Inclusive Schooling: National and International Perspectives

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

making process varied across the five states and local districts. Four of the five sites had specific guidelines or statements regarding how a student with a disability would be expected to participate. However, the implementation of the guidelines, such as when a student is exempted from an assessment, or given an assessment accommodation, or when a standard is modified, is very much under the control of special education teachers in local school buildings who are operating with little or no accountability for their decisions.

The lack of authority over individual schools resulting from changes in governance structures appeared even more trying for special education directors who wanted to maintain consistency across schools in the types of programs and procedures or to promote inclusive schools. They also wanted to ensure that their staff was not ignored in the site-based governance process. The directors in several districts expressed frustration at their lack of influence over the decisions of the site-based councils. Although no single director specifically addressed this issue in relation to standards, assessment, or accountability, it does cause one to question the effectiveness or inclusiveness of various state or district guidelines and policies concerning participation of students with disabilities in standards- based reform. Without accountability for key decisions such as those discussed here, it is unlikely that teachers or IEP teams will implement the policies consistently.

A major question raised by these case studies is whether standards-based reform works for students with disabilities. Do the reforms promote or impede the development of critical outcomes? Obviously, there is no definitive answer. Much depends on how the reforms are defined and implemented: What are the standards, how will student performance be measured, and who will be held accountable for meeting them? In addition, it is critical to determine how these reforms will interact with special educations' goal of creating more inclusive classrooms. The answer to this lies in part in how standards change the focus of instruction in classrooms and expectations about students, as well as the demands of new assessments and accountability requirements. Results of our case studies suggest that there are positive aspects as well as challenges in what schools are implementing. Current policies or proclamations regarding full participation of students with disabilities in reforms need to be examined and interpreted for building staff and parents to ensure that individuals know how to prioritize individual educational goals, and set expectations of what is important for students to know and be able to do as they leave school.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This research was supported by the Center for Policy Research on the Impact of General and Special Education Reform, a consortium of the Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Youth at the University of Maryland, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, funded by the Division

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