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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
March 1, 1995
Vol. 52
No. 6


Inclusion—From One Extreme to Another

As a school principal, I'm very interested in inclusion (“The Inclusive School,” Dec. 1994/Jan. 1995). What a shame we in education go from one extreme to the next about such important matters.
As a former special education administrator, I supervised learning disabilities classes that were totally segregated. This situation was unfair and unnecessary for the children in special classes. Together our special education and regular staffs worked to develop a better model.
Today we combine the best of exclusion and inclusion. LD children attend heterogeneous classes for homeroom, music, P.E., lunch, and recess, as well as social studies, science, and some literature and whole language. In concept-based classes, the special education teacher and aide use specialized methods and materials and modify the curriculum and their expectations to facilitate children's success.
Thus, we've increased the degree of the LD students' participation in the mainstream. On the other hand, we ability-group our entire population for reading and math. This way we can utilize specialized procedures as we provide direct instruction in developmentally appropriate ways.
We roll our eyes over the argument of “to include or not to include.” We simply ask, “Why can't we incorporate what is best of both approaches?”
—Susan J. Kostelny DeRoche, Principal, Riverwood Elementary School, McHenry, Illinois

Firsthand Experience in South Dakota

I read your issue on inclusion from cover to cover. Last November a child who had been in a segregated special education class for three years stepped into my 5th grade classroom about 10 minutes after class started. Our new student is severely handicapped.
I hold two master's degrees but have no extensive training in working with handicapped students. Yet because of the exceptional special ed staff we have, I knew what to do. The class made him welcome, and we found activities for him to do at his 4-year-old developmental level. Within a week, the district hired a full-time aide to work with the student. We're writing an IEP and informing the parents daily of progress.
The 26 other 5th graders have benefited immensely from the experience, in part because the full-time aide makes sure that my time is not monopolized by the special student.
When my special student is with the other 5th graders, his behavior is appropriate. Yet often with other special education students or by himself with a teacher, he is unruly. South Dakota may not be at the forefront of the education field—it is certainly not in teachers' pay—but we have an exemplary special ed program. It's not inclusion; it's not separation; it's what is best for the child.
—Janet L. Lillehaug Spearfish School District, Spearfish, South Dakota

Rosy Picture of the Gifted

Mara Sapon-Shevin paints a rosy picture of inclusion (“Why Gifted Students Belong in Inclusive Schools”). Her scenarios suggest that “gifted education is just good education for everyone.”
What she fails to say is that gifted students need instruction at a level, pace, and conceptual complexity commensurate with their ability. Feldhusen and Moon (“Grouping Gifted Students,” Gifted Child Quarterly, Spring 1992), prove that grouping heterogeneously and providing cooperative learning lead to lower achievement as well as poorer attitudes toward school.
Classroom teachers face many inpediments, such as large classes and lack of specialized training. Research indicates that teachers are more likely to differentiate curriculum for struggling learners than for gifted ones. Inclusion brings with it an even more diverse classroom population; thus, the gifted students' needs will never be met.
—Karen Megay-Nespoli, Massapequa Park, New York

Inclusion of the Gifted? Only in Shangri-la

Mara Sapon-Shevin's scenario of Tammy the gifted student functioning at her best in a regular classroom unfortunately only exists in Shangri-la. Simply too few teachers have the expertise or motivation to direct the symphony in which all students are taught in one inclusive setting.
As a teacher, I've been frustrated with tending to the needs of an academically challenged student while teaching the 25 other “on-level” students. As the parent of a gifted child, I've dried the tears of a child who thinks on a different level from the other kids. Not that my son does not enjoy his regular classroom. He does, but he also enjoys the pullout time in the gifted room. He needs fellow 9-year-olds to understand the punch lines to jokes, to not look at him with puzzlement when he says he wants to be a paleontologist.
Just as the challenged student needs the opportunity to succeed, so does the gifted student need the means to excel to the limits of his or her abilities. We owe all children no less.
—Greg Jones, Denton, Texas

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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