Academic journal article Education

The Regular Education Initiative Teacher: The Research Results and Recommended Practice

Academic journal article Education

The Regular Education Initiative Teacher: The Research Results and Recommended Practice

Article excerpt

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142) and Education of the Handicapped Act amendments of 1990 (PL 101-476) are excellent examples of the federal government influence in the translating of social policy into practical alterations in local public school procedures. The general social policy of equalization of educational opportunity and the specific social policy of assuring that young people with various physical, mental, and emotional disabilities are appropriately served by public schools have come together in these two laws, PL 94-142 and Pl 101-476. Both of these major acts were intended to bring the disabled closer to the public norm.

The two public laws have prompted a closer identification of handicapped individuals in order to assure proper placement in appropriate learning environments. These laws further require individualized planning and consultation with parents and experts to insure the efficacy of the placement.

Legislation of such delicate matters does not insure success, however. Gerber (1980) noted, "It is one thing to legislate integration of disabled, minority, or even disabled minority children into the mainstream; it is quite another to make their stay educationally worthwhile".

Critics of the Regular Education Initiative (REI) have argued that initially, laws promising education for handicapped children appeared as a humane effort on the part of our government to embody in legislation the basic constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity for all. In reality, the critics have claimed, PL 94-142 and PL 101-476 are ill-conceived laws embodying a Pollyanna-Horatio Alger-like euphoria contrary to fact perception of reality.

The advocates of REI have argued that the disabled child gains academically and socially while the rest of the class gains in the gradual acceptance of human differences. Proponents ask how can our society be cohesive unless we accept everyone as an equal?

One wag has countered that PL 94-142 is really a full employment act for lawyers. Indeed, much litigation regarding the identification, classification, placement, and specialized treatment of children with handicaps has been initiated. The parental involvement aspect of the law invited cooperation but can lead to conflict. Also some parents of "normal" children are beginning to wonder if their offspring might not be entitled to greater specialized services as well (Noll, 1989).

The purpose of this paper is (a) to review the research concerning the attitudes and abilities of the nation's classroom teachers regarding mainstreaming, inclusion, and the Regular Education Initiative; and (b) the author will provide some suggestions for attitudinal and methodological changes which should help REI classrooms to become more successful. The teacher's attitude toward youngsters with disabilities is a key factor in the success or failure of a REI program (Bender, 1987; Glomb & Morgan, 1991; Bain & Dolbel, 1991; Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Christenson, & Muyskens, 1991; Larrivee & Horne, 1991).

The Teacher's Attitude

Early studies have suggested that many regular teachers were opposed to mainstreaming (Abramson, 1980; Baker & Gottlieb, 1980; Larrivee & Cook, 1979; Stevens & Braun, 1980). Teaching in a mainstream classroom involves, among other things, testing to determine present academic levels, individualizing instruction, developing materials, familiarity with effective methodologies, and identifying appropriate techniques for behavior management.

In general, regular classroom teachers are less accepting of mainstreaming when compared to their special education counterparts (Mandell & Strain, 1978). When the handicapped are maintained in regular classrooms, teachers perceive them to be considerable below average on both academic achievement and social acceptance (MacMillan, Meyers, & Yoshida, 1979). For example, it has been determined that regular classroom teachers associate greater academic, social, and vocational benefits to special classrooms and do not perceive mildly mentally retarded students as having the cognitive skills needed to be academically successful. …

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