Bumpy playing field

A Delaware teacher responds to a handout extolling full inclusion of disabled students in mainstream classrooms. As the handout puts it: All teachers are “given the opportunity to fully teach all students” when students with different needs are “not placed in segregated settings.”

Isn’t it nice that we’re being “given the opportunity?” . . . like they’ve been withholding some kind of privilege. And how about the fact that students are put in “segregated settings” (love the civil rights language, by the way) because they need more intensive help than the regular classroom teacher can provide and not bore the rest of the class that’s learning at the expected pace?

Here’s more from the handout:

This relatively new knowledge substantiates what many excellent educators have “known” for decades: that allowing for learner differences does not give students unfair advantages – learning is not a win lose situation, but gives teachers the opening to “level the playing field” of education so that all students have the best opportunity to learn.

The teacher wonders how to level a playing field when her class mixes honor students with special ed students.

And you’ve gotta love how they’ve spun the line about subtantiating what excellent teachers have known for decades. Like we’re wet-behind-the-ears, inexperienced know-nothings if we disagree with their theory.

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was bored most of the time because the class moved too slowly for me. I’d read surreptitiously; the teacher would leave me alone. And yet the class wasn’t slow enough for the slowest students. There was no racial or ethnic diversity, and very little income diversity. We just had normal human diversity, and it was enough to make a teacher’s job difficult. Mixing kids with radically different needs, abilities, achievement levels and English fluency doesn’t level the playing the field. Too often it levels the teacher.

Via Number 2 Pencil.

About Joanne


  1. The No Child Getting Ahead program.

    Am I the only that suspects that administrators that dream up such things must just plain hate smart kids?

  2. Aren’t school districts just full of wonderful administrators?

  3. markm wrote:

    “Am I the only that suspects that administrators that dream up such things must just plain hate smart kids?”

    I seriously(!) wondered this myself; about some teachers too. It’s not hate, perhaps. Maybe it’s just the really bad vibes that get directed towards the parents. I was talking to my son’s first grade teacher once about how he loves geography and can find any country and knows all of the state capitals. She said “yes, he has a lot of superficial knowledge.” Of course, later in the year he had to show the student teacher where Kuwait was on the map.

    Full Inclusion! How is this done? Well, you need to learn about “Differentiated Instruction”, sometimes referred to now as “Differentiated Learning” because “instruction” is a dirty word.

    When my son was in our school’s full-day kindergarten, I asked his teacher how she (they) could teach borderline autistic kids along with some kids who already knew how to read in the same group. She explained it as a method of teaching where each child has the ability to learn something from each lesson. I didn’t say they had to learn a lot. They just had to learn something. Ideology first; pragmatism and grade-level expectations second.

    Then there is the idea that all kids are equal, but they just have different learning styles. This lead to a questionaire being sent home this year asking parents to describe their child’s learning style. One parent wrote “fast” and sent it back in. My son didn’t get past first grade in that school because “differentiated learning” turned out to be differentiated homework. He wasn’t doing much learning during the day. Perhaps that is why 25 percent of our town’s kids go to private schools. Of course, the explanation is that these parents simply want an elite education. Actually, I wanted a school that didn’t wait until the middle of third grade to expect mastery of adds and subtracts to 20.

    It’s not just about different learning styles. If it was, then the teacher would teach the subjects using whatever methods were required to get the students to master the material. (Don’t all good teachers do this anyway?) It is also about spiraling the curriculum so that slower learners don’t get left behind their age peers. Our superintendent says that they will never do “pull-out”, so what do the average and better students do when the slower learners are taught the same material again in the following grades? Differentiated enrichment homework or nothing. The idea is that they do not want to “track” any of the students. Well, they do track. It just happens to be by age. Our school knows that there are problems. They see the mass exodus of better students. They euphemistically call it an “academic ceiling”. They are working on it. There is little push for change because many students have left and their parents wash their hands of the problems. Other parents who can’t afford private schools figure they can’t fight city hall and they make up the difference at home or with private tutoring.

  4. Half Canadian says:

    The rhetoric is nice and all, but is there any actual proof (you know, comparing low-scoring students intigrated into reg-ed classes to ‘segregated’ learners) that this works?
    Rather than ideology, wouldn’t it be nice if these decisions were data driven?

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Half Canadian is full right.

  6. Half Canadian wrote:

    Rather than ideology, wouldn’t it be nice if these decisions were data driven?

    Oh come on Walter. Half Canadian is just indulging in a “jolly”.

    If data drove education decision-making what room would there be for decisions based on self-indulgence? Not much, I think. Might as well close three out of four ed schools then.

  7. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Engineers occasionally used a rubber slide rule to justify a project. It is a comfort to know our profession is not alone in that.

  8. I had a severly disabled boy mainstreamed in my class. He had a full time aide who escorted him to class and sat next to him.

    He couldn’t talk or write his name. He shook his head and drooled and sometimes he stamped his feet and yelled.

    I was teaching Romeo and Juliet. I think the aide got something out of it.

  9. My high functioning autistic child had a Kindergarten teacher who spelled earring, earing. The teacher did shake her head, though I never seen her drool. She may have even stomped her foot occasionally.

    My son did correct the teacher on her spelling. Yes, an autistic child correcting a teacher on her spelling.

    My child is 9 years old and reading The Illiad translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Mmm, I wonder if that teacher could read the book and understand it?

    I took him out of public school in the second grade to educate him at home. I couldn’t see him being held back academically, due to the slowness of the teachers and other students.

  10. Walter E. Wallis wrote:

    Engineers occasionally used a rubber slide rule to justify a project.

    Yeah, but those engineers are always trying to get away with something. It isn’t policy to use a rubber sliderule.

    And the engineering schools don’t teach the use a rubber sliderule to the exclusion of the more conventional tool.