Inclusion of troubled kids hurts classmates

“Including” young children with emotional and behavioral disabilities affects the learning and behavior of their non-disabled classmates, researchers conclude. Other students “had more absences, lower math and reading scores in kindergarten and 1st grade, and were more likely to act out in the classroom or struggle with social skills,” reports Ed Week.

Image result for angry kindergartener

Federal law requires mainstreaming of students with disabilities “to the maximum extent appropriate”.

There is a “direct negative effect,” said researcher Michael A. Gottfried, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In 2009, Jason Fletcher, currently a University of Wisconsin professor, looked at the “spillover effects” of inclusion of emotionally and behaviorally disabled students on their non-disabled classmates.

. . . Fletcher found that the negative spillover effects were more “robust and larger for reading” and had more of an impact on African-American and Hispanic nondisabled students in low-income schools. Fletcher also reported that score gaps between Hispanic and white students were larger at the end of the school year in classrooms with students with emotional or behavioral disabilities than they were in demographically similar classrooms without such students. The same pattern held for the gaps between white and black students.

This is very troubling — and not very surprising.

From special ed to the workforce


Kelly Custer teaches horticulture students at River Terrace Special Education Center in Washington, D.C. Photo: Grey Korhonen/Atlantic

After years of “inclusion,” only two-thirds of special-ed students earn a regular high school diploma. Those with intellectual or developmental disabilities are even less likely to complete high school. As adults, most are unemployed or underemployed.

Now, “specialized workforce academies for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities are growing in popularity,” reports Alia Wong in The Atlantic.

At the River Terrace Special Education Center in Washington, D.C., mentally retarded students who’ve completed a mainstream high school train for jobs in plant care, hospitals and hotels.

When they’re in the classroom, students learn soft skills—What does it mean to have a job? How do you keep a job? How do you deposit a paycheck?—and practice their work tasks in retrofitted classrooms. (Students in the hospitality track, for example, learn how to prepare a basic meal, make a bed, clean a bathroom, and load a laundry cart in a room that’s equipped with a bed, a hotel-like bathroom, a washing machine, a dining table, and more.) But students spend most of their days doing internships in their respective industries, all of which are paid.

Adrian Bland tried various jobs at Embassy Suites — housekeeping, laundry attendant, dishwasher and door person — before deciding she likes to be a porter. A June graduate, she’s been hired for a permanent job.

Jannika Napper works at a VA hospital

Jannika Napper works at a VA hospital, where she washes tables, stacks trays, restocks the food court and other tasks.

“Many of [my students] have experienced school as a place where, academically, they’re left out,” said Kelly Custer, who teaches in the horticulture track. “In previous experiences they were the ones that were doing very poorly in class; now, they’re getting 100s in their classwork, and you can see . . .  it changes their confidence—and that spills over to the worksite.”

Workforce academies are controversial, writes Wong. Some critics value inclusion above all. Others complain “the programs pigeonhole severely disabled students into a vocational path and as a result never encourage them to consider college.”

Some colleges offer special programs for intellectually disabled students, she writes. However, these focus on social skills, not preparing students for jobs they might be able to do as well as anyone.

Some River Terrace students have exited 13+ years of mainstreaming without having learned how to read. Half didn’t complete their year-long program this year and only five got permanent jobs. Should they rest consider college?

Most young adults with significant disabilities can work in non-sheltered jobs, according to the Collaboration To Promote Self-Determination.

Charters close special-ed gap

Charters are closing the special-education gap with district schools and are more likely to mainstream special-ed students, according to an analysis by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools.

District schools classify 12.55 percent of students as needing special education, compared to 10.42 percent in charter schools. That gap is shrinking.

Charter students with disabilities are far more likely to spend their school day in maisntream classrooms.

Charters may not serve as many severely disabled students who require a separate class, said Lauren Morando Rhim, executive director of NCSECS. Inclusion also is more practical for small schools.

“If you’re in a huge district, you might pool resources and put all the kids with disability A in this school, but if you’re a single charter school operating as its own district, you can’t do that,” said Morando Rhim. “So you’re going to figure out how to integrate them in their program versus creating a distinct program.”

Charter and district schools suspend and expel students with disabilities at about the same rate, according to the report. In both sectors, students with disabilities are much more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students.

The report also identified 115 charters that focus on serving disabled students.

Law requires gay history, but …

California law requires teachers to “provide fair, accurate, inclusive and respectful representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in K-12 history and social studies,” reports Jennifer Modenessi for Bay Area News Group. And the contributions of people with disabilities also must be taught. What does that mean? Nobody’s quite sure.

1860s: Women who fought as men in the Civil War There are over 400 documented cases or women fighting as men in the U.S. Civil War. These are photos of a few of them ©Exclusivepix

Frances Clalin, a mother of three from Illinois, served as Union cavalryman Jack Williams.

When Elizabeth Aracic teaches Civil War history at Orinda’s Miramonte High School, she tells students that some women dressed in men’s clothing to join the fight. A few continued to dress as men after the war was over.

I have to wonder: Is Walt Whitman chopped liver just because he was a gay male with no transgender points. He nursed the war wounded, wrote the easy-to-parse O Captain! My Captain! and was . . . not a factoid.

The state Department of Education is considering updates to its history and social studies framework suggested by a Committee on LGBT History.

xxxx

“Jack Williams” fought in 18 battles, was wounded three times and taken prisoner.

“Proposals include discussing how frontier conditions during the Gold Rush led men to take on women’s roles, or women to live as men,” writes Modenessi. “Another suggestion is to look at how the Industrial Revolution allowed transplants from farms and small towns to form same-sex relationships in the anonymity of large cities.”

In the Moraga School District, teachers discuss Native American attitudes toward “two-spirit” people — those said to be born with both male and female spirits — in eighth-grade history, says Superintendent Bruce Burns. It’s a two-fer! And mildly interesting.

Seventh-grade students learn about Renaissance artists. Some of the really good ones were gay! (John L’Heureux’s The Medici Boy is all about homosexuality and art in Renaissance Florence, but no teacher will assign it to middle-school kids.)

Is it possible to teach subgroup-inclusive history without trivializing?

Parents choose special-ed charters

Charters designed for students with disabilities are renewing the “inclusion debate,” reports Arianna Prothero in Ed Week.

A student adds a Ninja Turtle head to his chart as a reward for completing a class activity at Arizona Autism Charter School. —Patrick Breen for Education Week
A student adds a Ninja Turtle head to his chart as a reward for completing a class activity at Arizona Autism Charter School.
—Patrick Breen for Education Week

Diana Diaz-Harrison opened a charter school in Phoenix for her son, who has autism, and similar students. The Arizona Autism Charter School, which enrolls 90 students, “is among dozens of charters nationwide that focus on serving students with disabilities,” writes Prothero.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that students with disabilities be taught in the “least restrictive environment.” That usually means mainstreaming students.

Some parents prefer a specialized school designed for their children’s needs.

About 100 charters are designed for special-ed students, according to the  Center for Education Reform. While some are disability-specific, others “serve children with a range of disabilities as well as their typically developing peers.”

Several years ago, I visited charters designed for disabled and mainstream students in Michigan and California as a freelance writer on Unique Schools for Unique Students, a Center on Reinventing Public Education book on charters for special-needs students.

Not everyone thinks mainstreaming is the best strategy.

“A majority of kids with disabilities are performing very poorly—very, very poorly—where they receive all or most of their instruction in the mainstream classroom,” said Doug Fuchs, a special education professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “Inclusion must account for whether or not students are profiting educationally from the mainstream setting.”

Many students at Arizona Autism Charter School were doing poorly in mainstream classrooms, says Diaz-Harrison.

Special-ed co-teachers may function as “very expensive finger pointers,” writes Peter DeWitt, who’s taught inclusion classes, in Ed Week. The Goldilocks quandary remains: “How do we find a balance between having higher expectations without making those expectations so high that we continue to make a marginalized population of students feel even more marginalized?”

Ethnic studies replaces geography

Ethnic studies will replace geography as a graduation requirement in El Rancho Unified School District in southern California, reports the Whittier Daily News.

The requirement will “expose our students to global perspectives and inclusion of diversity,” said Jose Lara, vice president of the school board.

“Students need to feel validated,” said Aurora Villon, the board president. ““When you negate their culture, they feel less than other students.”

Although 98 percent of El Rancho students are Hispanic, “a variety of cultures will be studied,” Villon said.

Lara said students might take an art class that focuses on Mexican-American work or an English class that includes African-American literature.

Via Democrats for Education Reform:

 

It’s time to debate ‘mainstreaming’

It’s time to debate whether debate whether mainstreaming special-education students is fair to all students, argues attorney Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, author of Fixing Special Education, in a Wall Street Journal commentary.

When teachers focus on students who need more attention, other children get less attention, writes Freedman. Yet parents of regular-education students rarely challenge policies that place high-need children in mainstream classrooms.

The special-education system in the U.S. is highly regulated by law, expensive, and sometimes marked by litigiousness. Those working to reform the system are almost exclusively people with a direct stake in it—including school representatives, parents of students with disabilities, advocates, lawyers, special educators, academics and government officials.

Fourteen percent of students are in special education today: 70 to 80 percent have mild or moderate disabilities, including learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, social and emotional disabilities, ADHD, etc. While federal regulations govern special ed, 80 percent of funding comes from states.

Students with disabilities have the right to be in the “least restrictive environment” to the maximum extent “appropriate,” with added resources such as computers, large-print or recorded books, and personal aides, if needed.

Look into the research on inclusion and you will find that this policy is generally based on notions of civil rights and social justice, not on “best education practices” for all students. The effectiveness of inclusion for students with disabilities varies—some groups and individual students benefit; others don’t. This is one reason why inclusion remains controversial in some segments of the disability community.

Very little work has been done to establish how inclusion affects regular students—whether they are average, English-language learners, advanced, poor or homeless. Studies seem to support the social benefits of mainstreaming for children with disabilities and possibly for regular-education students, but what about the effect on their academic progress?

Teachers may tell you (privately) that inclusion often leads them to slow down and simplify classroom teaching. Yet the system is entrenched and politically correct.

Educators and parents should join a “robust, inclusive and frank national discussion” on how to fix a broken special education system, Freedman concludes.

I’d be very interested in what teachers really think about inclusion. How many are getting the supports they need to do it well?

Education and rights

I was working through some ideas for a paper I’m sketching out, and I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’d been thinking about.  Now, we’ve all heard about inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And most of us have probably heard (ad nauseum) that education is a right.  We know because, among many other organizations, the United Nations tells us so.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.

Normative instruments of the United Nations and UNESCO lay down international legal obligations for the right to education. These instruments promote and develop the right of every person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion.

Often.

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

There are manifold state Constitutional provisions, and a small host of legislative statutes and court decisions establishing various rights to education here in the United States, as well.

So what, exactly, is the extent of this right?  There’s an obvious legal-realism sort of answer that I want to put aside for now: I’m not interested in hearing how the extent of the right is whatever the courts say it is.  My question is aimed at the right not as a legal phenomenon, but as a moral one.  Let’s assume there’s a moral right to an education, a right that one holds against one’s parents, or against one’s society.  How far does such a right go? [Read more…]

Sensible ways to fix special ed

Special education is overdue for “common-sense” reform, writes attorney Miriam Kurtzig Freedman in The Atlantic. “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is an example of a statute that has achieved its noble mission but now urgently needs to be fixed in order to address its unintended consequences.” She proposes:

Focus on improving regular education for all students. The better that regular education is, the fewer students need to be identified for special education services. When developing inclusive programs, schools should base them on effective teaching practices that improve educational outcomes for both students with disabilities and regular education students.

. . . end the “medical model” in which IDEA eligibility for services requires a specialist’s diagnosis. This model is costly, problematic, and inexact. It often kicks in too late, after previously undiagnosed students have struggled and failed. The far better solution is to provide timely and appropriate education services for all students in our schools, based on their current performance, without the need for a diagnosis or label.

End the compliance-based approach to special education. Parents and teachers alike should be liberated from endless form-filling and meetings. Compliance does not improve student results. Only time on task — in classrooms — does.

Finally, use mediators, ombudsmen or other dispute-resolution models to encourage trust and collaboration between parents and schools, suggests Freedman.

Has special-ed inclusion backfired?

Has special-ed inclusion backfired? On Hechinger Ed, Sarah Butrymowicz questions whether students with special needs are best served by spending all or most of their day “with a teacher who likely knows little about how best to teach them.”

Federal mandates that students must be educated in “the least restrictive environment” possible.

Some classrooms are led by a general-education teacher helped out by a special-education teacher, in a team-teaching model. In other cases, however, students with special needs receive instruction from specialists only a few hours a day or week in pull-out sessions. That is, many special-education students spend the bulk of their days being taught primarily by general-education teachers.

Yet a typical general-education teacher-in-training only takes one or two courses about special education.

Some teacher-prep programs don’t require a single course focused on teaching students with disabilities; half of secondary programs don’t require field experience with special education students.

Is more training the answer? Or should we rethink inclusion? Teachers have only so much time, energy and ability to “differentiate instruction.” I suspect they could teach more effectively — and be less exhausted — if students were grouped by performance level.