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Current Trends in Special Education

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant

Marquis has a Doctor of Education degree.

A current trend in Special Education is inclusion, which gives students with disabilities access to the general education classroom. Learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and barriers to inclusion. Updated: 04/05/2022

Background on the IDEA

Traditionally, students with disabilities received their education in separate academic settings. However, laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, required educators to create and implement academic programs that embraced the learning styles of all students. This meant that students who may learn differently aren't isolated from their peers but, instead, are included in the regular education classroom. Inclusion generally involves the recognition of all learners as part of the same learning environment regardless of their differences. IDEA offers guidelines for the education of students with a disability.

About 54% of students with disabilities receive their education in the regular education classroom. The accommodations and modifications provided are based on each student's individualized education plan (IEP), while the teacher maintains the overall focus of the general education curriculum. Instruction is differentiated so that children with disabilities can access the curriculum without being penalized for their inability to grasp certain concepts or ideas. Instruction is not watered down but, instead, delivered using alternative methods such as allowing students to orally take a test rather than writing answers on paper or using graphic organizers to demonstrate thoughts as opposed to having to write a long essay.

Laws such as the IDEA may have provided an extra push for teachers to embrace inclusion, as such laws were implemented so that teachers become accountable for how they create and deliver instruction to include all learners. The regular education teacher is just as responsible for the academic outcomes of the children in the classroom who have a disability. In other words, inclusion is a shared partnership between regular education and special education. There have been some indications that teachers who found inclusion to be a favorable practice found that students' academic progress was more positive as a result of increased interaction with their regular classroom peers.

The No Child Left Behind Act

Formerly the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act gives clear expectations about student achievement, particularly students who have been historically disadvantaged, like minorities and children with disabilities. While No Child Left Behind doesn't take the place of the IDEA, it complements it by supporting the academic achievement of children who have been identified as having a disabling condition.

The IDEA is the federal act that offers guidelines for the education of students with disabilities. In addition, the No Child Left Behind legislation supports the implementation of IDEA practices in regular education classrooms. According to both laws, teachers who educate students with disabilities should:

  1. Be considered highly qualified
  2. Provide accommodations and modifications as required by an IEP
  3. Instruct students in the least restrictive environment

Children's Rights

Now, let's take a look at some of the terms we mentioned earlier. The individualized education plan, or IEP, is a legal document that outlines the manner in which children with disabilities are to be served in school. The IEP includes things such as student strengths and weaknesses, present level of academic and behavior performance, accommodations and modifications, and service delivery location (for example regular education vs. special education). An IEP is created by a team comprised of the student's parents, regular education teacher, special education teacher, and the local education agency (or LEA) representative. Others who may be included are: therapists (such as speech, occupational, or physical), psychologists, and an advocate.

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