Inclusionary Practices Within the Middle and High School Educational Environments

Inclusionary Practices Within the Middle and High School Educational Environments

Pam L. Epler (Grand Canyon University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5727-2.ch005
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This chapter is designed to inform and educate 6th- through 12th-grade teachers and administrators about inclusionary practices within the middle and high school educational environments. This chapter is divided into three sections. The first section provides a definition of inclusion. The second section discusses the benefits and challenges associated with implementing inclusion within middle and high school educational environments for both students with identified special learning needs and students without special needs. The last section investigates what can be done to overcome the challenges so that a better learning experience is had by all stakeholders, including students, teachers, and parents.
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In 1974, Public Law 94-142—the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA)—was established after parents began lobbying the federal government for reforms that would allow their children with disabilities to be educated alongside their age- and grade-level peers. EAHCA outlined four tenets: (1) “all children with disabilities have available to them … a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs”; (2) “the rights of children with disabilities and their parents … are protected”; (3) “states and localities [must] provide for the education of all children with disabilities”, and; (4) “the effectiveness of efforts to educate all children with disabilities” must be assessed (United States Office of Special Education Programs, 2007, p. 3). Prior to the law, only large districts provided any type of service delivery model for students with identified special needs. After the law was initiated, all children were promised a public education for the first time. However, despite these changes, SWDs were often relegated to a classroom far away from other classes, which placed them out of sight and out of mind.

Since the initial EAHCA was implemented, many changes have occurred, including the law’s name. In 1990, the name of the law was changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by which it is still referred to today. Under IDEA (2004), additional components were added, such as offering special education services to families who have a child under the age of 5 with a disability diagnosis so that early intervention and pre-school services can be provided. Transitional services, starting at age 14, must also be provided so that SWDs and their families can prepare for life (e.g., college, trade school, job, assisted living situation, etc.) after high school. Further, instructors who want to teach SWDs must be highly qualified. Another requirement under IDEA is that progress made on an SWD’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be reported to his or her parents or guardians as frequently as the general education students get progress reports (typically every 9 weeks or every grading period). Finally, IDEA requires that if a child is suspected of having a disability, he or she must be tested in his or her native language and all correspondence with the parents concerning these suspicions must be conducted in the same manner.

With the passage of IDEA, two important legal concepts based upon the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment—free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and least restrictive environment (LRE)—were established. FAPE ensures that the school district will provide a free education in a public school that is appropriate for each child’s individual needs. Parents of an SWD do not pay for any services other than the normal fees any other child at the school would incur—for example, a grade-level materials fee. LRE ensures that SWDs are always placed in a classroom setting where academic success will occur. Unfortunately, IDEA does not clearly define FAPE or LRE, and as a consequence, each state, local school district, and parents of SWDs are left to decide on their own how to interpret the law. Due to this situation, there have been numerous court cases, from appeals courts to the United States Supreme Court, about FAPE and LRE. Two important examples are discussed in the next section.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Part of IDEA that requires that all SWDs be taught in an educational environment that best fits their learning ability. For some, this may be the general education classroom. For others, this is a self-contained classroom comprising only a few students with similar disabilities, a paraprofessional aide, and a teacher.

Push In: An inclusion service delivery model in which a special educator delivers services to an SWD within the general education classroom.

Student with a Disability: A learner educated in the public-school environment who qualifies for special education services under IDEA.

Individual Education Plan (IEP): A learning plan that is required for any student who qualifies for services under IDEA.

Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE): Part of IDEA that states that the parents of an SWD do not have to pay for the additional costs to educate their child. Services like speech, physical, or occupational therapy are provided to the students at no cost to the parent.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The federal law that requires any student with an identified disability to be educated alongside their age- and grade-level peers.

Inclusion: Educating students with an identified disability in a public-school environment that best fits their learning needs.

Pull Out: An inclusion service delivery model in which a special educator delivers services to an SWD in a room (often called Resource Room) outside the general education classroom.

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