Marquis has a Doctor of Education degree.
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:
- Be considered highly qualified
- Provide accommodations and modifications as required by an IEP
- Instruct students in the least restrictive environment
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.
Free and appropriate public education (or FAPE) and least restrictive environment (or LRE) are terms used to indicate where and how a child with a disability will receive his or her education. Not only does a student's educational program have to be appropriate for his current level of performance, it must also be delivered in an environment that is equally appropriate. Failure to follow either provision results in a violation of the child's rights under the law. A child served in inclusion may spend 80% or more of their day in the general education population or less than 80% of the day, depending on team-based decisions and an analysis of the student's data.
Barriers to Inclusion
Opponents of inclusion believe that there are some students for whom inclusion is not a good fit. Without a clear, definitive statement, schools and districts are left up to their own devices about how inclusion should exist in the classroom. Barriers to successful inclusion practices have been identified as lack of teacher training, ineffective classroom instruction, and teacher attitudes. Each of these elements is critical in the overall progression of any classroom but becomes even more important when the subject of inclusion is integrated into the equation.
Attempts to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of exceptional students can prove difficult with limited human and fiscal resources available. Research suggests that while there's potential of positive outcomes in inclusive education, designing and implementing such instruction can be a challenge for teachers in general education classes. Others feel that, with the right support, educators can effectively create and maintain inclusive environments. Despite the challenge of integrating students with disabilities, educators should be prepared to support all children in the learning environment.
Let's review what we've learned. Inclusion offers students with disabilities greater access to the general education classroom and an opportunity to remain with their non-disabled peers in order to receive instruction. This can be accomplished with things like free and appropriate public education (or FAPE), least restrictive environment (or LRE), and individualized education plans, which are legal documents that outline the manner in which children with disabilities are to be served in school.
Federal law mandates how inclusion should be delivered and where it should take place for the child with a disability. This began with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the IDEA, which required educators to create and implement academic programs that embraced the learning styles of all students, and continued with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, or the No Child Left Behind Act, which was a law that gave expectations about student achievement, particularly students who have been historically disadvantaged, like minorities and children with disabilities.
Failure to provide a student with his/her services could result in a violation of the student's rights according to the legal mandates established in these laws. Although there are barriers to the implementation of inclusion, the benefits of inclusion outweigh any perceived difficulties.
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