Contrary to Arne Duncan, and the latest DOE report claiming IEPs should be written the same for everyone, troubled students–students with behavioral/emotional disabilities–should have the right to services to address their problems. If their difficulties go unaddressed, left to the general education teacher with a class of 30 students, it could affect not only the troubled student, but the students in that class without disabilities.
Placing 90% of students with disabilities into general classes, means teachers get a hodgepodge of disability challenges. How does this affect students who don’t have such difficulties?
Seriously troubled students are one of the biggest problems facing teachers in public schools today.
Public schools must serve all students while private, parochial and charter schools can counsel troubled students out so the school environment will be favorable for learning. Most of today’s charter schools are strict and will not deal with children who act out.
We learned, in fact, that some “marching in a straight line” charter schools carry discipline too far and suspend students with even minor offenses.
Success Charter School leader Eva Moskowitz was embarrassed, rightly so, during a recent report by John Merrow. It came to light that kindergartners in her charter schools were suspended for lightweight behavior problems—the same problems public school teachers addressed through thoughtful solutions.
But the problem remains, that until traditional public schools find more viable solutions for serving all children, and teens, with behavioral and emotional disabilities, students will continue to appear to fail in the inclusion classroom, and in public schools, when they are put up against schools that can get rid of such difficult students.
While Arne Duncan and company swear that high expectations is all that it takes, and that inclusion should be for everyone, they don’t take into consideration the effect inclusion has on students with emotional disabilities who need additional assistance—and those without disabilities.
Teachers in general classes used to document their attempts to assist a troubled student, but if those strategies did not work, the teacher, special education teacher, school psychologist, school counselor, and other professionals, and, of course, parents, met and worked out an Individual Educational Plan and class placement for the child to get help.
IDEA re-authorization, along with No Child Left Behind, made this procedure more difficult, and with the new rules one wonders if there will be an end to the IEP! Yet, students who act out in general education classrooms are what drive some some parents to put their children in private, parochial or charter schools.
Research has been murky when it comes to inclusion benefits for students with emotional or behavioral disabilities, but spillover effects were found, affecting students without disabilities.
One study found that over half of all first graders are taught in inclusion classrooms, over 25 percent work alongside students exhibiting learning disabilities, and almost 10 percent share their teacher with a classmate who has an emotional disorder (Fletcher, 2009).
When teachers are forced to spend added time accommodating a child who acts out, it affects all the other students.
And, test result findings from the same study, suggest that first graders, with a student in their class who exhibited an emotional disorder, had decreased test scores in reading and math. This spillover effect is likely larger in low income schools .
Think not only how that affects individual students who don’t have disabilities, but teachers and schools. Inclusion affects how a teacher is evaluated, and it could also matter as to whether a public school stays open.
Schools should be set up to accommodate students with emotional and behavioral difficulties, without making children, or teens, feel stigmatized, and without ruining the education of students without disabilities.
Inclusion is a worthy class placement for many students with disabilities, and they can succeed there, especially given smaller class settings and teachers with proper training, resources, and added support from other professionals.
I would argue, however, that teachers in inclusion settings are not always getting that support and those resources.
More studies should be done to determine the effectiveness of inclusion, and a continuum of special education services for all students with disabilities who are not ready for inclusion, and a meaningful IEP should be available.
It is no cakewalk like the Obama administration is implying. We should not brand students with emotional or behavioral disabilities, nor should students without disabilities have to bear the brunt of ineffective inclusion placements that stymie their ability to learn.
Fletcher, Jason. 2010. “Spillover Effects of Inclusion of Classmates with Emotional Problems on Test Scores in Early Elementary.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 29 (1):29-83