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December 1, 1994
Vol. 52
No. 4

A Call for Placement Options

    For some students with learning disabilities, total inclusion is a disastrous reality.

      Many advocates for students with multiple disabilities or mental retardation endorse full inclusion. They are frustrated because 15 years after the passage of P. L. 94-142, many students are still denied services in the regular education classroom. For example, in the 1990–91 school year, only 24 percent of students with multiple disabilities and 30 percent of students with mental retardation received their education in either the regular classroom or a resource room, whereas 76 percent of students with learning disabilities received their education in those settings. Thus, these advocates argue that full inclusion is the only way that students with multiple disabilities or mental retardation can get into regular education classrooms to learn the necessary social skills and receive an appropriate education.
      Although their frustration is understandable, unfortunately, the drive for “full inclusion” has been disastrous for other students with learning disabilities. There are students who may need alternative instructional environments, different teaching strategies, and special materials. Until regular education teachers receive the training they need, some students with disabilities will continue to fail.
      Too often regular education teachers have been taught to teach curriculum, not students. They are uncomfortable with another adult in the classroom, are under pressure to cover course material within a given period of time, and are judged by the test scores of their students, not by how much the student has learned in the classroom. Administrators tend to resent outside interference, particularly from parents; cut planning and inservice time when the budget gets tight; resist allowing flexibility in scheduling of teacher time and course completion; and are so concerned about having high schoolwide achievement scores that they often deny students with disabilities the opportunity to take tests or have their scores recorded. They also tend to reward teachers of high-achieving students and neglect teachers of low-achieving students.
      In response to this situation, in January 1993, the Learning Disabilities Association of America issued a position paper on “Full Inclusion of All Students with Learning Disabilities in the Regular Education Classroom.” This paper reiterated the importance of such alternative placements as special classes and schools, home instruction, and hospitals and institutions to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
      Students with learning disabilities would have a better chance of success in the regular education setting if more of the strategies developed by special education, such as collaborative learning, cooperative teaching, peer tutoring, and some of the innovative scheduling and planning developed in education reform models, became commonplace, rather than showpieces. The education reform movement, which calls for greater adaptability and flexibility in the educational establishment, should look to and learn from special education.
      End Notes

      1 The Learning Disabilities Association of America is a national, nonprofit, volunteer organization of individuals with disabilities, their families and friends, and the professionals who serve them.

      Justine Maloney has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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