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Special education continues to be changed and improved as the years go on. Students with disabilities are now included in the general education classes and curriculum. These same students are now included in statewide standardize tests. Some have adaptations to these tests, but most students with disabilities do not have any. A big change and improvement in public schools is the requirement to have inclusion classes and intervention classes for students with disabilities.
When I was in elementary school, I was in a pullout program for reading and spelling almost up until the 7th grade. I was always an awful speller, hard trouble with reading words that I have never seen before, and also had trouble with reading comprehension. This has still to this day been carried along with me. I look back and I wonder how effective the pull out programs were and what the main purposes of them were. Being placed in the 4th grade reading intervention this semester reminded me of all of the years I spent in pull out programs. I can picture myself sitting along the students reading simple books and receiving extra help on assignments and tests, while also being made fun of because I was a poor reader.
Although special education is trying to have full inclusion for most students with disabilities, it is important to note that some students may not be benefiting from inclusion classrooms. Special educators are to have a least restrictive environment for all students, but some students with disabilities are not receiving a least restrictive environment because the students often being bullied, left behind, not receiving extra attention. After my experience and current placement, I believe that pull out programs are effective for students with disabilities because they can receive extra help/intervention, work in small group instruction, and relate to other students who are in the small group instruction.
Pullout programs are a form of intervention for students with or without disabilities who need extra help in a specific subject(s). Pull-out programs include students with disabilities who are pulled out of their general education classrooms for a period of time to receive extra help (McLeskey, Landers, Hoppey & Williamson, 2011). This means that students with disabilities are pulled out of their general education classes for a percentage of the school day to receive additional help or instruction with a specialized teacher. Pullout programs allow students to work in smaller groups and closer with a teacher who can deliver more time and help for them. Pullout programs provide students with benefits that they may not receive in the general education classrooms.
One benefit for students with disabilities who are in the pullout programs is receiving extra help from a specialized teacher. Often times, general education teachers become too overwhelmed when trying to meet the needs of students with disabilities in addition to making sure they are also being challenged. General education teachers feel rather unprepared to teach students with disabilities in their classrooms (Klinger, Vaughn, Schumm, Cohen & Forgan, 1998). In this case if a teacher feels unprepared to teach students with disabilities, then it would be in the best interest of the student(s) to be placed in an intervention/pullout program. The student(s) would then receive help from a specialized teacher who should feel prepared to teach students with disabilities. This is important for these students because, if they are receiving instruction from a teacher who feels unprepared, the students themselves will feed off of their teachers and also feel unprepared or unwanted.
Some may argue that pullout programs are not in a student's least restrictive environment (LRE) because the student is being pulled out of the natural setting of a classroom. According to McLeskey, Landers, Hoppey, and Williamson (2011), LRE mandate states, "although separate class services are allowed when such a placement is deemed effective or better meets a student's needs" (p.60). The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) mandate was put in place to promote full inclusion classrooms; however, if students are not benefitting from full inclusion, as stated above, LRE allows separate class services, such as pullout programs, as long as the student is actually benefitting from the services.
One specific group of students who will benefit from pullout programs in schools is students who have speech and language disabilities. It is very important for these students to receive extra help with their speech and language development process.
According to Cirrin et al. (2010):
Traditionally, SLPs in schools have used pullout rooms as settings for providing S/L intervention services in schools. Pullout typically refers to settings outside the regular or special education classroom where students receive individualized intervention. According to ASHA 2008 Schools Survey data, the pullout model continues to be the most prevalent model used by school practitioners in elementary schools. (p.234)
This is a huge benefit for students who have speech and language disabilities because this allows them to receive services during school rather than after school to use the schools services. Students with such disabilities would not be able to receive help such as this in an inclusion classroom, due to the focus on the class as a whole. Students with speech and language disabilities are one reason why pullout programs should be in all schools.
I think students who have speech or language disabilities should take advantage of having speech pathologists in their own schools. If students needed a speech pathologist, it would be necessary for the students to be pulled out of their classrooms to receive the extra help. Pulling students out of their classrooms will allow them to receive help and instruction from someone who specializes in their need of progress.
Another benefit for students with disabilities in pullout programs is being instructed alongside a small group of students. Based on my experience working with small group instruction, I find it easier to maintain the students and provide an effective learning environment. The students can create a special bond between each other and maybe even start a friendship outside of the small group. These students might be likely to work together in the general education classrooms either because they work well together or because they feel comfortable working with them.
One group of students who benefits from small group instruction includes those who have emotionally or behaviorally disturbed. According to Lo, Loe, Cartledge (2002), "Social skills instruction program combining teacher-directed, classroom-based instruction and pullout small-group instruction may be the most effective means to promote students' positive social behaviors and adjustment within inclusive settings". For students who are E/BD, this is an important concept to learn and practice. By being in a small group instruction, these students could relate and work on their social skills with other students, but also work close with a teacher who is specialized. Students who are E/BD who are in small group instruction can experience benefits such as engaging in more appropriate social interactions with their peers, making significant gains in peer acceptance during work-related activities, etc (Lo, et al., 2002). For students with E/BD it is important for these students to improve these skills and properly know how to interact with their peers and other individuals as well.
I think this is a great idea for students who are E/BD because it allows them to learn skills and also practice them within a small group. These students would have small group interaction, which may allow them to keep calm as opposed to interacting with a larger group and not knowing some basic social skills. However, according to Lo, Loe, and Cartledge case study, there were no significant differences between large and small group instruction, but they did say the students improved their social skills. They said that further research and studies are necessary to see which group instruction was more appropriate for students with E/BD.
A third benefit of students in pullout groups is that they can relate to the students who are in their small group, resulting in a decrease in bullying. In general, students with disabilities are huge targets for being bullies or are even the bullies themselves. The students in the full inclusion classrooms who have disabilities may be constantly bullied for their disabilities. However, if students are pulled out of their inclusion class every day for a period of time, the bullying can be decreased by preventative actions.
Some students may prefer being in general education classroom, pullout programs, or both; this changes from student to student. Students with disabilities believe that pullout classes are more for learning and that inclusion classes are better for making friends. However, a few students believe that pullout programs allowed them to meet others from different classes and even interact with them (Klinger, et al., 1998). Pullout programs are more centered on the academics for students who do need more assistance. However, pullout programs also allow students to interact with others within the small group, allowing the students to meet more people. Pullout programs allow students who might be bullied in their general education classes to have a break from it.
A final benefit from students who are in pullout programs might include gaining a higher self-esteem than students who are in inclusion classes. Students with disabilities may already have low self-esteem due to their disability, but they may gain confidence after being placed in pullout programs. Students placed in inclusion classrooms have lower self-esteems than students in separate classrooms because these classes include students with disabilities, which allows these students to relate to each other and work at the same ability level (Daniel, Kind, 1997). Students with disabilities, who are in inclusion classes all day, may have lower self-esteem because they don't have students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is in a pullout program, his or her self-esteem may increase after being in an environment with students who they can relate to on an academic level. Pullout programs can also teach students with low self-esteem strategies to increase their self-esteem.
Special education is constantly changing and may always be a constant cycle of change. Pullout programs and special education classrooms may be ideal for some students with disabilities, but in today's society, school districts are trying to make all classrooms inclusion classrooms. School districts are trying to make classrooms full inclusion.
According to Odom, Buysse, Soukakou (2011):
Inclusion can be defined as a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning. This shift conveys the current value that placement in a least restrictive environment is not sufficient to meet the intent of inclusion, but rather, participation, social relationships, and learning outcomes for all children are common goals. (p. 345)
Inclusion is very positive factor in terms of education; however, full inclusion is concerned a con in terms of special education programs, such as pullout programs. Some may argue that a special education/pullout program affects a student's special/curricular class experience and social life with peers.
One negative thing about pullout programs is that students are being pulled out of their special classes or regular classes to receive extra help or testing. According to Rea, McLaughlin, Walther-Thomas (2002), "Pullout services at Voyager were scheduled during elective periods. Students forfeited either one or both of their elective classes to receive special education services" (p.209). This can really take a toll on a student's social life because special classes are where the classes are more student-centered rather than constant learning new information. Students who are receive special education services may be pulled out of any class or during any part of the day; it all depends on the schedule. Usually students can be pulled out for testing purposes for their services that they are currently receiving.
Students with disabilities should not be pulled out of their elective classes because they allow the students to have fun and take a break from academic-centered classes and schoolwork. One class that is very important for all students to participant and experience is physical education because it allows the students to work on their fitness and release energy/stress. According to Ali (2012) "Inclusive physical education stresses that each special needs student has the right to risk, try to win, autonomy, and choice, as his/her peers do" (p.290). Physical education classes can be adjusted or modified to meet the needs of a student's disability. Students with disabilities should take advantage of modifications that are made for them, but they also should experience everything a student without disabilities experiences. By pulling students out of these classes, they are not able to participant in electives.
Another negative factor about pullout programs is that they include a small number of students, which can affect their social life outside of the small group instruction. Pulling students out of their classrooms separates them from their friends, and they miss fun activities on certain days.
According to Le Mare, De La Ronde (2000):
The practice of removing students from their classroom threatens their social standing among their peers, which also can undermine their academic progress. Removing children from the classroom limits their contact time with classmates, which can inhibit the development of positive peer relationships. Also, taking children out for help draws attention to their deficiencies, stigmatizing them among their peers. This results in lowered peer status, which has been shown to be linked to poor self-esteem, dissatisfaction with the school environment, and an increased risk for school drop-out.
Pullout programs not only take a toll on the social life of the students, but also affect their confidence. Students with disabilities may already have low self-esteem because of their disabilities, but taking them out of their classrooms might even lower their self-esteem more. This is a huge disadvantage for students who receive special services because peers tend to think that they are "stupid" because they are not allowed to learn within a large group and need extra help.
As stated before, students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied or a bully. Students with disabilities who are being pulled out of their general education classes may be bullied as a result of needing extra help.
According to Swearer, Wang, Maag, Siebecker & Frerichs (2012):
Research on bullying among students with disabilities has suggested that students with disabilities are more likely to involved in bullying than their general education peers. One study found that students with behavioral, emotional, or developmental problems were two times more likely to be a victim of bullying, three time more likely to bully others, and three times more likely to be a bully-victim than children without special health care needs. (p.504)
The only flaw about this statement is that this information was obtained from the parents of students with disabilities regarding their concerns about the student's social life. Although students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied and be bullies, pullout programs do put a target on them because that could be one reason why he or she is a bully or being bullied. Pullout programs do help students with their academics but can also damage a student's social life, especially when it comes to bullying.
I think that social interaction is extremely important for every student whether the student has a disability or not. However, if a student does need extra help, it is the teacher's job to make sure the student feels included with other peers in the general education classrooms in addition to boosting their self-esteems by recognizing their improvements. Students should be allowed to participate in fun classes before being pulled out for help. Students should also be allowed to have a day off to reconnect with their peers. Both pullout programs and inclusion promote social interaction; all in all, however, inclusion classrooms offer more social interaction opportunities than pullout programs.
Special education and education in general will continue to change throughout the years. Because I plan to be a special educator, I must understand that it is my full responsibility to teach students with disabilities effectively and be able to fight for my students so that they can receive an appropriate education within the least restrictive environment, as well as make sure they are receiving all the positive benefits they can from their school experiences. Pullout programs are effective for students who are at-risk and who do need extra assistance in specific subjects or areas. Pullout programs allow students with disabilities to receive the help they need, relate to other students in the group, work more effectively in a small group, and improve self-esteem. Pullout programs can negatively affect the experiences of a student with disabilities in elective classes and social life.
Based on students' academic achievement, pullout programs are no better or worse than inclusion classes (Le Mare and De La Ronde, 2000). However, pullout programs are used to provide extra assistance to students who do need extra help or teaching. Pullout programs should be used with regular inclusion classes, and students who do need extra help should be pulled from the class they need extra help in.