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Full inclusion has become a huge controversial issue in education. Some people believe that inclusion is discriminatory and others believe that all students belong in the regular education classroom. This issue is a huge debate and both educators and parents are wondering if this is what is best for their children. There is also concern that the needs of students with disabilities won't be met. Full inclusion means that all students, including those with disabilities, will be in a regular classroom all of the time. Many schools are moving toward full inclusion classrooms but it is still a large issue.
One side of the argument is that all students belong in the regular education classroom at all times. According to Richard Thompkins and Pat Deloney (1995), "Students who are disabled can be best served in full inclusion classes because teachers who have only low-ability students have lower expectations; segregated programs tend to have "watered-down" programs; students in segregated programs tend not to have individualized programs or they tend to stay in segregated programs; most regular education teachers are willing and able to teach students with disabilities; and the law supports inclusive practice." Full inclusion allows students with special needs to learn communication, social and adaptive behaviors. This allows them to learn skills in natural settings that they otherwise wouldn't learn. Full inclusion allows all students to accept other students' differences. Teachers work with more diverse group of students and are able to learn different teaching techniques. Byrnes (2007) stated, "In a full inclusion environment, students don't need to fit into the school; the school needs to adapt to all students. Services are brought to the child; children are not sent out (or away) because what they need is not available or difficult to deliver."
The other side of the argument is that full inclusion doesn't provide an adequate education for all. According to Richard Thompkins and Pat Deloney (1995), people who are not in favor of full inclusion believe "special education teachers have higher expectations for their students; special education curricula are appropriate for their intended students; individualization is more likely to occur in smaller classes with specialized teachers than in the regular classroom; regular teachers do not want special needs students in their classrooms; and students with disabilities have never been well-served in regular education, and there is nothing to indicate that teachers are any more able to deal with them now than they were previously." Another issue is that not all students with disabilities are able to function in a regular education classroom. Some of these students may need to be in a small classroom with limited distractions and more one-on-one instructions. General education teachers may not be willing to work with special needs students and they may not be educated on the students' disability. Byrnes (2007) says, "Those who oppose full inclusion cite the difficulties of adapting instruction, meeting student needs, and acquiring material, training, and professional support."
"The educational policies of most countries are aimed at placing children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment", says Regina Stoutjesdijk, Evert Scholte and Hanna Swaab (2012). Least Restrictive Environment "has been interpreted to mean that educational placement of a disabled student contiguous to nondisabled peers is preferable to the greatest extend possible" according to Donald F. Moores (2011). The least restrictive environment differs between students. Some students need to be in a classroom that is a small group setting, while other students are able to function well in the general education classroom. Resource rooms isolate students and decrease communication between students and special and general education teachers. Students are also not interacting with their general education peers which doesn't prepare them for the real world because in the real world they will interact with non-disabled peers. While these students who are excluded aren't receiving the skills they need for the "real world", in inclusion teachers are giving extra attention to those who need extra help which is decreasing the amount of time directed toward the rest of the class.
According to a poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 78% of respondents think disabled students won't benefit from inclusion, while 87% said other students won't benefit either (Thompkins and Deloney, 1995). Some people believe that having special education students in the general education classroom will be a disadvantage for the general education students. General education teachers also lack knowledge in special education. Webb found that special education teachers favored inclusion; regular education teachers did not (Hill, 2009).
Some fallacies on the side that supports full inclusion are that they think that every student can be educated in the general education classroom all day. Requiring every student to be in the general education classroom all of the time defeats the purpose of an IEP (Individual Education Program). An IEP states the needs of students with disabilities, and each student may require different needs in order to receive the best education possible. Some students are so far behind their grade level that being in general education classroom isn't teaching them anything other than social skills. Also, saying that all special education teachers support full inclusion for all students isn't true. Some special education teachers believe that student should not be included in the general education classroom at all and other believe that they should be included in the general education classroom some of the time. All educators have their own opinions about full inclusion.
Some fallacies on the side that doesn't support full inclusion are that they say general education teachers are not educated on teaching students with disabilities and that they don't want to them in their classroom. While this may be true for some teacher, other general education teachers want full inclusion classrooms and are very educated on students with disabilities. Another fallacy is saying that general education teachers lower their expectation for their students when students with disabilities are included their classroom. Not all teachers lower their expectations for students regardless of if special education students are in their classroom or not. Saying that general education teachers will be focusing on students with disabilities and not being able to concentrate on the other students is also a fallacy. General education teachers are able to focus on all students in their classroom not just students with disabilities. The special education teacher is in the general education classroom to help focus on students who are struggling.
I do believe that some writers are biased. I believe that in some of these articles the author states both arguments about full inclusion classrooms but then focuses on the side that they believe is correct. I believe that there are biases from school boards, parents, special education teachers, and general education teachers. The authors of the articles seem to have opinions based on their past experiences. Everyone has their own belief about full inclusion in the classroom. Some authors may have experienced full inclusion classrooms and formed their own opinions. Authors may also have these biases because they have seen how full inclusion has impacted students personally.
I believe that inclusion should be used in schools. I think that students with disabilities need to be in general education classrooms in order to learn lifelong skills that they may not otherwise learn being in an isolated classroom. I, however, believe that full inclusion is not always the best decision for all students. Thompkins and Deloney (1995) said, "America's most basic values of freedom and equality of opportunity for everyone, the weight of significant educational research, and numerous legal mandates/court decisions are all on the side of greater inclusion. However, full inclusion, may be too extreme in that it actually does not allow for more restrictive educational alternatives for students who educational needs may not be appropriately met in a regular classroom setting." I agree with this statement because I believe that some students' educational needs may not be met in a general education classroom. I have read stories about students who were both positively and negatively affected by full inclusion classrooms. I believe that special education students do need to be involved in the general education classroom but if being in the general education classroom is affecting the student negatively or if the student isn't able to function in the general education classroom then these students need to be pulled out. Being a student with a learning disability, I felt it was appropriate for me to be pulled out of the classroom at certain times. I learned best in a small group setting and never felt that I was missing out on the curriculum. At the same time, I wanted to be included in the general education classroom with my peers as much as possible. For me to learn best, I sometimes needed attention that I wasn't able to receive in the general education classroom.
Schools should take each students needs on a case-by-case basis. All students, but especially students with disabilities have individual needs that should be considered before determining the best placement for their education. Schools need to continue to let educational teams make decisions for students rather than requiring all students to have the same placement.