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Jerry Webster

Am I Missing Something?

By January 22, 2013

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I was rather surprised to see an article in the CEC "Smart Brief," a news service provided by the Council for Exceptional Children that talks about a district in New York that has moved it's self contained classrooms out into all of the neighborhood schools.  What?  It's taken them this long?

Another reason that this baffled me, was that it is Massapequa, which is on the southeast short of Long Island.  Perhaps I'm naive enough to think that because it's New York it must be up to date.   I checked Wikipedia and found that the median household income is $116,000.  I know Metropolitan New York is an expensive place to live  . . . still, I'm puzzled that they are just now figuring out what Least Restrictive Environment means.

I can't imagine having my classroom in a building with just self-contained programs, as Massapequa did until this reorganization.   My students (on the Autism Spectrum) have really benefited from the time we spend with their typical first grade peers.  It motivates academic performance, it gives their typical peers an opportunity to model age appropriate behavior and I have seen a really great expansion of pro-social behavior, language and academic growth because of it.  Being in a regular elementary school means that inclusion is part of what we do, as well as fulfilling the district's mandate to offer a "continuum" of placement and services.

I also worry about what the squeeze we are seeing in public education is going to mean down the road.  IDEA very clearly specifies how students with disabilities are to be educated.  Yes, states have some lee-way, but how long until some whipper-snapper lawyer decides to pursue some class action suits?  Will our state governments and school districts be able to survive?   The state of Pennsylvania is currently under a judge's supervision in the settlement for Gaskin Vs. the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which scrutinizes every incidence of "inclusion."  How long before a proliferation of lawsuits hit California, where I hear from colleagues that many districts are dumping children with disabilities in cross categorical self-contained classrooms, throwing children with significant intellectual disabilities with children with autism spectrum disorders.  Is that really the best they can do?

Comments

January 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm
(1) Scooby says:

It sounds like you are mixing the word ‘inclusion’ with ‘mainstream’.
The Los Angeles unified school district has some students in inclusion, some mainstreamed (like my daughter ) and others at special education centers. At the special education centers students with severe behaviors, and or severe developmental and medical challenges often get a better education than they would at a general education school.

January 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm
(2) specialed says:

I do clearly know the difference, though my understanding is built on graduate work and practice in Pennsylvania and Nevada. I reference the Gaskin lawsuit in the article. Certainly, inclusion is not the best choice for all children, which is why “a continuum” is the best model. Huge districts like Los Angelos Unified District can aggregate resources and programs in ways that small districts (according to the Legislative Analysts Office of California, 40% of districts have fewer than 1,000 students) are unable. In Pennsylvania, they use an “intermediate unit” to provide specialized programs in smaller districts. Districts often negotiate between each other which will offer what special programs. Obviously, my friends from California are reporting about smaller, suburban districts in the Los Angelos and Orange County areas.

I do believe that our students (with disabilities) benefit from participating in programs with general education students. My students have benefited from just participating in “specials,” but my hope is to move my cognitively age and grade appropriate children into general ed settings for most of the day.

February 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm
(3) Interested says:

Thank you for expressing the importance of looking at the contunuum of educational settings to determind the least restrictive environment for each student. I really appreciated the reference to the fact that mainstrearming cannot be misconstrued for true inclusion. I also appreciated the comments about self contained classrooms and the over use of such programs. I too, agree that smaller school districts cannot offer such programs with fidelty and the programs quickly become a one size fits all, which does not benefit anyone.

September 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
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