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?