The excellent response to the first Inclusion article moves me to continue on the topic and explore its hidden facets. Inclusion in the classroom, as mentioned before, means that there are two certified teachers dealing with the 20+ students in high school (Elementary and middle schools offer a different scenario such as team teaching and/or co-teaching). While one teacher gives the class with a lecture followed by specific assignments, the inclusion teacher, certified in special education, will walk around and check the students’ work, focusing mainly on those who are academically challenged.
Both teachers must be quite familiar with accommodations and modifications contained in the special students’ IEP (Individual Education Plan). Sometimes there will be a provision such as “Reduced Assignments by 25%”, “Extended Time 1-2 days to finish assignments”, “Study Sheets given to the student”, “Notebook Verification”, etc.. These are meant to level the playing field, that is to allow these challenged youngsters to pass a regular class. The IEP’s are legal documents which must be applied as they are the product of a special meeting called ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) in which parents and teachers agree on a specific educational plan for the student.
Very few classroom teachers fully understand the need to modify tests for some students; they easily confuse the various types of state tests and it is the special education teacher’s responsibility to explain them. On two occasions I was assigned to a teacher who simply refused to follow the IEP’s instructions, thus incurring in a violation of the law’s provisions for disabled individuals. This incident provoked a lawsuit by the parents and the dismissal of the instructors. We must take disabilities very seriously and help those who suffer the enormous challenge they present. Again, the close cooperation between the two teachers is absolutely essential to achieve success by all students, disabled or not. As we say in education, if more than half the class fails, it’s the teacher’s fault; if nobody fails, something is wrong. Learning must be a challenge, a goal that is accessible to all as long as it requires the necessary effort. Make it too easy, and students will lose interest. Make it too difficult, and students will give up.
The modern tendency in public education is to move away from separate facilities for students with severe learning disabilities and move these to regular classrooms where, it is asserted, they will feel part of the general education group. This strategy means that competent inclusion teachers are in greater demand as the regular teachers cannot easily cope with the special needs of disabled kids. It is our task as inclusion teachers to convince our colleagues that one more instructor doesn’t mean an invasion of their territory but an alliance that will benefit generations of students with special needs.