Should Special Ed Kids Be Mainstreamed?
Miriam Kurtzig Freedman looks at the impact upon non-disabled kids when special ed kids are mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
On the one hand, this may help kids see people with disabilities as people and have some compassion for them. Or...maybe these kids are treated cruelly in some of these classrooms and are unable to fight back against the higher-functioning. I don't know. I don't have kids. You tell me.
And tell me what you think the impact is on learning -- for the special ed kids, for the regular kids, and for any gifted kids.
Freedman writes in the WSJ about the $80 billion to $110 billion program that is special ed:
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. Many parents remain silent. Some quietly remove their kids from public schools.
Can this be anything but very bad for America? Our schools thrive only with a diverse student population and engaged parents--not with the departure of those who choose to leave.
None of this is about being anti- or pro-special or regular education. The purpose is to focus on fairness and equity for all students in the nation's classrooms. That goal can only be achieved by encouraging many more people, especially parents and educators, to come forward with their views and experiences. The time for that robust, inclusive and frank national discussion is now.
Your thoughts and experiences?