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Gathered in the spacious area outside their open classrooms, the 1st and 2nd graders start their daily assembly this rainy winter morning with patriotic songs. Boisterously, if a bit off-key, the group of 100 or so belts out traditional favorites.

But they quiet to a hush when country crooner Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A." begins to blare from the stereo, and 2nd grade teacher Laurie Goss announces that they will perform the song in sign language.

More schools are educating students with disabilities in regular classrooms. Are teachers ready?



It takes a few lines before most of the students can synchronize their sweeping motions to keep pace with the lyrics, but soon the children are signing the words as passionately as they sang a few moments earlier.

Every student takes part in some way, including a grinning boy with Down's syndrome sitting to one side of the group and a girl with cerebral palsy nearby. Toward the back of the group, a boy who uses a wheelchair and computerized audio device to speak cannot lift his arms to sign, yet he follows his schoolmates with his eyes.

Zachary Taylor Elementary School, located in this middle-class Washington suburb, has been cited by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and by other area elementary schools as a model full-inclusion school, where students with disabilities spend almost all of their days in regular classes and study the same curriculum as their nondisabled peers. Here, the morning's lesson in mainstreaming will carry through after the assembly disperses, as nearly all disabled students are taught alongside their nondisabled classmates in this K-5, 570-student school.

Taylor's teachers and administrators are thrilled with the results since they first began to implement their inclusive-classroom model nearly five years ago. Based on their

observations and pupils' grades, not only have the disabled students made noticeable improvement in academic and social performance, but other students also have become more caring and tolerant, the staff here says.

"One of the things we've really learned is the benefit to general education," says Rod Baer, a kindergarten teacher at the school. "Every day you can see how accepting the general education population is."

Because of its success, Taylor Elementary received a three-year, $31,600 grant in the 1994 -95 school year from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond that gives teachers and administrators a chance to study the model they created and host colleagues from other local schools. The grant plan is also for teachers here to write a program that can be duplicated in other schools.

Taylor Elementary School is a happy example of inclusion. But not every school has made the transition so smoothly.

Today, more schools are following the lead set by the 27-year-old federal law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires that students with disabilities be educated "to the maximum extent appropriate" with nondisabled children in a regular classroom setting.

The proportion of disabled students who receive most of their education in a regular classroom continues to rise--44.5 percent, or 2.2 million out of 4.9 million disabled students, in the 1994-95 school year, compared with 32.8 percent in 1990-91, according to the U.S. Department of Education's annual report to Congress last year on the implementation of the IDEA.

And it looks as if there's no going back.

The move to inclusion "is a trend, but it's not a trend that is going to reverse," says Thomas Hehir, the director of the Education Department's office of special education programs. "There is no question in my mind about the importance of integration and inclusion, and the impact it has on kids."

"The move to inclusion is a trend, but it's not a trend that is going to reverse."

Thomas Hehir,
director,
office of special education programs,
Department of Education

Too often, however, school officials and researchers say, disabled students are merely moved into classrooms without support services or any sort of training for their general education teachers.

Those who have succeeded say that proper teacher training is essential, along with support services and guidance from a special educator.

"You have to have people who are trained," says Patt Evans, a 1st grade teacher at Taylor Elementary, as she guides her class of about 20 students to the cafeteria while keeping a close eye on one wheelchair-bound pupil at the side of the group. With little experience in special education from her 24 years of teaching, Evans has spent hours working with other teachers, attending workshops, meeting with parents, and making modifications to the classroom, such as creating a plan for how to get the disabled boy and his wheelchair outside for fire drills.

The transition to full inclusion, she says, was "quite a challenge ... at times it's very overwhelming." But, she adds, "it's heartwarming to see his progress."

It's not surprising that learning to teach and include disabled students is a challenge for general educators, researchers say, because the two disciplines advance different perspectives--with special educators focusing on an individual student's needs to an extent not typically seen in a regular classroom.

"Regular education teachers are trained to provide instruction to large groups," says Donnie Evans, a researcher on special education and teacher training and the assistant superintendent for support services for the 147,500-student Hillsborough County schools in Tampa, Fla. "That has been the status quo for a long time."

The transition can be especially difficult for more-experienced teachers, who likely have not received any schooling on inclusion, researchers say. And special educators often have trouble relinquishing the idea that disabled children require services that only they can provide, says Paula M. Gardner, an assistant professor of special education at California State University-Sacramento.

Some say the problems begin with the higher education system.

"Dealing with different kinds of kids is one of many problems with teacher preparation in this country," says Amy Wilkins, a senior associate with the Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group for poor and minority students.

While there are some examples of education schools using good inclusion techniques in their students' training, many have not kept up with research and trends, says Judith E. Heumann, the Education Department's assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.

At most colleges, prospective general education teachers take only one class in special education, according to the Education Department. Such classes usually provide only an overview of disabilities, something that researchers and administrators say is not enough. General education teachers often do not gain even basic knowledge of learning disabilities, other disabilities they are likely to confront, and interventions for behavioral problems, Heumann says.

Colleges need to teach their general education students that special education is a service to disabled students, a "product" that can be administered outside a special classroom, she adds.

Most of the classes on disability that are offered to general education majors "have nothing to do with Monday morning when that child comes into the classroom," adds Hehir.

California State-Sacramento recognized that, says Gardner, an outgoing redhead, and recently revamped a course from a "disability of the week" seminar to one that teaches general educators the philosophy of inclusion and strategies for working with the students.

Today, many states are considering including some special education training in their certification requirements for general education teachers.

At Syracuse University's education school, a leader in embracing inclusion, general education and special education teachers are taught together and receive dual certification at the end of the four-year program.

Douglas P. Biklen, the chairman of the inclusive education department at the private university in Syracuse, N.Y., says the faculty there found that a lot of coursework was duplicated in the special education and general education programs, and decided that all education students would benefit from a combined degree.

The program has been popular, he says.

"We were a little worried, because whether or not they were interested in elementary or secondary education, they were coming to this inclusive program," he notes. "We were pleased to find out the students came in large numbers."

Today, many states are considering including some special education training in their certification requirements for general education teachers. Last year, 22 states required elementary teachers and 21 required secondary school teachers to study some coursework related to students with disabilities, according to an Education Department report to Congress in December. But only 11 states required general education teachers to have practical experience with disabled students before receiving certification.

"The general education teacher needs to understand, basically, how the disability affects a child's ability to learn," Hehir says. "They should also expect that they have available to them competent help."

Teachers' union leaders say that many districts do not plan well for inclusion, leading to problems for both teachers and students.

Too often, inclusion occurs as "a collision in the night," says Ed Admundson, the chairman of the National Education Association's Caucus for Educators of Exceptional Children. The 2.3 million-member NEA has worked to push districts and administrators to put aside enough funding to train teachers adequately and to provide the support that they and their disabled students need, Admundson says.

And often, the perceived reluc-tance by a teacher to have a class that includes a disabled child stems from the teacher's previous bad experiences with inclusion, he adds.

The 5,000-member West Virginia Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, successfully lobbied for state laws giving teachers more of a voice in student placements after the state urged schools to embrace full inclusion.

The laws, enacted in 1994, gave general education teachers a seat on the individualized education plan team. Further, if a disabled child is placed in a regular classroom but the teacher feels the placement was a mistake, the teacher can call another IEP team meeting after 30 days to review the decision.

The changes "slowed down what we perceived to be wholesale inclusion," says Bob Brown, the West Virginia union's executive director. "It brought some sense and meaning to what's going on."

Calling for a moratorium on inclusion that year, the union released a survey of 1,121 teachers that found that 87 percent did not believe inclusion would benefit general education students and 78 percent did not believe it would help the special education students. The root of the problem, the union concluded, was inadequate resources and preparation, as 77 percent of the teachers said they had received one hour or less of training in inclusion.

An October 1996 report in the 40,000-student Howard County, Md., district echoed those findings. Responses from a survey of 475 middle school teachers found that "almost two-thirds of the teachers (64 percent) believe that inclusion detracts from their ability to fully serve the needs of the general student population." Only 21 percent of the teachers thought inclusion met the needs of special education students.

Parental resistance also may dampen enthusiasm for inclusion, many administrators say.

When Congress amended the IDEA last year, education and disability-rights advocates pressed for a range of changes that, while more expensive and cumbersome for administrators, could help general education teachers become more comfortable with their new role.

One of the changes the advocacy groups have embraced is a requirement that a disabled student's general education teacher participate in meetings on the student's individualized education plan, or IEP. Such meetings, required by the IDEA, determine the education path that a disabled student will follow.

Diane Schust, a lobbyist for the NEA, says the union had pressed for the mandate for several years because teachers often were not informed of disabled students' needs. Often, a teacher would not even be allowed to see a copy of the student's IEP and would not be given any information on the child's disability, she says.

Further, the IDEA amendments require that a disabled child's coursework be tied to the general classroom's curriculum. States and districts also must include disabled students in assessments, making modifications or giving an alternative test where necessary.

Juleen Hanberg, a special education teacher in rural Lapoint, Utah, has been working with school officials there to set up inclusive classrooms. She says many of her colleagues, particularly those teaching in upper grades, feared having disabled students in their classes. Not only did the teachers not know how to adapt and modify the curriculum to meet the students' needs, she says, but some also were intimidated by the students' behavior and worried that a child might become uncontrollably violent.

The 6,445-student Uintah district has worked to allay those fears by keeping a special education teacher in the classroom or on call should problems arise. School officials have also assured teachers that if a child is violent or disruptive, they will make a change in placement quickly, Hanberg adds.

Administrative support, from problem-solving skills to leading workshops, is also a crucial piece of the puzzle, teachers say.

Many times, enthusiastic and open-minded teachers do not receive the support they need from principals, other administrators, and their peers, says Ann Perez, a teacher in the 29,000-student El Dorado County, Calif., schools and distinguished-teacher-in-residence at California State University-Sacramento.

Teachers who attempt to create inclusion programs on their own "turn into Joan of Arc," says the strong-willed teacher who moonlights as a ski instructor on weekends. "They get beat up pretty quickly" by administrators, other teachers, and sometimes parents.

Parental resistance--most often from parents of nondisabled students who worry that their children's education might be slighted--also may dampen enthusiasm for inclusion, many administrators say. At Taylor Elementary in the 18,300-student Arlington County, Va., district, Principal Ralph E. Stone set up committees of parents and teachers that meet every few weeks to address concerns and solve problems stemming from the school's inclusive programs.

The administrators who have made inclusion work say their best advocates are the teachers who have been successful with it.

John McDonnell, an inclusion researcher and the chairman of the special education department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City argues that inclusion has not been found to hurt nondisabled students.

"There really has been no effect on the educational progress of kids without disabilities by including kids with disabilities at the regular classroom level," he says.

In Auburn, Calif., about 40 miles east of Sacramento, administrators at the 468-student Rock Creek School are working through some of those obstacles. The K-6 school, which lies in a pocket of poverty within an otherwise affluent community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has begun inclusion of some disabled students in classes where the teachers are willing, but it has a long path ahead to become a fully inclusive school.

David Swart, the principal of Rock Creek, says planning for the change has been difficult. While many of his teachers have been enthusiastic about inclusion, others have expressed resistance, and he is unwilling to place disabled children in their classes.

"The question of how to change the system is what I'm up against as a principal," he says. "What we need to do is get out front to train these teachers."

Fourth grade teacher Toni Jensen was one of the Rock Creek teachers who volunteered to instruct a special education student. Although it's been more work, she says she considers him to be a valuable addition to the class.

But, she notes, when talking with her colleagues, she senses an apprehension about how to teach similar pupils in their own classrooms.

"They're scared, because they're feeling their job is threatened," she says. "They're watching me really close because their job is next."

Administrators there envision a system where aides help all students in a classroom, rather than just the disabled student they are assigned.

But finding funding for teacher training and other start-up costs has been a problem for the 2,500-student Auburn Union School District and nearby districts in the Lake Tahoe region, says Auburn Superintendent Vince Anaclerio. And the tensions can run deeper than just funding. Anaclerio says he knows of recent cases where general education teachers refused to allow disabled students in their classes, parents of nondisabled students protested inclusion, and parents of disabled students demanded that their children be included in the regular classroom.

At Taylor Elementary, a special educator is paired with each grade level in the school to coordinate services for the students with disabilities and lend support to the regular teachers. In addition, under the school's team-teaching and block-scheduling plan, the special educators also teach classes of their own. Most of the more severely disabled students have individual aides assigned to them as well.

According to Stone, the principal, the move in 1994 to full inclusion was not difficult because nearly all the teachers and staff members agreed that a fully inclusive environment would be best for all students.

"The give and take of people with a common goal is really how we made it," says the fatherly, gray-haired administrator, who proudly wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the school's logo.

The school administrators who have made inclusion work say they've found that their best advocates are the teachers who have had successful experiences with it.

"A skilled teacher can invent and use materials in a way to help both populations."

Martha Larson,
physical education teacher,
Taylor Elementary School

Taylor Elementary's physical education teacher, Martha Larson, has become one of those advocates. She found that creating adaptive physical education programs for her disabled charges was not difficult, after she was given information on their physical strengths and limitations.

"Having a good eye--which is a typical teacher strength--is what makes for good inclusion," Larson says as she puts away the oversized plastic bowling pins and rubber ball that she uses for adaptive classes. "A skilled teacher can invent and use materials in a way to help both populations."

Her colleague, Francisca Jorgensen, found that any resistance other teachers felt melted away once she began to work with them. "Every year, the resistance got to be less and less," says the soft-spoken special education teacher, adding that a teacher's confidence should increase with each disabled student who is successfully included. "Every teacher needs to accept that they can teach all kids."

Second grade teacher Goss, a former special educator who now teaches an inclusive 2nd grade class, says the interest in Taylor from other schools has almost become overwhelming.

"The program itself has been a success beyond what we could have imagined," she says. It's also been interesting for the teachers, she says.

"Each year brings a different challenge because of different needs with the population," Goss says. "I cannot be a loud enough voice for inclusion."

At Syracuse University's education school, a leader in embracing inclusion, general education and special education teachers are taught together and receive dual certification at the end of the four-year program.

Douglas P. Biklen, the chairman of the inclusive education department at the private university in Syracuse, N.Y., says the faculty there found that a lot of coursework was duplicated in the special education and general education programs, and decided that all education students would benefit from a combined degree.

The program has been popular, he says.

"We were a little worried, because whether or not they were interested in elementary or secondary education, they were coming to this inclusive program," he notes. "We were pleased to find out the students came in large numbers."

Today, many states are considering including some special education training in their certification requirements for general education teachers. Last year, 22 states required elementary teachers and 21 required secondary school teachers to study some coursework related to students with disabilities, according to an Education Department report to Congress in December. But only 11 states required general education teachers to have practical experience with disabled students before receiving certification.

"The general education teacher needs to understand, basically, how the disability affects a child's ability to learn," Hehir says. "They should also expect that they have available to them competent help."

Teachers' union leaders say that many districts do not plan well for inclusion, leading to problems for both teachers and students.

Too often, inclusion occurs as "a collision in the night," says Ed Admundson, the chairman of the National Education Association's Caucus for Educators of Exceptional Children. The 2.3 million-member NEA has worked to push districts and administrators to put aside enough funding to train teachers adequately and to provide the support that they and their disabled students need, Admundson says.

And often, the perceived reluc-tance by a teacher to have a class that includes a disabled child stems from the teacher's previous bad experiences with inclusion, he adds.

The 5,000-member West Virginia Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, successfully lobbied for state laws giving teachers more of a voice in student placements after the state urged schools to embrace full inclusion.

The laws, enacted in 1994, gave general education teachers a seat on the individualized education plan team. Further, if a disabled child is placed in a regular classroom but the teacher feels the placement was a mistake, the teacher can call another IEP team meeting after 30 days to review the decision.

The changes "slowed down what we perceived to be wholesale inclusion," says Bob Brown, the West Virginia union's executive director. "It brought some sense and meaning to what's going on."

Calling for a moratorium on inclusion that year, the union released a survey of 1,121 teachers that found that 87 percent did not believe inclusion would benefit general education students and 78 percent did not believe it would help the special education students. The root of the problem, the union concluded, was inadequate resources and preparation, as 77 percent of the teachers said they had received one hour or less of training in inclusion.

An October 1996 report in the 40,000-student Howard County, Md., district echoed those findings. Responses from a survey of 475 middle school teachers found that "almost two-thirds of the teachers (64 percent) believe that inclusion detracts from their ability to fully serve the needs of the general student population." Only 21 percent of the teachers thought inclusion met the needs of special education students.

Parental resistance also may dampen enthusiasm for inclusion, many administrators say.

When Congress amended the IDEA last year, education and disability-rights advocates pressed for a range of changes that, while more expensive and cumbersome for administrators, could help general education teachers become more comfortable with their new role.

One of the changes the advocacy groups have embraced is a requirement that a disabled student's general education teacher participate in meetings on the student's individualized education plan, or IEP. Such meetings, required by the IDEA, determine the education path that a disabled student will follow.

Diane Schust, a lobbyist for the NEA, says the union had pressed for the mandate for several years because teachers often were not informed of disabled students' needs. Often, a teacher would not even be allowed to see a copy of the student's IEP and would not be given any information on the child's disability, she says.

Further, the IDEA amendments require that a disabled child's coursework be tied to the general classroom's curriculum. States and districts also must include disabled students in assessments, making modifications or giving an alternative test where necessary.

Juleen Hanberg, a special education teacher in rural Lapoint, Utah, has been working with school officials there to set up inclusive classrooms. She says many of her colleagues, particularly those teaching in upper grades, feared having disabled students in their classes. Not only did the teachers not know how to adapt and modify the curriculum to meet the students' needs, she says, but some also were intimidated by the students' behavior and worried that a child might become uncontrollably violent.

The 6,445-student Uintah district has worked to allay those fears by keeping a special education teacher in the classroom or on call should problems arise. School officials have also assured teachers that if a child is violent or disruptive, they will make a change in placement quickly, Hanberg adds.

Administrative support, from problem-solving skills to leading workshops, is also a crucial piece of the puzzle, teachers say.

Many times, enthusiastic and open-minded teachers do not receive the support they need from principals, other administrators, and their peers, says Ann Perez, a teacher in the 29,000-student El Dorado County, Calif., schools and distinguished-teacher-in-residence at California State University-Sacramento.

Teachers who attempt to create inclusion programs on their own "turn into Joan of Arc," says the strong-willed teacher who moonlights as a ski instructor on weekends. "They get beat up pretty quickly" by administrators, other teachers, and sometimes parents.

Parental resistance--most often from parents of nondisabled students who worry that their children's education might be slighted--also may dampen enthusiasm for inclusion, many administrators say. At Taylor Elementary in the 18,300-student Arlington County, Va., district, Principal Ralph E. Stone set up committees of parents and teachers that meet every few weeks to address concerns and solve problems stemming from the school's inclusive programs.

John McDonnell, an inclusion researcher and the chairman of the special education department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City argues that inclusion has not been found to hurt nondisabled students.

"There really has been no effect on the educational progress of kids without disabilities by including kids with disabilities at the regular classroom level," he says.

In Auburn, Calif., about 40 miles east of Sacramento, administrators at the 468-student Rock Creek School are working through some of those obstacles. The K-6 school, which lies in a pocket of poverty within an otherwise affluent community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has begun inclusion of some disabled students in classes where the teachers are willing, but it has a long path ahead to become a fully inclusive school.

David Swart, the principal of Rock Creek, says planning for the change has been difficult. While many of his teachers have been enthusiastic about inclusion, others have expressed resistance, and he is unwilling to place disabled children in their classes.

"The question of how to change the system is what I'm up against as a principal," he says. "What we need to do is get out front to train these teachers."

Fourth grade teacher Toni Jensen was one of the Rock Creek teachers who volunteered to instruct a special education student. Although it's been more work, she says she considers him to be a valuable addition to the class.

But, she notes, when talking with her colleagues, she senses an apprehension about how to teach similar pupils in their own classrooms.

"They're scared, because they're feeling their job is threatened," she says. "They're watching me really close because their job is next."

Administrators there envision a system where aides help all students in a classroom, rather than just the disabled student they are assigned.

But finding funding for teacher training and other start-up costs has been a problem for the 2,500-student Auburn Union School District and nearby districts in the Lake Tahoe region, says Auburn Superintendent Vince Anaclerio. And the tensions can run deeper than just funding. Anaclerio says he knows of recent cases where general education teachers refused to allow disabled students in their classes, parents of nondisabled students protested inclusion, and parents of disabled students demanded that their children be included in the regular classroom.

At Taylor Elementary, a special educator is paired with each grade level in the school to coordinate services for the students with disabilities and lend support to the regular teachers. In addition, under the school's team-teaching and block-scheduling plan, the special educators also teach classes of their own. Most of the more severely disabled students have individual aides assigned to them as well.

According to Stone, the principal, the move in 1994 to full inclusion was not difficult because nearly all the teachers and staff members agreed that a fully inclusive environment would be best for all students.

"The give and take of people with a common goal is really how we made it," says the fatherly, gray-haired administrator, who proudly wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the school's logo.

The school administrators who have made inclusion work say they've found that their best advocates are the teachers who have had successful experiences with it.

"A skilled teacher can invent and use materials in a way to help both populations."

Martha Larson,
physical education teacher,
Taylor Elementary School

Taylor Elementary's physical education teacher, Martha Larson, has become one of those advocates. She found that creating adaptive physical education programs for her disabled charges was not difficult, after she was given information on their physical strengths and limitations.

"Having a good eye--which is a typical teacher strength--is what makes for good inclusion," Larson says as she puts away the oversized plastic bowling pins and rubber ball that she uses for adaptive classes. "A skilled teacher can invent and use materials in a way to help both populations."

Her colleague, Francisca Jorgensen, found that any resistance other teachers felt melted away once she began to work with them. "Every year, the resistance got to be less and less," says the soft-spoken special education teacher, adding that a teacher's confidence should increase with each disabled student who is successfully included. "Every teacher needs to accept that they can teach all kids."

Second grade teacher Goss, a former special educator who now teaches an inclusive 2nd grade class, says the interest in Taylor from other schools has almost become overwhelming.

"The program itself has been a success beyond what we could have imagined," she says. It's also been interesting for the teachers, she says.

"Each year brings a different challenge because of different needs with the population," Goss says. "I cannot be a loud enough voice for inclusion."

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