I never allowed schooling to interfere with my education (Mark Twain)
In education perhaps more than in private businesses, choosing the right person to head a specific area is crucial to boost and support the all-important work done in the classroom. If a school district chooses its top administrators based on political decisions, the results will be catastrophic. It is especially true in special education where the winds of change blow constantly in one direction or another.
Right now, the need for inclusion is higher than ever; education experts warn that all students with special needs should be placed in mainstream classes so as to benefit from the same education their non-disabled peers receive. And yet, it seems that the administrative heads in some districts in Texas want to reduce the number of inclusion teachers, thus leaving some core classes without their valuable presence. These administrators obviously want to look good by reducing costs in their departments without realizing that they are harming their students.
Another common mistake is to abruptly change core assignments for inclusion teachers. Granted, they are not usually certified in one core subject or another; they get certified in special education, a generic term that applies to all disciplines. But since they cannot be experts in all academic areas, they are usually assigned based on their college majors. Should education agencies at the state level demand a specific certification in any of the cores areas (the only classes that qualify for inclusion)? Possible of course, but quite difficult for a simple reason: English (or any other core area) certified special education teachers are assigned a classroom, at the high school level, as soon as the need arises, thus cutting down the number of special education teachers. I have seen that happen and the move is generally permanent.
Learning the Business
Because the head administrators of special education departments are often appointed for expediency reasons, it takes them a long time to learn the ins and outs of this sensitive area. As a result, their decisions in assigning inclusion teachers fail to take into account two crucial factors: the existing relation with the classroom teacher, if any, and the skills and knowledge of the inclusion teacher. For inclusion to work well, there has to be a harmonious connection between the two teachers and the special education teacher must know the discipline well in order to help the students. If, for example, inclusion teacher A has been doing English and Social Studies for a few years and the administrator suddenly assigns him or her to Science classes, the academic result won’t be as good due to the time it takes to readjust and learn new skills, not to mention the need to establish a good relationship with the regular teacher.
More Attention Needed
Traditionally, the special education area has not received the attention it deserves; the vast majority of students are regular kids who should certainly be the main focus. But there is no reason why administrators can’t consult with specialists and with experienced special education teachers before reaching decisions that affect hundreds of special needs students. These kids have certainly earned the right to receive the best possible education according to their disabilities and individual education plans designed by experts. Instead of adjusting special education to the general education needs, let us, for once, do just the opposite.