruction rather than the capabilities of the child.


Anonymous said...

This assumption that the general education classroom is the best place for special needs children is based on 2 other faulty assumptions.

1. Assumption 1: The large number of children who are slower than average to pick up reading, writing, and numeracy are labeled "learning delayed" or "disabled" when most simply need less "discovery" and more traditional teaching with enough practice and regular feedback for mastery... you know, like traditional teaching, phonics, copywork, flashcards, games and yes drills. This is a huge group of students who have been moved into special ed in the past few decades. Really, most of these are regular students, not learning disabled, learning just a little slower than the midpoint, but the teaching has changed, and left these students behind.

2. Assumption 2: There are adequate resources and small enough class sizes to teach all students with every sort of learning need or brain injury in every classroom. Most special education students would be able to keep up academically if they had 1:1 teaching and plenty of time for extra practice. Some students will never be able to keep up, and need to have entirely different learning objectives. There simply are not the resources for 1 classroom teacher to do all this.

Imagine trying to teach algebra to 35 students while some students clearly already know algebra, some may need a refresher over some of the fine points, some need to learn calculations with fractions first, some multiplication tables, some have not mastered place values and some are just learning to count, or recognize numbers as having any relationship to multiple objects. REALLY, how much time can an instructor take away from teaching algebra in an algebra class to count objects with a student struggling with basic numbers or teach fractions. How much of your hour should you spend teaching algebra? It simply does not work with 35 students or 4 students to have an unlimited range of needs and a limited number of minutes.

There needs to be some academic leveling in order to TEACH classes of multiple students. Special classes are supposed to teach the appropriate content at the appropriate level, and pull-outs are supposed to do this. They exist BECAUSE all students have a right to have an appropriate education. Special Ed kids can be ignored/warehoused in gen-ed classrooms as well as specialized classrooms, and guess what, they are.


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Beatrijec Harris said...

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meenati said...

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monstereducation said...

I also have experience with special education. Not so long ago, I sent my child to monstereducation classes. He is very active and unruly. He is 10 years old and apparently I spoiled him a little. But what was unexpected is that he is happy to run to extra classes, because there is not a standard approach to learning.