Inclusive Schooling: National and International Perspectives

By Stanley J. Vitello; Dennis E. Mithaug | Go to book overview

4
The Inclusion of Students With Disabilities in School Reform and Restructuring: An Analysis of Five Local School Districts

Margaret J. McLaughlin Kelly Henderson Lauren M. Rhim University of Maryland

The educational reforms that have evolved since the 1980s are changing the context of classrooms and the expectations for teachers and students. These reforms have generally been focused on six major policy areas: standards, assessment, accountability, governance, teachers, and finance ( Goertz & Friedman, 1996). During this same time period, special education programs have changed in response to efforts to promote inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms, to decrease inappropriate identification of students as disabled, particularly cultural or language minority students, and to improve the educational results for all students receiving special education services. As these general and special education reform initiatives come together in schools and classrooms, they must be defined, negotiated, and adapted to fit existing policies and practices.

Understanding the features of the general education reforms is essential for several reasons. Special education programs operate in the context of the larger educational system and special education policies and resources cannot help but be influenced by larger system priorities. Furthermore, students with disabilities are increasingly receiving their instruction in general education classrooms. According to the U.S. Department of Education ( 1996), 43% of the students with disabilities receive the majority of their educational program in those environments. Ensuring that these students have meaningful access to the curriculum and instruction provided in general education classrooms requires a sound knowledge of how educational reforms are impacting special education

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