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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

More disabled students, less time for teaching

Teachers spend less time on teaching — and more time maintaining order — if they have lots of students with disabilities in their classrooms, according to the 2013 Time and Learning International Survey, which includes teachers from 38 countries, including the United States.

It’s not that teachers are devoting more instructional time to their special-needs students, North Cooc, a University of Texas special education professor told Christina Samuels of Education Week. “There is something about behavior that is driving teachers to spend less time teaching, and it’s separate from these other disabilities such as learning disabilities or language impairments.”

In the 2013 survey, teachers with no special education students reported spending  10 percent of their time on keeping order. That rose to 23 percent of time spent keeping order for teachers whose classes included 31 percent or more students with special needs.

“Classrooms with a high percentage of students with special education needs also tended to have high percentages of language minorities, low-income students and students with low academic achievement,” writes Samuels.

In addition, teachers with a high percentage of special-needs students tend to have less experience and training than their colleagues.

Federal policy requires teaching students in the “least restrictive environment,” writes Samuels. “Between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of U.S. students in special education who spent 80 percent of the day in general education classrooms rose from 54 percent to 63 percent.”

Inclusion of students with disabilities also is the norm in Canada, England, Singapore and Sweden.

It’s hard for me to believe that teaching students with a variety of special needs, while also teaching mainstream students, doesn’t take a great deal of instructional time.

Special-education “law requires teachers to implement endless bureaucratic hoops, attend meetings and do hours of paperwork,” leaving them less time to teach, says Miriam Kurtzig, a special-education lawyer and author of Special Education 2.0. She wants to “balance mainstreaming/ inclusion with the education needs of all students.”

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