Academic journal article Education

Teacher Attitudes toward Inclusion of Students with Disabilities into Regular Classrooms

Academic journal article Education

Teacher Attitudes toward Inclusion of Students with Disabilities into Regular Classrooms

Article excerpt

Since the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983), which heightened public interest in educational reform, there has been a strong national movement to include all students in the regular neighborhood schools and classrooms (Stainback & Stainback, 1990). Inclusion is defined as educating all students in the mainstream for all of the day (Lusthaus & Forest, 1989). All students, regardless of disability, are educated in the integrated, general education class. Regular teachers are asked to provide experiences that are appropriate for all of their students. The special education teacher provides support in the regular classroom (Stainback & Stainback, 1992). The resource room is at least partially replaced with the special education teacher consulting from room to room.

Inclusion originated in New Zealand, England, and Canada where it is currently being implemented (Gage, 1994). There are also a number of schools in Italy, Australia, and the United States that are successfully implementing inclusion (Berrigan, 1989; Blackman & Peterson, 1989; Buswell & Shaffer, 1990; Schattman, 1988; Stainback & Stainback, 1988). Inclusion differs from mainstreaming in that in the inclusive program the children with disabilities are the shared responsibility of the classroom teacher and other support professionals. In mainstreaming programs the children were seen as the primary responsibility of the resource teacher (Stainback & Stainback, 1988).

Some groups such as the Association for Retarded Citizens, United Cerebral Palsy, and the Association for Persons With Severe Handicaps have been strong advocates for the inclusion movement. These groups want to eliminate segregated classrooms as well as pullout special educational programs. They hope to create a better social environment at school by bringing services for children with handicaps into the regular classroom (Gorman & Rose, 1994). Although opinions vary widely, one key advocate for the inclusion movement has been the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) which argues that current practices in special education have not been effective (Gorman & Rose, 1994). For example, Cartwright, Cartwright, and Ward (1985) reported that research showed students in special education classes did not achieve any better than their counterparts in regular education classes. In fact, children with mild handicaps made greater academic gains in the regular classroom than children with similar handicaps in segregated classrooms (Madden & Slavin, 1983). The NASBE also has called for the integration of general and special education into one system with flexible instruction on and curricula. The single system would offer student centered classrooms where a variety of professionals would meet the needs of all students (Gorman & Rose, 1994). Those in support of inclusion believe that inclusion provides more effective education for all students, not only those with handicapping conditions (Pearman, Huang, Barnhart, & Mellblom, 1992).

As with any significant change there are also those who strongly hold differing opinions. Opponents of inclusion have argued that it does not save money and actually probably costs more to implement than old pull-out approach (Woelfel, 1994). The two most prominent opponents of inclusion, The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA), have urged schools to keep service options available to students (Gorman & Rose, 1994). The LDA has also argued that inclusion is a violation of the 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("Position Paper," 1993). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandated that a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment based on the individual needs of the students be provided to individuals with disabilities. Inclusion may not be appropriate for all students. Other groups also have resisted inclusion. …

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