Education

Special Education School Reform?

6 Mins read

I remember 20-plus years ago when I was on My Live Updates getting my graduate degree in Special Education. A buddy of mine getting his degree in elementary education told me that his father, a school principal, said I probably shouldn’t waste my time getting a master’s in Study. He said that Special Study would be eventually fading out of public Study. I was almost done with my masters at this point, so I figured I would have to take my chances; besides, what other choice did I have at that point?

I got a Special Study job and taught for about ten years. There were many ups and downs over those ten years, and eventually, I decided that I wanted a change, so I got certified and switched to high school history. At this point in my career, I remembered what my friend had said a decade ago and wondered if I was ahead of the curve on schools no longer needing special Study teachers, even though it was ten years later. I asked if my job was safe in my new-found home in the history department.

Special Education

It had been over two decades since my old graduate school buddy told me that special study teachers’ need was disappearing. During the previous two decades, my friend had gone from graduate school to elementary school teacher to assistant principal to principal, just like his father had. I had gone from graduate school to special Study teacher to history teacher to back to special education teachers as nobody else I know had done. And believe it or not, many special education jobs were still available when I landed there for a second time. There were plenty of jobs because there was a shortage of special education teachers in 49 out of our 50 states. Imagine that… Two decades later, I was told that Special Education was going away, and they still can’t seem to get enough special Study teachers.

Fast-forward a few more years to today, and there is a new and interesting twist affecting Special Study called full inclusion. Now inclusion isn’t a new thing in our schools. Inclusion has a long interesting history in our schools. Six decades ago, there was the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Board of Study. In 1954 the new law of the land became integrated schools for all races. Four decades ago, the ground-breaking law of the Individuals with Disabilities Study Act (IDEA) began to take effect and help ensure that more than six million students with disabilities have the right to free and appropriate education, which means they, too, get to be included in with the general education population.

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To help this happen, schools create a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) that meets and discusses a student’s Individual Study Program (IEP) and then places the student in the appropriate educational setting based on the student’s needs law. The placement also needs to be the least restrictive environment (LRE). I still remember my college professor describing the least restrictive environment in a short story that one would not bring a machine gun to care for a fly. Rather, one would get a fly swatter to care for a fly. In other words, if a kid’s disability can be dealt with in the neighborhood school, the kid doesn’t have to be sent across town or even to another town’s special characters on the keyboard school.

Today, many schools are trying to improve this inclusion model and the least restrictive environment by going from a partial to a full-inclusion model. Schools in the Los Angeles School District have moved most of their students out of their special characters on keyboard education centers within the last three years and into neighborhood schools where they are fully integrated into elective classes like physical education and gardening cooking. They are also integrated into regular mainstream academic classes, but it’s usually not the same degree as electives.

Michigan schools say they want to break down the walls between general education and Special studies, creating a system where students will get more help when needed. That support doesn’t need to be in a separate special education classroom. Some school districts in Portland, Oregon, are a little further along than the Los Angeles schools that are just bringing special education students back from special schools and Michigan schools that are just beginning to try full integration of their students and eliminate most special education classrooms.

Being a little further along, Portland makes an interesting case study. Many parents who initially supported integrating special education students into regular education classrooms in Portland now worry about how the Portland Public School System is doing. Portland is aiming for full inclusion by the year 2020. However, some teachers in Portland say, “Obviously, the special characters on keyboard education students will fail, and they will act out because we are not meeting their needs... If there’s no right support there, that’s unacceptable, not only for the child but also for the general education teacher.”

A Portland parent said, “I would rather have my child feel successful than for them to be ‘college-ready.'” She further states, “I want my children to be good, well-rounded human beings that make the world better. I don’t think they necessarily need to go to college to do that. Children are individuals, and when we stop treating them as individuals, there’s a problem.” Sadly, many parents and teachers have left the Portland School District, and much more are fantasizing about it because they feel the full-inclusion model isn’t working there how they pictured it would. How much schools should integrate special characters into keyboard education students is the burning question of the hour. In my experience, some integration is not only possible but also a must. Many special education students can be in regular education classrooms with some support.

A few years ago, I even had a non-speaking paraplegic boy in a wheelchair on a breathing respirator sitting in my regular education social studies class. Every day his paraprofessional and nurse rolled him in and sat with him. He always smiled at the tales I told of Alexander the Great marching across 11,000 miles of territory and conquering much of the known world at that time. By the way, Alexander the Great also practiced his inclusion model by encouraging kindness to the conquered and his soldiers to marry the captured territory’s women to create lasting peace.

Other important factors to consider in special characters on keyboard education inclusion are the much-needed socialization and the saving of money integration offers. Kids learn from other kids, and money not spent on special characters on the keyboard could be spent on general education. Hmm… A little bit earlier, I said that many special characters on keyboard education students could be integrated if you noticed. Still, I did not say all or even most should be integrated. Some students will take away too much of the teacher’s time and attention from other students, such as in the case of students with severe behavior problems. When we put severe behavior problems in regular education classes, it’s unfair to all the other children there. Similar cases could be made for other severe disabilities that demand too much of the mainstream teacher’s time and attention.

I’m not saying to try out a kid with a severe disability in a general education setting. But I am saying that schools need to have a better system of monitoring these placements and quickly remove students who aren’t working out and taking precious learning time away from other students. Furthermore, schools need to do this without shaming the teacher because the teacher complained that the student wasn’t a good fit and disrupted the other students’ learning process. Leaving a kid in an inappropriate placement isn’t good for the parties involved. Period.

Over the last two decades, I have worked with more special characters on keyboard education students than I remember as a special education teacher and a regular teacher teaching inclusion classes. I have learned to become extremely flexible and patient and have had some of the toughest and most needy kids placed in my classes. I have worked miracles with these kids over the years, and I know I am not the only teacher doing this. There are many more out there just like me. I worry that because teachers are so dedicated and pulling off daily miracles in the classroom, districts, community leaders, and politicians may be pushing too hard for the full-inclusion model, thinking that the teachers will have to figure it out. Setting up teachers and students for failure is never a good idea.

Furthermore, I hope it’s just not the money they are trying to save while pushing this full-inclusion model forward because we should be trying to protect our children. As Fredrick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Regardless of how the financial and educational pie is sliced, the bottom line is that the pie is just too small. Our special education teachers and our special characters on keyboard education students shouldn’t be made to pay for this.

Also, I have been a teacher for too long not to be a little skeptical when I hear the bosses say that they are pushing for the full-inclusion model because socialization is important. I know it’s important. But, I also know that too many people are hanging their hats on that socialization excuse rather than geducating our special needs students and providing them what they need. I have seen special characters on keyboard education students whose abilities only let them draw pictures sitting in honors classes. There is no real socialization taking place here. It just doesn’t make sense.

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