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«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors Arnold, Linda N R Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»

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Table 3 Developmental Stage Evaluation of Inclusion

Table 4 Implementation Stage Evaluation of Inclusion

Table 5 Ongoing Evaluations of Inclusion

Table 6 Demographics of School Study Participants for Formal Data Gathering:

General Education Teachers

Table 7 Demographics of School Study Participants for Formal Data Gathering:

Special Education Teachers

Table 8 Demographics of School Study Participants for Formal Data Gathering:

Other Staff Members

Table 9 Demographics of School Study Participants in Follow Up Activities...............189 Table 10 Assessing Perceptions of Inclusion in the Study School: Informal Assessments

Table 11 Assessing Perceptions of Inclusion in the Study School: Formal Data Collection

Table 12 Assessing Perceptions of Inclusion in the Study School: Follow Up Data Collection

Table 13 Advantages and Limitations to Dialogue Groups

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Table 14 Data Analysis for the Instrument

Table 15 Teachings Staff Members’ Perceptions of Inclusion in Four School Domains

Table 16 Principal’s Perceptions of Inclusion

Table 17 Relationships of the My Study to Other Studies about Teachers’ Perceptions of Inclusion

Table 18 Relationships of the My Study to Other Studies about Inclusion Components

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Inclusion of special education students in general education classrooms has come to general acceptance by educators as one option in the continuum of special education service delivery. Another view of inclusion is the ideal of providing for all the varied individual needs of a diverse population of students: learning needs, physical needs, language needs, and social emotional needs, together, in all school settings. In the study school, special educators took a step toward the ideal of inclusion by providing all special education services in general education classrooms. Looking at the picture of inclusion in the school during the four years of the study, of how the ideas of inclusion were put into practice in the specific setting, is the inclusion puzzle.

In the study, specific instruments were used, including surveys and questionnaires, observations, whole group dialogue groups, a checklist, and individual interviews, for the purpose of gathering information about the setting to promote inclusion philosophy and practice, determining the activities to promote inclusion, and gaining insight into school members’ attitudes and beliefs about inclusion in the school. In response to the specific instruments, school members participated in providing data, and the result was a body of in-depth information that could be helpful to others interested in the experiences and perceptions of the practice of inclusion in one rural elementary school.

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Schools are like small towns. Information about everyone is common knowledge.

Everyone knows where everyone else fits in the scheme of things, whether students, teachers, or support staff members. And especially, members of the peer group know very well the hierarchy of the group, including who fits where. Everyone knows who is in the group, and who is not. Too often, special education students are not; they make up their own peer group (Nevin, 2005; Villa & Thousand, 2005; Johnson & Johnson, 2002).

The separate peer group continues as individuals leave school and go out on their own, seeking success. Raskind, Goldberg, Higgins, and Herman (1999) tracked 50 students with learning disabilities from the Frostig Center in a 20 year longitudinal study.

Raskind and his colleagues found that all of the former students reached lesser levels of success than their parents had attained, with few former students living independently.

The long-supported practice of having a separate setting for special education service delivery has been based on the belief that separate service delivery was best (Brantlinger, 1999), primarily because special education students required specialized instruction, which had to be provided separately if instruction were to be effective (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1993). However, separation itself may signal lack of acceptance of differences among individuals (Banks & Banks, 2004).

What about students separated from their general education classrooms for part of the day? Have their attitudes toward belonging and responsibility in the school setting had an impact on their attitudes of responsibility to their larger peer group as adults?

And, has inclusion practice, the expectation that special education students will be in general education classrooms (Daniels & Schumm, 1999), implied that special education students have been accepted as members of the general school community?

Answers to these questions have guided us to decisions about whether or not inclusion practices lead to desirable outcomes for students with special education needs.

The change from the traditional idea of a separate setting to the idea of inclusion for special education service delivery has required a major shift in educators’ thinking. The primary question in gauging the shift has been, have school members embraced the philosophy of including special education students as valued members of the school community, acted on a shared belief in the value of inclusion in schools, and engaged in practices that support their belief?

My Perceptions of Separate Service Delivery for Special Education In 1986, after more than 20 years as an educator, I had just completed my first year as a special education teacher for 12 students in a self-contained cross-categorical program in a middle school in California. My students were separated totally from general education students, housed in a church across from the campus. No other students shared my students’ lunch time. Separate periods for music, art, and physical education were provided for my students. I believed that the learning and behavior of my students in this separate classroom had resulted in less than desirable academic and social outcomes.

Separation seemed to promote the sense of not belonging to the larger group and not being responsible to it.

With the permission of the principal and individual classroom teachers supportive of the idea, I began to integrate my students into general classroom activities with direct support from special education staff members. I continued this integrative approach during my four years of teaching in the school.

When I relocated, I was assigned to teach a group of middle school students in a self-contained classroom in a small town in northern Arizona. Although my students were in the same building as the rest of the students, all their instruction was provided separately. As had occurred in my previous experience in a self-contained classroom, my students were engaging in inappropriate behavior, and academic progress was minimal in the separate classroom. I decided to involve my students in age appropriate general education classrooms.

I approached individual teachers with the idea of my providing instruction in their classrooms for students with reading or math needs, along with one or two of my special education students. With the change to more involvement in general education classrooms with my support, I observed that special education students experienced greater academic gains, and that their behaviors became more appropriate. My experiences in the two separate schools prompted me to take the nontraditional approach of inclusion practice for special education service delivery.

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When I began teaching in the study school, special education teachers provided services following traditional approaches and expectations. As in other schools where I had taught, the problem of the revolving door for resource teachers was occurring in the school. New special education teachers were teaching special education for one year and then moving into general education classrooms the following year.

As a first grade teacher, concerned about the lack of continuity for students receiving special education services, I began to talk with other general education teachers about the problem. I attempted to gauge their reactions to the idea of integration of special education students into the general education classrooms on a full-time basis with special education resource services provided in those classrooms. The teachers were supportive and willing to attempt the new approach. The principal and the special education coordinator also were supportive and willing. I decided to request the resource position, and special education staff members began to provide special education services in the general education classrooms the following school year.

Over the next three years, special education staff members refined service delivery in general education classrooms, gaining expertise from their experiences. General education teachers learned many special education instructional techniques and approaches to instruction, often incorporating the specific skills into their instruction for all their students.

I wondered if our approaches were similar to approaches other practitioners had devised, and if the outcomes we were observing were what others who were practicing inclusion were experiencing. One of my goals when I became a doctoral student was to verify whether inclusion practices in the school were similar to those that other practitioners were finding to be workable and effective.

In my reading I found indicators of what other professionals saw as desirable for inclusion practice. I also found confusion and controversy about definitions of inclusion, a continuum of service delivery, interventions, and what comprises success for students. I have not found a clear definition of successful inclusion, which is a phrase frequently found in publications. Writers have suggested ways to attain inclusion success, but they have failed to identify what constitutes success.

In the research I found about the practice of inclusion, researchers considered teacher perceptions to be a key factor in teachers’ acceptance or lack of acceptance of inclusion practices (O’Shea, Stoddard, & O’Shea, 2000; Vaughn & Schumm, 1996).

Research about teachers’ perceptions of inclusion will be explored in Chapter Two.

I was puzzled by the controversy in the extensive information I had read. During the early phases of inclusion practice in the study school, I had attempted to tap general education teachers’ perceptions of and attitudes toward specific techniques and strategies that were initiated. The intent in tapping their perceptions was for special education staff members to be responsive to problems and concerns about special education service delivery as inclusion practices were implemented. I decided to return to the school as an observer to gather additional information about the attitudes and perceptions of school members who had practiced inclusion. I wanted to look systematically at inclusion in the school and determine whether inclusion was sustained over time, conceptually and in practice.

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Since its inception, special education has meant separate delivery of services, first in separate schools, later in separate classes in neighborhood schools. No one worried about special education in public schools in the 1950s. Children with special needs sometimes were seen in private schools. More often they were in institutions or simply kept at home. From 1960 until 1975, educators were encouraged to develop programs for special education, and funding was offered as an incentive for developing special education programs.

In 1975, PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was passed, mandating special education in public schools. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was reauthorized in 1990, when it became known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and by which it has continued to be referred (Deutsch-Smith, 1998). Reauthorization occurred in 1997 and in 2004, now known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.

The number of students identified for special education services rapidly increased nationwide because of the mandate. Educators followed the federal guidelines for programs, writing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and considering Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Separate schools still were predominant, but some separate classes within neighborhood schools were established. Special education services began to be provided in resource rooms with special education students leaving their general education classrooms for part of the day. This was the first step toward widespread practice of inclusion, although the term inclusion emerged later (Bos & Fletcher, 1998).

An overt thrust toward inclusionary service delivery for special education students came in 1986. Madeline Will, parent of a child with severe disabilities, also was director of the federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. Because of her personal interest and professional investment in special education, Will prepared a report on the education of children with special needs. In her report (1986), now referred to as the Regular Education Initiative (REI), she urged that all educators share responsibility for special education. While the REI did not include a mandate that educators practice inclusion, special education teachers must be able to provide justification for not placing special education students in general education classrooms.

The special education population has continued to increase rapidly. Resource rooms and separate classes currently are the settings most frequently used for delivery of services. Across the United States, a few states have mandated inclusion as a practice, and some individual districts or individual schools practice inclusion, but the practice of inclusion as an ideal has not been common in schools (National Center for Educational Restructuring, 1994). However, inclusion as an option in the continuum of special education service delivery has had general acceptance among educators and has been a federal indicator for special education programs through IDEA.

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