« Olympics Star Fought ADHD | Main | Parents Down on Mainstreaming, Too »

Mainstreaming Takes a Hit

| 10 Comments

Only 25 percent of public teachers believe that students with emotional and behavioral disabilities should be taught in regular classrooms along with other students, according to a poll released today by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University. (Scroll down to the section titled "Mainstreaming the Disabled" to see the results.)

Public school teachers were statistically tied with the public at large; the poll said only 28 percent of the public believes that students with these disabilities should be mainstreamed.

My colleague, Linda Jacobson, has written an article about these poll results and what they may mean for the presidential election. In the meantime, I'm working on an article about new research into adolescents with behavioral disorders that is slated to run in Education Week's Aug. 27 issue.

10 Comments

Christina, I saw that and it made me very sad. The fact that it was the same outcome across all groupings particularly so. The only bright side was that it was just the one question, so there is room, perhaps for some moderated viewpoints if it were asked differently (ie: "some students with emotional or behavior difficulties can be successfully educated in a regular classroom").

I frequently feel that one of my larger battles as a parent has been to try to shine a spotlight on the way that school policy works to exacerbate my son's problems. Imagine being someone prone to depression who has to go every day to an environment that says both implicitly and explicitly the YOU don't belong here. That doesn't even begin to address what that atmosphere teaches other children about how to treat students who are different.

Students with emotional/behavioral disabilities are underidentified for special education services. (The other problem--false positives, as in the case of students who are black males, is also a concern.)
Because these disabilities are episodic (hidden), there is a strong tendency to deny these individuals services. In my opinion, the answers lie in advocacy and education. To that end, teachers need instruction on empirically based interventions to use. Many (most?) have had minimal (no) training in positive behavioral supports, crisis intervention, counseling, or best practice educational strategies.
Also interesting is the turnover rate among their teachers--the highest in education. The nature of the disability is dynamic; the teachers are often changing; administrators often don't get it (a high reliance on punishment>>>oppression>>>>mimics the dysfunction that often contributes to the disability, and exacerbates acting out)--not a good combination. NAMI is making progress; schools desperately need to catch up!

"Also interesting is the turnover rate among their teachers--the highest in education. The nature of the disability is dynamic; the teachers are often changing; administrators often don't get it"

One additional difficulty has to do with the trade-off between someone who is really almost instinctive on the behavioral end and someone who knows content--particularly in upper grades. My son had two teachers who were really outstanding with emotional behavioral issues--each having different strengths, but really being able to see how modifying the environment had a lot to do with supporting kids who need it. Neither had a content area major (one also was teaching on a sub license--wasn't certified in special ed either), but they would have had a lot to offer someone who did. One was at the elementary level--so she was able to keep her head above water somewhat with content--and was the only one who ever really put any thought into teaching social studies. The other was at middle school level, where really the best he could do was "save" kids from the regular ed teachers. He was responsible for three grades of emotionally disturbed (middle school) students. Kids were either with him in the cross graded classroom or in a regular classroom (where he was technically responsible for services, if there were to be any). Mostly he "put out fires" and provided some movement through text books--to the extent that he could lay hands on some that were reading level appropriate and aligned to the curriculum. There were lots of worksheets--and Friday videos.

In neither case were the best skills and talents being put to use because of the impossible segregated set-up.

Yes, Margo, there are people who are "almost instinctive on the behavioral end...;" however, I venture to say they are not "highly qualified" in behavioral interventions. We need teachers who are "highly qualified" in content and "highly qualified" in social/emotional/behavioral interventions. And if this is what we need, then we need to dramatically change some professional job descriptions, and pay accordingly. In my opinion, this is called "respect".

Hey Kim:

I would have used different terminology, but nothing was coming to mind. What I meant by "almost instinctive," was not necessarily untrained (although I would guess that we have both run into some of those who just have native talent), but those folks who have so internalized the right responses that they have their reflex reactions have a high likelihood of being appropriate. I would agree that even those who seem to "have the gift" need to have an excellent theoretical base. And, as I've said before--if I ran the world--these people would be more highly educated, experienced, and paid.

Margo,
Now I understand what you meant.
Thanks for clarifying for me.
And I agree.
Re: Direct instruction--
If this were my child, I would want to know what methodology is proposed, as well as how long and implemented by whom. And, of course, what are the experience and qualifications of the teacher. And I would ask to review the formative assessment data.
BTW, I have had excellent results with Direct Instruction, when implemented with fidelity. There is substantial research evidence for using it with students appropriately identified as ED.

Kim:

Thanks for the suggestions. I don't know if you are talking about DI (the published reading/math program) or di, a more generic strategy. I think that the issue of implemented with fidelity is key, as well as the issue of appropriately identified. I can get the qualifications of the teacher now from the state website--which is how I know that my son has been "taught" subjects such as "biology" and "algebra" by people whose qualifications were in special eduation--with highly qualified status achieved through workshops. But the school has met the minimum qualifications.

Asking for formative assessment data isn't the same as getting meaningful assessment data. Next week we will be going into round three of meeting for a senior year IEP. The good thing is that I have some help from a state consultant. Maybe I will be successful in getting something meaningful in terms of formative data written into the goals--and reported as required.

But the reality is, the district pays very little attention to the IEP process. In most cases it is something that the teacher writes up and asks the parent to sign. Regular reporting on goals does not happen. Every quarter I have to ask for the IEP report--and I might get something 2 weeks later--either as narrative or as a making progess/not making progress. If not making progress I can request an IEP meeting. This takes about a month. By then, either everything is wonderful (no changes required), or something else has happened in the discipline category to take attention away from whatever wasn't happening in the classroom. This can take several months to respond to and then--well, the year is over.

It has been a number of years since I realized that things wouldn't get better for my kid until they got better for all kids in the district. I have tried to get the parent mentors to have parent meetings (so parents can meet one another and compare notes), I have tried to bring issue relating to special education to the School Improvement Committee (which doesn't really exist--the School Improvement plan is a paper exercise written in pieces by people in different content areas).

Basically the only thing that has really succeeded in bringing a focus onto what is going on for kids with disabilities is the NCLB law. But even so, it is very difficult for the district to move, culturally, from a case by case consideration to one that looks more systemically at what is going on.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Margo,
I believe you and in my role as teacher, I have experienced everything you are saying: parent exclusion; delayed special education meetings; IEP's that look good, yet exist on paper only; lack of data collection and analysis; lack of communication; and lack of a meaningful interest in school improvement, to name a few.
How do we work for improvement? As I've said, in my opinion, we are only as effective as our leaders. We need to change our selection criteria and behavioral goals for our administrators. Respectful systemic positive reinforcement on all levels would go far in turning things around.
I think you are smart to bring in an outside consultant. Schools tend to listen more to prophets from afar, and this person is not beholden to the beurocracy. I wish you and your son much success.
And I meant Direct Instruction.

I have been a special education teacher for 23 years, for the last two years I have been in a co-teaching classroom. I am opposed to it being on both sides. First the special education students in the classroom don't want anything to do with you because they don't want the other students to know that they are in special education,next comes the behavior because they can't do the work.
I say co teaching stinks in terms of the the kids they need one on one but won't accept it in a regular eduation classroom.

I have been a special education teacher for 23 years, for the last two years I have been in a co-teaching classroom. I am opposed to it being on both sides. First the special education students in the classroom don't want anything to do with you because they don't want the other students to know that they are in special education,next comes the behavior because they can't do the work.
I say co teaching stinks in terms of the the kids they need one on one but won't accept it in a regular eduation classroom.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Follow This Blog

Advertisement

Most Viewed on Education Week

Categories

Archives

Recent Comments