Special Education

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Inclusion and Reform

A recent study highlights the challenges schools face in including students with disabilities in their improvement efforts.

The study, issued last month by the National Association of State Boards of Education, found that schools that had adopted a full-inclusion approach to educating students with disabilities were more likely to consider the students when planning their schoolwide-reform efforts.

For More Information

Read the report, "Implementing Reform: What Success for All Teaches Us About Including Students with Disabilities in Comprehensive School Restructuring," from NASBE. Copies of the report are available for $12, from NASBE, 277 S. Washington St., Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22314; (800) 220-5183. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

NASBE examined the implementation of the Success for All reading-improvement program in four urban elementary schools. The program divided students into homogeneous groups based on their reading levels.

For such an effort to serve all students equally requires changing the basic organizational structure of a school, according to the report, "Implementing Reform: What Success for All Teaches Us About Including Students with Disabilities in Comprehensive School Restructuring."

Special educators and general educators, for example, need to work more cooperatively with each other, the study's authors say. Some general educators at the schools in the study said they lacked training in how to teach students with disabilities, the report adds.

Before Success for All, the four schools had not integrated students with disabilities into their general academic curricula, and they used the program to shift the students to the general education reading curriculum, the report says.

But the attitude of special education teachers posed a major barrier to change, it says. Some teachers, for instance, viewed the reading program as separate from their students' individualized education plans, rather than a platform for working on skills highlighted in the IEPs.

Schools must work from the outset to facilitate the goal of including students in reforms, the NASBE report says. For example, it says, before choosing an improvement program, a school's staff should gather information about how students with disabilities would be included.

The report details how the four schools studied selected the reform models. The four schools all opted to include students with disabilities, but the degree of their involvement varied, the authors found.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education's office of special education programs paid for the study.

—Lisa Fine

Vol. 20, Issue 41, Page 16

Published in Print: June 20, 2001, as Special Education

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