Last week, we asked you which topics you’d like to see covered in Motivation Matters in 2008. We really appreciate all the helpful feedback, and in keeping with one commenter’s request for more discussion of special education students, we’d like to direct your attention to this Wall Street Journal article available on edweek.org.
The article talks about one Floridian school district that has successfully included 65 percent of their special education students into general education classes. Some experts are skeptical about the benefits of the trend, but as the article points out, “research shows many students with disabilities make social and educational gains when they are integrated into mainstream classrooms with adequate supports and accommodations.”
I believe the key words in that statement are “adequate supports and accommodations.” After reading through the article, it’s obvious that this particular district has put great thought and consideration into how mainstreaming should be handled. They have cut administrative costs and siphoned that money into classroom resources, and they’ve paired up special education and general education teachers to form integrated classrooms. Also, each special education student’s progress is tracked extensively.
In the 30,000-student Okaloosa district, which serves three military bases and a touristy stretch of the Florida Panhandle, the behavior and academic progress of special-ed students is monitored in unusual detail. Pupils' grades, for example, are tracked as often as daily by computer. And unlike many districts that are more restrictive, Okaloosa also has a policy of encouraging students with disabilities to sign up for Advanced Placement and honors courses."
So far, it seems to be working. The district has been named one of Florida’s best, the test scores of the district’s special education students are up, and 32 out of the district’s 36 schools have received top marks on state assessments. In the age of No Child Left Behind, which requires both special and general education students to be tested under the same curriculum standard, this district’s model is definitely worth noting.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.