Friday, March 5, 2010

More on Inclusion and alternatives for disabled students

A year ago, the Washington DC Examiner ran a story entitled Special ed integration fails expectations. Schools in Montgomery County Maryland phased out the use of "segregated" (perhaps the word "specialized" is a better term) classrooms for students with severe learning disabilities. The result, at least as far as standardized testing shows, was poor: 100% of the students moved out to regular classes scored at the lowest level on the state math exam, and 81% did as poorly on the state reading test.

Only 25% of teachers use "differentiated" instruction with the LD students, meaning that most teachers did not adjust instruction and assignments to the needs of the students. Only 50% of teachers attended a required training on bringing special ed students into their classrooms.

Parents who objected to the change in policy when it began in 2007, renewed their objections with the poor test results.

The school district, however, said those kids who moved were lucky because in many schools the special education learning centers were "academically inferior dumping grounds for students — often racial minorities — who could have thrived in a regular classroom with proper support." In other words, by its own admission, the district was responsible for some pretty crappy special ed programs. It responded to the problem by moving all the kids into regular classrooms with crappy services.

In another story out of the Washington, D.C. area, Catholic schools are increasingly providing options for special needs children: "Forty-two percent of Catholic elementary schools in the United States had a resource teacher to help students with special needs in 2008-09, up from 28 percent in 2001-02, according to the National Catholic Educational Association."

Parents are motivated by a desire to have a faith-based program for their children, but they are offered special classes and other resources for children with autism, Asperger's, and intellectual disabilities that are not necessarily available in public schools. A fundraising group called the Catholic Coalition for Special Education has awarded grants worth more than $400,000 for schools to hire special-education teachers and help teachers pursue degrees in special education. Families also pay extra tuition for these services.

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