Information for parents of disabled children

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A word on inclusion from Wisconsin

Mudd Hall, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore...Image via Wikipedia

There are no comparative data available on special education students' academic gains, graduation rates, preparation for post-secondary schooling, work, or involvement in community living based on their placement in inclusive vs. non-inclusive settings. Therefore, an accurate comparison between separate programming and inclusive programming cannot be done.
The following is a brief review of a number of studies of various inclusive strategies. There are a number of reviews and meta-analyses that consistently report little or no benefit for students when they are placed in special education settings (Kavale, K.A., Glass, G.V., 1982; Madden and Slavin, 1983). However, in 50 studies comparing the academic performance of mainstreamed and segregated students with mild handicapping conditions, the mean academic performance of the integrated group was in the 80th percentile, while the segregated students score was in the 50th percentile (Weiner R., 1985).
Using this evidence, inclusion proponents claim that segregated programs are detrimental to students and do not meet the original goals for special education. Recent meta-analyses confirm a small to moderate beneficial effect of inclusion education on the academic and social outcome of special needs students. (Carlberg, C. and Kavale, K. 1980; Baker, E.T., and Wang, M.C., and Walberg, H.J., 1994-95).
Another study assessing the effectiveness of inclusion was done at Johns Hopkins University. In a school-wide restructuring program called Success For All, student achievement was measured. The program itself is a comprehensive effort that involves family support teams, professional development for teachers, reading, tutoring, special reading programs, eight-week reading assessments, and expanded opportunities for pre-school and kindergarten children.
In assessing effectiveness, a control group was compared with the students in Success For All programs. Comparative measures included:
  • Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery (1984)
  • Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty (1980)
  • Student retention and attendance.
Comparisons were made at first, second, and third grades. Students identified with exceptional education needs were included in all comparisons. While assessments showed improved reading performance for all students, the most dramatic improvements occurred among the lowest achievers. In spite of the fact that these inner city schools have normally high retention problems, only 4% of the fourth graders in the experimental group had ever been held back one or more grades, while the five control schools had 31% who had failed at least one year.
There was a similar finding in the comparison of attendance rates. The research also found the best results occurred in schools with the highest level of funding. They concluded that when resources are available to provide supplementary aids, all children do better.
The primary importance of research on Success For All is that it demonstrates that with early and continuing intervention nearly all children can be successful in reading. Common practice in compensatory and special education is to identify children who have already fallen behind and provide remediation services that last for years (Allington and McGill-Frazen, 1990). Research on Success For All and other intensive early intervention programs such as Reading Recovery (Pinnell, 1991) and Prevention of Learning Disabilities (Silver and Hagen, 1989) suggests that there are effective alternatives to remedial approaches.
While researchers are cautious in their conclusions, there are some positive signs. In particular, students in special education and regular education showed several positive changes, including:
  • A reduced fear of human differences accompanied by increased comfort and awareness (Peck et al., 1992);
  • Growth in social cognition (Murray-Seegert,1989);
  • Improvement in self-concept of non-disabled students (Peck et. al., 1992);
  • Development of personal principles and ability to assume an advocacy role toward their peers and friends with disabilities;
  • Warm and caring friendships (Bogdan and Taylor, 1989).
The final issue shared by proponents of inclusion relates to cost-effectiveness. A 1989 study found that over a fifteen year period, the employment rate for high school graduates with special needs who had been in segregated programs was 53%. But for special needs graduates from integrated programs the employment rate was 73%. Furthermore, the cost of educating students in segregated programs was double that for educating them in integrated programs (Piuma, 1989).
A similar study by Affleck, Madge, Adams, and Lowenbraun (1988) demonstrated that the integrated classroom for students with special needs was more cost-effective than the resource program, even though achievement in reading, math and language remained basically the same in the two service delivery models.
It is normally not my practice to cut and paste, but this information is hard to come by for parents. It's especially hard to find unbiased resources like the Wisconsin Educational Association Council who report just what is. 
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1 comment:

  1. It is always good to see Wisconsin in print! My hubby works in the school system here in WI(he's a school psychologist) and his knowledge has been very helpful in navigating our own IEP process. Thanks for sharing the article!