Friday, August 16, 2013

Research Supports Benefits of Inclusion for All Students

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, an attorney representing schools, raises questions about the practice called mainstreaming or inclusion, which places students with learning disabilities in mainstream classrooms along with typically-learning peers. A special education teachers works alongside a regular teacher in these classrooms to address the needs of the special education students. Here in New York City, these Collaborative Team Teaching -- CTT -- classes are quite common. Although inclusion has been generally used to refer to students with any kind of disability, Ms. Freedman focuses her analysis on students with learning issues, so we will limit our discussion to this kind of inclusion as well.

Photo: dave_mcmt
Freedman notes," Look into the research on inclusion and you will find that this policy is generally based on notions of civil rights and social justice, not on "best education practices" for all students." She goes on to state that there is no research on how inclusion impacts the academic progress of the typical learners and that parents of typical learners simply remove their children from public schools rather than complain about what Ms. Freedman describes as "simplified" teaching in inclusion settings.She notes that this impacts the goal of diversity in classrooms. "Can this be anything but very bad for America?," she asks.

Our colleagues at COPAA, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, have fired back, in a blog post by Denise Marshall, the Executive Director of COPAA. Ms. Marshall notes: "The article by Ms. Freedman wholly disregards both the law and science. Her erroneous proposition that educating children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers is harmful to students without disabilities has no basis in science nor legal precedents. Not only is this claim based on stereotype, but this viewpoint disregards decades of legal and scientific developments and undercuts a quarter of a century of progress in remedying widespread discrimination against children with disabilities."

Ms. Marshall is correct; research supports the conclusion that all students do better in an inclusion setting. In fact, despite the concerns of teachers about managing a diverse classroom, there are numerous benefits -- both social and academic -- in such settings. Ms. Marshall concludes that Ms. Freedman  "is correct in stating that our schools thrive with a diverse population and engaged parents. However, the idea that removing children with disabilities from regular classrooms will promote diversity, defies comprehension. A return to segregation and exclusion of children with disabilities will hardly promote diversity and is definitely not the way forward.."

We agree.

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