Although this movement has created controversy and has seen mixed results, it has become a major force in the placement and education of children and is expected to expand in the future (King, 2003).
Accommodations: when an aspect of the environment or expectation has been changed so that a child with a disability can be successful at completion of a task.
Constituents: a citizen who is represented in a government by officials for whom he or she votes
Curriculum: the course of study offered in a school.
Disability: According to the ADA of 1990 a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially impacts one aspect of a person's life.
Inclusion: the provision of educational services to students with a full range of abilities and disabilities in the general education classroom with appropriate in-class support.
General Education: a wide selection of subjects that emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and evaluation of ideas
Mainstream: another term used for inclusion, or integration into regular classes
Modification: an alteration or adjustment to facilitate success of the student
Paradigm: A set of notions, beliefs, theories, and practices that represents a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.
Segregation: The act of separating people
Despite attempts at inclusion, literature continues to identify that children with learning disabilities are not appropriately served in general education classrooms and due to this lack of appropriate supports and modifications, their educational attainment continues to be poor (Frederickson et al., 2007; Schirmer & Cabson, 1995). In addition, researchers have found that systemic change as the result of inclusion is a key factor in ensuring success (Ryndak et al., 2000). This starts with an operationalized definition of what inclusion means to the community and students served. Inclusion at its most general sense includes the modification of the learning environment to meet the education needs of all students in spite of disability (Schirmer & Cabson, 1995).
An inclusive classroom setting has been viewed as a new model of education that can be described as an educational establishment where all available resources are collaboratively employed to meet the needs of the children who live in the service area (Ryndak et al., 2000). In this model, learning is an active process that relies on a variety of educational strategies in order to address all learning styles. Literature has show that in order for children with disabilities to achieve academic success that all stakeholders must work together to ensure that the inclusion program is designed and implemented properly (Short & Martin, 2005; Smith & Leonard, 2005). Despite the level of controversy that exists over the topic of inclusion, researchers agree that simply putting children into general education classrooms will not only not improve their educational experience but it will also set them up for negative outcomes (Frederickson et al., 2007; Smith & Leonard, 2005). However, that is as far as the agreement goes.
Studies have shown that the educators are a key factor in whether or not an inclusion program is successful in a school or school district (Smith & Leonard, 2005). Yet educators are concerned about the additional time that it will take them to modify the curriculum for individual students and where they will fit this task in to an already demanding schedule. The use of support services such as paraprofessionals has proven to improve the attitudes of teachers, parents, and administrators and takes some of the pressure off the individual teacher (Smith & Leonard, 2005). Supplementary support staff has been shown to be useful in the support of the curriculum and classroom activities and has aided students with disabilities and becoming part of the school and classroom communities (Smith & Leonard, 2005). This linkage between educators' feelings toward inclusion has been found to be significantly correlated to the success of an inclusion program (Smith & Leonard, 2005).
Educators have identified that they struggle with the challenge of collaborating in an inclusive classroom setting without the skills necessary to handle this task. While they were found to be in favor of inclusion, educators lacked confidence in both their skill and the ability of the school district to provide them with adequate training to make inclusion a success (Short & Martin, 2005). They were found to support the idea of inclusion but did not feel that they could do it successfully in their own classrooms. The outcome of such research has identified a need for additional training of teachers in teaching to an inclusion classroom both pre-service and post service (Burke, 2004).
In terms of effectiveness of inclusion, Vaughn and Schumm (1995) report that little empirical evidence has been identified that supports the success of full inclusion for students with disabilities. Further evidence suggests that without adequate supports, students with disabilities do not do well in general education classrooms where large group instruction is common (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995; Burke, 2004). In fact high school students who were in inclusion classrooms were found to receive lower grades than their non-disabled counterparts. Vaughn and Schumm (1995) portray a more pessimistic viewpoint of inclusion stating that advocates have a personal stake in the outcome such as children with disabilities but lack the objectiveness necessary to recognize that the setting matters less than the instruction delivered. He places significant emphasis on the lack of adequate supports provided in an inclusion setting leaving children with additional education needs doing poorly compared to their general education peers (Vaughn and Schumm, 1995).
More information is needed to explore whether or not the student's perception of inclusion impacts the outcome of the program. Literature has shown that students attitudes toward participating in mainstream classrooms vs. special education classrooms vary significantly (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995). The literature also has revealed that there does not seem to be an overall stakeholder concern about the attitudes of special education students or their peers in the included classroom as few studies have addressed student attitudes about their inclusion with all students or about the peer acceptance (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995). Included in the few studies that involved student's attitudes it was found that when teachers demonstrate patience and understanding the student's viewed inclusion as positive (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995).
Results and Findings
Results indicate that school districts and individual schools have different approaches to inclusion (King, 2003) much of which has to do with the definition that they attribute to inclusion, educators beliefs about inclusion, and the resources available to the school to implement this model. In some schools with a lack of resources, particular classrooms as inclusion classrooms where specialized supports can be implemented to meet the varying learning needs of students in the classroom (King, 2003). Inclusions programs expect educators to continue to utilize general education curricula while implementing delivery and instructional strategies to address not only the needs of the student with a disability but the needs of all of the students. It has been reported that general education teachers do not share with special education teachers the belief that students with special needs have a basic right to receive their education in general education classrooms (Smith & Leonard, 2005).
The representation overall is one of less positive outcomes for students who have special education needs compared with those of their mainstream peers, unless particular efforts are made to address and improve education for students with special education needs (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995). Research on the social acceptance of students with special education needs has consistently reported that higher proportions of included children have reported the development of positive peer relationships (Mamlim & Harris, 1998). This is not the case for students in exclusion settings such as special education classrooms who report experiencing extremely social status (Mamlim & Harris, 1998). Frederickson et al. (2007) reports that these students are at an increased risk of being bullied or teased as they get older and enter junior high and high school.
Discussion and Summary
Inclusive education requires that all students in a school, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any are embraced into the school community (Ryndak et al., 2000). They should be assisted in finding a sense of belonging with their teachers, students, and school environment. The literature shows that students with disabilities fair worse than their mainstream peers in many aspects of educational engagement. Inclusion has been proposed as an intervention that would provide for the equal education of all students regardless of ability or disability. In order to ensure successful implementation of an inclusion model, one must have trained teachers who can manage students with diverse disabilities and can recognize that one curriculum cannot teach all children and will need to be modified as to honor the different learning styles of each student (Burke, 2004).
Assessment of any school inclusion program is going to directly correlate to how…