Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Analysis of Science Textbook Recommendations Provided for Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Analysis of Science Textbook Recommendations Provided for Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Today, schools are increasingly educating students with disabilities in general education classrooms, and more and more students are finding themselves mainstreamed (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1988). Simultaneously, educators are being urged to increase the quality of instruction in regular classes so that U.S. students will be first in science and mathematics achievement worldwide by the year 2000.

Current estimates are that approximately 70% of all special education students spend a substantial amount of school time in the general education setting, and 26% spend a majority of their time in regular classes (Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1990). Officials of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs indicate that more than half of all students with disabilities receive instruction in science and mathematics in regular classes (U.S. Department of Education, 1991).

What constitutes appropriate instructional practice for special education students in the mainstream? The field has not taken a firm, proactive stance to set standards for the nature and extent of instructional adaptations required by mainstreamed students with disabilities. As a result, decisions regarding instructional recommendations have frequently been left to personnel in other areas of education. On occasion, educators have made recommendations with little thought concerning the long-term needs of the students. In many instances, these recommendations have little or no relevance to the needs of the students.

Very little information is available regarding the appropriateness of the science instruction that students with disabilities are receiving in general education or special education settings. We know that students with disabilities do not perform satisfactorily in this important subject area. For example, researchers have found that between 50% and 70% of the letter grades in science received by high school students with mild disabilities were "D" and below (Cawley, Kahn, & Tedesco, 1989; Donahoe & Zigmond, 1986). Hamisch and Wilkinson (1989) reported that the relative performance of children with disabilities was lower for science and mathematics than it was for reading, vocabulary, and writing at the secondary school level. Gregory, Shanahan, and Walberg (1985) reported that science test scores for normally achieving students were significantly higher than those of students with learning disabilities in the 10th grade.

The state of New York administered a Program Evaluation Test in science to all fourthgrade children (N = 197,861) and to many ageeligible children with disabilities (N = 18,032), regardless of their educational placement. It was found that the students with disabilities scored about 20% below the normally achieving group in content and skills areas and 10% below in manipulation activities.

Researchers have yet to determine the extent to which performance in science is a reflection of the quality and quantity of the educational experience. For example, Coble and Mathias (1982) found that not one student with disabilities was enrolled in a general education, secondary science class in one large state. In examining the science instruction provided in the general education setting, Raizen (1988) reported that the average amount of time spent per week was 18 min in Grades K-3 and 29 min in Grades 4-6. For students with mild disabilities in general education settings, the class time devoted to reading education was greater than that devoted to science education by a factor of nearly 200 (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Christenson, & Weiss, 1987).

Very little information is available regarding curricula and instruction for students with disabilities in special education settings. Patton, Polloway, and Cronin (in press) surveyed special education teachers concerning their practices in science. They found that 38% of the teachers of self-contained classes provided no science instruction. …

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