Inclusion: A Necessary Step

23 Feb

Some schools have eliminated what we know as “resource” classes (also known as self-contained) to place these students in inclusion classes. Teachers know very well that their students come with diverse backgrounds. School districts on the border receive quite a few “new” students from Mexico and Central America who have very little knowledge of English (many come as a result of the violence).  Special steps are taken to assimilate them into the system and most of them fit quite well after a couple of years. But others do not fare so well; their reading level is equivalent to second or third grade. They suffer from a gamut of disabilities, from moderate to severe, and often exhibit a very low I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient).  As a result of the move to regular classes, classroom teachers are overwhelmed with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans). They simply cannot cope by themselves and require the support of Inclusion Teachers who are certified in Special Education.

There is however no special school to prepare Inclusion Teachers and every district is scrambling to find adequate training; as special education teachers are not certified in one particular area, they are often required to assist students in academic areas in which they are not proficient, which requires them to stay at least one lesson ahead of their pupils. Good academic institutions at the high school level will assign classes according to each individual’s expertise and college major; elementary and middle schools represent an easier challenge for Inclusion Teachers and they may even co-teach with the regular teacher. In this latter situation, both are working together from the outset preparing lesson plans and syllabus. Again, personalities may clash and defeat the whole purpose of efficient instruction, and conscious principals and department heads will endeavor to match compatible teachers.

Some schools like to pull-out lower functioning students for re-teaching purposes; the Inclusion Teacher will take the students to a quiet area where he or she will work with the small group until satisfied that they understand the lesson. Other schools refuse to allow this strategy, a mistake in my view simply because the additional instruction cannot be done in the regular classroom without distracting the other students. There are some bureaucratic considerations involved when taking a student out of the normal classroom as it affects the so-called Instructional Arrangement, a measure linked to financial support for the district. But as a matter of principle, whatever helps the student must be set up on a regular basis.

Placing low functioning students with their non-disabled peers, the theory states, will benefit them not only academically, but socially as well; they supposedly stop feeling inferior and humiliated by being segregated in special facilities. They become one of the bunch of regular students. However, their low performance in class might make them feel different, and hence discouraging them from trying hard. I can attest that this happens in some cases: “I am too dumb to pass this class.” A special intervention must then be carried out in by a trained and certified at-risk counselor. Still, there are always some individuals who will refuse to do the academic assignments, and eventually drop out of school. Gangs and broken families may be the main culprits.

Inclusion classes are the modern trend and public schools would do well to try and place their special education students in regular classes as often as possible; for that, they will need very competent Inclusion Teachers who should be trained intensively before every academic cycle and placed with classroom teachers willing to work with them.

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