Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Downside to Inclusion

Many people view inclusion as a goal for all students with special needs. I'm not one of those people, because my experience as a parent has showed me that all students have their own needs -- and the range of autism is so wide that no one-size solution will meet all students' needs.

A new report on inclusion hit close to home for me, since it looked at Montgomery County, Md. (where I live) and because next year my 5-year-old daughter will leave the safe confines of a special autism preschool for a program (yet to be determined) provided by the county. A year ago, the county had a big push to integrate students with special needs and closed specialized learning centers -- and to say the results are mixed would be generous. Read "Special Ed Integration Fails Expectations," from the DC Examiner.

Levels of academic achievement for the special ed students were very low, but that's not what troubles me. The report says only about 25 percent of teachers used "differentiated" instruction for the special-needs students -- they taught everyone the same way. More disturbing -- just over half of the teachers attended a mandatory training about how to integrate these new students into their classrooms. (Which makes me wonder what "mandatory" means in Montgomery County schools. If a teacher skips a mandatory training, how about docking their pay till they attend a makeup session?)

Kay Romero, president of the county’s PTA, testified to the school board this week in support of an effort to re-evaluate the decision to phase out the learning centers. "Our most complex students should have an educational path that is tailored to their needs, and not tailored to fit a square peg in a round hole," she said.
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