In New York City, parents are upset about a citywide special education plan that focuses on including students who have special needs into general education classrooms. Parents feel this plan is being implemented too quickly, with not enough information about it. Others feel it will bring the schools in New York City up to date with current trends in special education.
Is it best to include students who have special needs into mainstream classrooms for the majority of the school day? Is it best to keep students with special needs in a classroom run by a properly trained special education teacher?
Should there be a little bit of both going on? If so, how can you tell when you have found the right mix? These are the types of questions that must be answered every time a school district decides to change how their special education program is currently functioning.
In New York City, a new plan for special education has brought controversy. It is a comprehensive “inclusion” plan, and it is scheduled to start this fall. The plan will place most special education students into their neighborhood schools. (The exception would be for the students who are the most severely learning disabled). The plan will also place the majority of special education students into general education classrooms.
The plan started as a pilot program that took place in 260 schools. It has been said that the results of the program showed that students in those schools were less likely to be classified as in need of special education services. The students were also more likely to be mainstreamed for at least a portion of their school day.
Many parents, and some educators, are upset by this change. It has been said it wasn’t clear that the special education students in the pilot program made significant academic progress as a result of the change. Parents feel that they have not received enough information about the new program. There is great concern that this new program will do more harm than good to the students who are in the special education program.
It is my understanding that this new program is going to begin in the fall, despite the dissatisfaction about it that some parents are expressing. I can see both sides of the issue. This is part of what makes the question about whether or not inclusion is a good idea so difficult to answer.
Image by Doug Kerr on Flickr