To the Editor:
On Nov. 3, 2017, the On Special Education blog published “Does Inclusion Slow Down General Education Classrooms?” The post, which covers a recently released survey of teachers, presents a complex picture that goes beyond inclusion, but conveys an underlying tone that inclusion has a negative effect on general education students. The National Down Syndrome Society, of which I am the president and CEO, maintains that inclusive education for students with Down syndrome benefits all students, not only those with Down syndrome.
There are some inherent deficits presented in the post. First, as the special education population in a U.S. public school is roughly 13 percent, there shouldn’t be classrooms with more than 30 percent special needs—the threshold above which the study found teaching time to decrease. The researcher behind the study also pointed out that within these classrooms, there was a greater number of students with other disadvantages. This is not inclusion. It’s segregation and tracking.
When you look at a class with a more average population of students with special education needs, the impact on teaching time becomes much less pronounced. Furthermore, the survey didn’t show any correlation between the inclusion of students with special education needs and the achievement among the general education students. Students in inclusive environments get a richer educational experience.
NDSS stands behind the more than 30 years of peer-reviewed research supporting the benefits of inclusive education both for students with disabilities and general education students. Students with special education needs have as much right to a quality education as their peers.
We believe that through inclusive education, students will become independent adults who reach their fullest potential. Education, and especially inclusive education, is not an easy. However, the benefits to students outweigh any difficulties achieving inclusivity. NDSS will continue to support families and school districts to ensure student access to the best possible inclusive education.
President & CEO
The National Down Syndrome Society
A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2017 edition of Education Week as Inclusion Helps All Students