Inclusion in Schools
Inclusion has been a heated topic of debate for the past few years. It is a relatively new term that has only been around for about 15 years or so. Therefore, it is widely misunderstood. What exactly is inclusion? According to Spencer J. Salend, the author of the textbook, Creating Inclusive Classrooms, “inclusion is the philosophy for educating students with disabilities in general education settings” (Salend, 2001, p.43). Inclusive education means that all students in a school, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area become part of the school community. As indicated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, “a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is mandated for students with disabilities. The placement of disabled students must be in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which is the environment closest to the general classroom in which the student’s individual needs can be met. This placement can be in a special class, resource room, or the general classroom with or without consultative services” (Summer, 1994). Other least restrictive environments can include home instruction and hospitals. The law of inclusion simply states that students with disabilities must receive free education in their least restricted environment. Along with the definition of inclusion, there is another misunderstanding about inclusion. The terms mainstreaming and inclusion are often confused with one another and are used interchangeably in education today. This contradiction in usage has led to some confusion about inclusion. Mainstreaming is where students with disabilities are sent from a special education class to a regular class for specific periods throughout the day, whereas inclusion focuses on keeping a disabled child in a regular classroom for nearly the whole school day. I have included a Mainstreaming vs. Inclusion fact sheet at the end of this paper to further describe the differences between the two terms. (Fact Sheet, 2004). There is a similar chart in the textbook by Salend. This figure leans more toward the pro-inclusion side. It describes that all learners have the right to be educated with full access in general education classrooms with inclusion, whereas mainstreaming allows only selected learners into general education classes based on their readiness as determined by educators. (Salend, p.11) Even though these terms are similar in that they deal with the same topic, they are drastically different in their meaning. Now that we have made the definition of inclusion clear we can view the advantages and disadvantages of this philosophy. There are many advantages and disadvantages of inclusion. Unfortunately we cannot prove most of them since inclusion is such a new practice. The research that we do have on the impact of inclusion is inconclusive. We do however have research on special education placements. The National Association of State Boards of Education (1992) reports the following: (Issues,1999) ? 43 percent of students in special education do not graduate; ? youth with disabilities have a significantly higher likelihood of being arrested than their non-disabled peers (12 percent versus 8 percent); ? only 13.4 percent of youth with disabilities are living independently two years after leaving high school (compared to 33.2 percent of their non-disabled peers); and ? less than half of all youth with disabilities are employed after having been out of school one to two years. These statistics seem to be a good reason to have inclusion. However, according to the same source the overall dropout rate is estimated to be between 18 and 21 percent. The overall unemployment rate of high school dropouts in 1992 was 11.4 percent, while students who graduated but did not go on to college had an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. These numbers...
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