Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Are Regular Education Classes Equipped to Accomodate Students with Learning Disabilities?

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Are Regular Education Classes Equipped to Accomodate Students with Learning Disabilities?

Article excerpt

Are Regular Education Classes Equipped to Accommodate Students with Learning Disabilities?

ABSTRACT: This study examined educational practices in regular education classes in grades

K-5 to determine changes required to facilitate a full-time mainstreaming program for students

with learning disabilities. Data collected during the planning year of a mainstreaming project

permitted a detailed analysis of the elementary school and the extent to which it accommodated

individual differences. Data from informal and structured observations, interviews, and surveys

of students, parents, and teachers suggested that fundamental changes in instruction are

necessary for the regular education initiative to work in this school. * The provision of special education services within the regular classroom is being promoted as an alternative to resource rooms or self-contained programs for students with learning disabilities, particularly at the elementary school level. A number of practitioners and policy makers have called for a halt to the current practice of removing students with learning disabilities from regular education classrooms (see Will, 1986) and have challenged school personnel to maintain these and other "marginal" students in regular classrooms and to offer special services in those settings (Reynolds, Wang, & Walberg, 1987).

Support for this regular education initiative (Hallahan, Keller, McKinney, Lloyd, and Bryan, 1988) appears to have derived from three sources. First, reformers have questioned the economic feasibility of operating several categorical programs simultaneously (Special Education Costs, 1988). Second, proponents of full-time mainstreaming have suggested that diagnostic criteria for placement of students into pull-out categorical programs are unclear (see Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1983) and that we would do well to eliminate these programs altogether. Finally, some researchers have raised questions about the adequacy of pull-out special education programs for students with mild disabilities because of the limited progress made by these students (Epps & Tindall, 1987; Idol-Maestas, 1983; Leinhardt, Bickel, & Pallay, 1982; Polloway, 1984).

Few advocates of the regular education initiative, however, have examined the basic assumption of full-time mainstreaming--that the regular education class can provide an environment that facilitates learning for a wide range of students. Although many believe that regular education classrooms can be made to work more effectively for all students, there have been no clear descriptions of the extent of the changes in regular education that will be required to support full-time mainstreaming.

The current research was undertaken as part of the planning year of a 3-year study of full-time mainstreaming for elementary-level students with learning disabilities (Zigmond & Baker, 1987). The data collected contribute to an understanding of day-to-day practices in traditional regular education classrooms and the inservice training, resources, and support personnel required for full-time mainstreaming.

METHODS

Context

This study was conducted in an urban school district with more than 42,000 students in Grades K-12 and approximately 3% of the population identified as learning disabled (LD). At the elementary level, the most common service delivery arrangement for LD students is the full-time self-contained class. In this setting, LD students receive instruction from a special education teacher for all the basic skills subjects (e.g., reading, math, and language arts), as well as for science and social studies; integration into the mainstream occurs only for art, music, physical education, and library.

The target elementary school, one of 53 elementary schools in the district, served 266 students in Grades K-5 during the 1987-88 school year. …

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