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Regular Education and Special Education Teacher Attitudes Toward Inclusion

Special Schooling

Eryn Hatchell A Research Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Education The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout July, 2009 The history of special education and inclusion dates back to as early as 1893. In 1893, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts upheld the expulsion from a public school a child who was thought to be “weak in mind.” In 1919, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin affirmed a lower court decision authorized the exclusion from a public school district of a child who had the academic and physical ability to benefit from school but who drooled, had speech problems, and exhibited facial contortion. Trends of this nature continued into the 1960s. According to Alpers, (2002): The rights to education for children with disabilities stem from the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. Public pressure on elected officials and school administrators to change policies escalated as special needs students were assigned to “dummy” classes and became targets of prejudice and discrimination by peers and teachers. (p.2) In the 1970’s, two court decisions established the disabled child’s right to free appropriate public education (FAPE). In 1971, the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (P ARC) sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on behalf of retarded children who were excluded from public schools. A second case was Mills V. Board of Education. The decision from this case extended the right of free public education to all disabled children¬†included mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, physically disabled, and other children with behavior problems. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by¬†Congress as a response to the P ARC and Mills decision (Daniel, 1997). The legal debate about inclusion began with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act passed in 1975. That law is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA states: Each state must establish procedures to assure that to the maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities … are educated with children who are not disabled and that special education separate schooling or other removalofchildren with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature of severity of the disability is such that education in the regular class with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (Alpers, 2002). This law was also amended in 1997 to help define some of the terms in the first law. Things like aids and services were defined. Related services were added and it also made the general education teacher a part of the individualized education plan (IEP) team. According to Kavale, (2000) special education within the public school system developed as a specialized program separated from general education and was embodied in the categorical “special class.” “The special class was seen as the best means for avoided conflicts while providing universal education” (p.280). In 1968, a famous article entitled “Special education for the mildly retarded: Is much of it justifiable written by Dunn began to question whether special classes were justifiable” (p.280). The Dunn article initiated an attitude in favor of change in special education. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another important part of special education and inclusion. According to Alpers (2002), “Section 504 is important in the legal mandate of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and the use of supplementary aids and services for student with disabilities because it was used to ensure non-discrimination on the basis of disability” (p.l). The Least Restrictive Environment or LRE is the educational setting closest to the regular classroom in which a free appropriate education (F APE) can be delivered to a special education student (Alpers, 2002). Determination of the LRE has evolved through various court actions. Judicial standard of review for the LRE were established because of the legal case of Daniel RR v. State Board of Education (1989). Daniel was a six-year-old child with Down syndrome. He was placed in a general education pre-K class for half a day and an early childhood special education class for half a day. After a few months the pre-K class teacher informed the school placement committee that Daniel was not participating and failing to master any of the skills being taught. He was removed from the class and put into the early childhood class for the full day. The court ruled that the school district had properly provided a continuum of educational services and had experimented with a variety of alternative placements, and properly provided supplementary aids and services in an attempt to maintain Daniel in a general education classroom and mainstreamed him to the maximum extent possible (Alpers, 2002). Based on this ruling the court came up with a test referred to as the Daniel Standard. This test is to guide courts in determining whether schools have complied with the mainstreaming requirement of IDEA (Alpers, 2002). The Daniel Standard states: 1. Whether education in the regular classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services can be achieved satisfactorily for a given child. 2. If it cannot and the school intends to … remove the child from the regular education classroom … whether the school has mainstreamed the child to the maximum extent appropriate (Alpers, 2002) 3. . The Least Restrictive Environment mandate also brought chance to special education by making the resource model the primary placement option. “This option was defined by the resource room and special education teachers who provided academic instruction for specified time period to a special education student whose placement was the general education room” (Kavale, 2000). “Along with a continued call for inclusive placement these efforts were being termed the Regular Education Initiative (REI)” (P281). The goal of this initiative was to merge general and special education to create a more unified system of education (Kavale, 2000) A review of the literature shows that both positive and negative teacher attitudes toward inclusion can be found. Several studies (Biddle, 2006; Downing 1997; Hammond & Ingalls,2003; Leyser & Tappendorf, 2001) found that both teacher attitudes and beliefs toward inclusion can significantly influence the learning environment of students with and without disabilities. Biddle (2006) reported that negative attitudes toward inclusion can be directly linked to less frequent use of effective classroom accommodations for students with disabilities in the inclusive setting. With positive teacher attitudes and beliefs about inclusion students with disabilities will be given greater educational opportunities with their peers and will be more successful within the inclusive setting. Without positive attitudes, inclusion may become just a physical placement of students with disabilities and it will not improve their growth and development as learners. Peers of students with disabilities may also lose out on the opportunity to work productively with students with disabilities when a negative attitude exists. Statement of the Problem Inclusion of special education students in the regular education setting is a very complex and interesting topic in the field of education. Often times it is at the center of debate amongst administrators, teachers, and parents. Each person has their own ideas and attitudes about what is best for all children. The researcher feels that it is important to examine both regular education and special education teacher attitudes and concerns about inclusion. The findings from such a study will help identify the professional development opportunities and resources teachers need in order to commit to inclusion. Also, knowing teacher attitudes and concerns about inclusion will help administrators in developing a strong inclusive setting for all students and staff in their building. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to examine and analyze middle school regular education and special education teacher attitudes and opinions on inclusion. This study will attempt to document whether there is a difference in attitudes between general education and special education teachers. This study will also attempt to identify possible factors for these attitudes and opinions. The information about attitudes and opinions on inclusion gathered in this study will be used to develop in-services workshops for general and special education teachers. The results will also be used to provide additional information and literature about inclusion to the staff and administration. Click here to read more: http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/thesis/2009/2009hatchelle.pdf

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