WHERE ARE WE GOING ON PATHWAYS?

 Lynda Younghusband
 Faculty of Education
 Memorial University of Newfoundland
 Fall 1999



 Inclusion - the process of integrating students with disabilities into general education classes - has been a buzz word since the mid 1980's.  This movement to integrate all students with mild to moderate or even severe mental retardation, students with learning disabilities and students with emotional or behavioral disorders into general classrooms rather than special education classes has been a hotly debated issue in our province since the introduction of the Pathways document in the mid-90's.  Historically, these students, for the most part, received their education outside the regular education classroom.

 Approximately 40 percent of students K-12 will require instructional support beyond what has traditionally been offered in a general classroom (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 1995).  Inclusion has been strongly supported by research, professional organizations and parent advocacy groups, who hold  the view that students with special needs will blend into and become a part of the general education classroom community (Mamlin, 1999).  Idol (1997) lists the purposes for integrating students with disabilities into the general classroom:
 

  to allow students with disabilities to benefit from the general education programmes (with appropriate teaching strategies and support).

  to give students with disabilities the opportunity to interact with age-appropriate peers without disabilities.

  to let students with disabilities take part in all aspects of school life, and to better prepare students with disabilities for life within the social community.
 

 Many general education teachers in Newfoundland, with a passion for our profession and committed to holistic student learning, do not feel ready for inclusion.  It is difficult for them to carry on with traditional duties and yet free up the energy, time and good will needed for new ones, especially given the feeling that they have not had sufficient time to prepare.  Many of these  teachers, who feel overloaded with work to begin with, support some inclusion but feel unskilled, untrained and lacking in the expertise to work with mild-moderate (and sometimes severe) disabilities.  (There is no requirement to take even one course in special education to graduate as a teacher from Memorial University).  Resources to accommodate these students, who are accustomed to a special education format, are not widely available.  Many teachers are skeptical about the benefits for such students, fearing that lack of training and expertise in implementing the best practices for these students will lead to frustration on both sides.  In addition, they fear the "dumbing-down" of curricula.  They have voiced their concerns at meetings, through the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association (NLTA) and on Teachers in Cyberspace (TIC).

 Most of the research on inclusion has been focused on K-6 and very little has been written with High School students and teachers in mind.  The transition of students from special education classes to general classes and, even more so, from Junior High special education classes to High School general classes demands further research. The move from Junior High to High School is difficult for many students but for those who rarely have been outside a special education setting it may be traumatic. Adolescence is a difficult time at best, a time when social pressures increase and self-esteem fluctuates. Margalit (1993) has shown that intellectually disabled children are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be deficient in social skills and knowledge. Therefore, social relationships are more difficult for them (Roberts & Zubrick, 1992) and, unable to form close friendships, they tend to feel lonely (Parker and Asher, 1993).  Kobe (1994) goes further, stating that these adolescents should be considered at higher risk for developing depression.

 As more students with moderate and severe disabilities are integrated into the mainstream at school it is essential that each person on staff understand the part he or she is to play if this is to be a successful venture.  The concern is no longer whether this is a good plan but, rather, how a programme can be implemented that is workable and effective, ensuring success for all - from the child with a disability to one who is considered gifted. Added to concerns about inclusion are the responsibilities arising from the new Atlantic Provinces Educational Foundation curriculum standards, which place an emphasis on enhanced academic performance for all students.

 Braaten and co-workers (1998) have written that this type of reform poses a problem for students with disabilities.  They argue that "in general, current reform movements that stress higher, and more inflexible, academic performance requirements do not bode well for students with mild to moderate disabilities, such as learning disabilities".  We are already losing at-risk students in High School because "hands-on" programmes at the lower end of the academic scale have been reduced to the degree that there is little remaining at which they can be successful.

 The challenge to meet the needs of an academically diverse student population is especially great at the High School level.  High School teachers work with more than 130 students daily and the time for individual students is quite limited.  Despite studies which show that special needs students,  educated in regular classes, perform better academically and socially than  their special needs peers in non-inclusive settings (Wang & Baker, 1985-86; Baker (1994), Shumaker and Deshler (1994) conclude that "the manner in which strategies are taught to students, especially students with disabilities, can significantly affect the degree to which students actually change as learners". Further, they advocate taking great care when including students with disabilities and other at-risk students in regular class settings.  They go on to say that we must ensure that:
 

  "Students' achievements are commensurate with average or  above-average classmates, and they do not receive passing grades as gifts.

  Students do not depend on others for their success.  They function independently or interdependently as members of the learning community.

  Students do not negatively affect classroom instruction.

  Students, parents and teachers are satisfied with the outcomes of  the learning situation.

  Disabled students are not singled out for special treatment but are integral members of the class".


 Zigmond and Thornton (1985) caution as well that disabled students (e.g. Pathways 3) included in regular classes have a high rate of failure and tend to drop out. Many students with disabilities are passive learners without the necessary skills to process information given in a traditional manner and many, while physically included in a regular classroom, may feel intellectually excluded and acutely inferior to peers.  Some studies have shown that  students perform better in a special needs class than in a regular class (Kaufman, 1994).  The literature on educational change tells us that many factors influence the levels and patterns of improvement outcomes.

 If we include students with disabilities (e.g. Pathways 2, 3, 4) in the regular classroom we must ensure that they will continue to achieve at a level at least equal to or higher than when they were in a special needs classroom. Additionally, all students, regardless of their ability, should benefit from changes made and alternate educational methods practised in their classroom. We must ask ourselves:
 

  What will allow this student to function to his or her greatest capability?

  Can this student participate in this lesson with the same learning outcome as all the other students?

  What supports and/or modifications are necessary for this student to participate fully?


 Staub and Peck (1994), who studied the outcomes of inclusive classrooms for non-disabled students, asked the following questions:
 

  Will inclusion reduce the academic progress of non-disabled students?

  Will non-disabled children lose teacher time and attention?

  Will non-disabled children learn undesirable behaviors from students with disabilities?


 The answer to all questions was NO.  In fact, they believed there were potential benefits for the non-disabled students.  Murray-Siegert (1989) found the same results when she conducted a similar study in an inclusive High School.  She went on to show that non-disabled students became more tolerant of their disabled peers and more aware of their needs and after spending time with them reported more positive feelings about themselves.

 Currently, students are to be given non-inclusive placements for special 
services only if they can be accurately classified through a psychological assessment.  Unfortunately, classifying children accurately is a difficult task at best, as has been shown in many studies (Baker, Wang & Walberg, 1994).  Assessment information must be examined taking into consideration the needs of the student within current environments if the desire is to develop relevant ISSP goals.  Norm-referenced approaches cannot be used exclusively.  Traditional assessment summaries emphasize the weaknesses and limitations but strengths-based assessments can be used effectively to identify the needed supports and offer valuable information for the teacher.  Schwartz, Staub and Peck (1995) report that we should pay close attention to all aspects of the student's life-memberships in organizations and clubs and their social relationships with non-disabled peers if we are to foster the development of competence in relevant functions.  We must ask ourselves, "What, exactly, does this student need"?  And then, "How can we best provide these services"?

 Between 1958 and 1995, Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) surveyed  10,560 teachers in the United States, Australia and Canada regarding their attitudes toward mainstreaming or inclusion of students with disabilities.  Consistently, they found that teachers require support when teaching students with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers.  Further, they found these needs may be greater, for a variety of reasons, for High School teachers than for Elementary teachers.  Supports needed were as follows:
 

  Time - Teachers report a need for time each day to plan for students with disabilities.

  Training - Teachers need systematic, intensive training, either as  part of their certification programmes, as in-services, or as an ongoing process with consultants.

  Personnel resources - Teachers report a need for additional  personnel assistance to carry out mainstreaming objectives.  This could include teacher-aides and regular contact with special education teachers.

  Materials resources - Teachers need adequate curriculum materials and other classroom equipment appropriate to the needs of students with disabilities.

  Class size - Teachers report that their class size should be reduced if students with disabilities are included.


 Consideration of severity of disability - Teachers are more willing to include students with mild disabilities than students with more severe disabilities, apparently because of teachers' perceived ability to carry on with their teaching mission for the entire classroom.  By implication, the more severe the disabilities represented in the inclusive setting, the more the previously mentioned sources 
of support would be needed.

 There is much to be said in favour of Pathways.  But at the same time, it poses many problems, challenges and concerns.  At the moment, the role of special education teacher and that of the regular classroom teacher have  become confused to most teachers.  The introduction of Pathways, without  clear explanations of the benefits or methods of implementation, has added  to this confusion.  The required support models are not yet fully in place.  The role of team teaching (special education teacher and classroom teacher sharing the class) which is implied, but not prescribed, in Pathways, adds further confusion.  Many teachers have reservations or concerns about Pathways and believe that further support and in-service are necessary if this model is to succeed.  Every teacher and student is a stakeholder.  It is clear that the ultimate success of Pathways will depend on the extent of support provided by the Department of Education and School Boards throughout the province.
 


 II

 Inclusion is both a philosophy and a process.  As a process, it is an on-going learning experience through which we all work together to prepare students with exceptionalities for life and work.  This requires a co-operative effort between administration, regular and special educators, parents and students themselves.  Our goal is to provide a classroom environment in which all children can learn together, be supportive of one another and yet remain aware of individual differences.

 Stainback and Stainback (1996) ask the question "What kind of training must be provided to the regular education teachers so that s/he can meet the demands of the inclusion process, the needs of the regular education children within the classroom, and the individual needs of the children with disabilities within the classroom?"  They advise us that inclusion cannot be accomplished all at once, that the first step should be the plan, not the programme. Pre-planning and staff training are critical to the success of inclusion within the general classroom.

 The majority of teachers are new to Pathways (inclusion) and need as much support as, or more support than, individual students.  We need to  network with our colleagues, sharing methods, materials, and activities, giving advice and support in order to assist one another as well as our students.  In spite of the challenges and the barriers in front of us, much can be accomplished if we support each other and if we have support and leadership from our board office and The Department of Education.

 Implicit in the implementation planning for inclusion is a good resource library in every staff room.  The References section below contains a number of annotated selections, reviewed by this author, which will be of great assistance to all teachers whether they are new to the profession or are experienced educators.  We must insist that such a resource is provided for us as one of the beginning steps in the implementation of Pathways. 

REFERENCES

 Andrews, J. & Lupart, J. (1999).  The Inclusive Classroom:  Educating Exceptional Children, 2nd ed. Nelson, Scarborough.

This is a very good, comprehensive text and, Canadian.  The section on-incidence disabilities (such as long-term memory problems and writing difficulties) is particularly helpful.  This text would be a good start to any staff room library.

 Choate, J. (1993).  Successful Mainstreaming:  Proven ways to Detect and Correct Special Needs.  A Teacher's Manual and Resource of Practical Classroom Strategies.  Allyn and Bacon, Toronto.

This text reviews strategies for language art, science, math, and social studies. A very practical "how to" manual.

 Coutinho, M. & Repp, A. (1998).  Inclusion:  The Integration of Students with Disabilities.  Wadsworth Publishing Co., Toronto.

Edited by Martha Couhino and Alan Repp, this multi-authored text has good chapters on integration for students with mild to moderate disabilities in both Elementary School and High School.

 Friend, M., Bursuck, Wm., & Hutchinson, N. (1998).  Including Exceptional Students:  A Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers.  Allyn and Bacon, Scarborough.

This is a good practical guide and again, Canadian.  There is a particularly helpful chapter on Analyzing Instructional Environments with a section on grouping your students for instruction.

 Heiman, T. & Margalit, M. (1998).  Loneliness, Depression, and Social Skills Among Students with Mild Mental Retardation in Different Educational Settings.  The Journal of Special Education, 32 (3), 154-163.

 Idol, L. (1997).  Key Questions related to building collaborative and inclusive schools.  Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 384-394.

 Janney, R., Snell, M., Beers, M., & Raynes, M. (1995).  Integrating Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities Into General Education Classes. Exceptional Children, 1 (5), 425-439.

 Jorgenson, C. (1998).  Restructuring High Schools for All Students:  Taking Inclusion to the Next Level.  Paul H. Brookes Publishing, Toronto.

Three chapters in this text are particularly good; Unit and Lesson Planning in the Inclusive Classroom, Examples of Inclusive Curriculum, and Empowering All Students Through Self-Determination.

 Kaufman, J. (1994).  Can inclusion work?  A conversation with Jim Kaufman and Mara Sapon-Shevin.  Educational Leadership, 52 (4).

 Kobe, F.H. (1994).  Parenting stress and depression in children with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.  Research in Developmental  Disabilities, 15, 209-221.

 Mamlin, N. (1999).  Despite best Intentions:  When Inclusion Fails.  The Journal of Special Education, 33 (1), 36-49.

 Roberts, C.; & Zubrick, S. (1992).  Factors influencing the social status of children with mild academic disabilities in regular classrooms.  Exceptional Children, 59, 192-202.

 Salend, S.J. (1990).  Effective Mainstreaming.  MacMillan Publishing Co., New York.

The chapter, Modifying Instruction, Modifying Content-area Instruction and Adapting Grading and Testing for Mainstreamed Students answers many questions we have at the moment with regards to Pathways.

 Schumaker, B., & Deshler, D. (1994).  Secondary Classes Can Be Inclusive, Too.  Educational Leadership, 52 (4).

 Schwartz, I.S., Staub, D., Callucci, D., & Peck, C.A. (1995).  Blending qualitative and behaviour analytic research methods to evaluate outcomes in inclusive schools.  Journal of Behavioral Education, 5, 93-106.

 Scruggs, T.E., & Mastropieri, M.A. (1996).  Teacher Perceptions of Mainstreaming/Inclusion, 1958-1995:  A Research Synthesis. Exceptional Children, 63, (1), 59-74.

 Smith, D.J., (1998).  Inclusion:  Schools for All Learners.  Wadsworth Publishing Co., Toronto.

Another good general information text.  The chapters, Creating Classrooms that Welcome Students with Learning Disabilities and Creating Classrooms that Welcome Students with Special Gifts and Talents are well worth reading.

 Stainback, S., Stainback, Wm. & Forest, M. (1989).  Educating All Students in the Mainstream of Regular Education.  Paul H. Brookes Publishing, Toronto.

The work of these authors is informative and realistic.

 Stainback, S. & Stainback, Wm. (1992).  Curriculum Considerations in Inclusive Classrooms.  Paul H. Brookes Publishing, Toronto.

A multi-authored text, again by Stainback and Stainback, includes several useful chapters, among them, Making Sense of the Curriculum and Measuring and Reporting Student Progress.

Stainback, S. & Stainback, Wm. (1996).  Inclusion.  Paul Brookes Publishing, Toronto.

Among all the good chapters in this multi-authors text a good chapter to read is Managing an Inclusive Classroom by Annette Iverson.

 Staub, D., & Peck, C.A. (1994).  What Are the Outcomes for Non-disabled Students?  Educational Leadership, 52 (4).

 Vaughan, S, Bos, C. & Scam, J. (1997).  Teaching Mainstream, Diverse, and At-Risk Students in the General Education Classroom.

Very practical ideas on a wide range of topics from planning strategics for special learners to teaching students with learning disabilities or attention deficit to teaching students with emotional and behavioural disorders.  This is a down-to-earth, basic text.

 Zigmond, N., & Thornton, H. (1995).  Follow-up of Post Secondary Learning Disabled Students and Dropouts.  Learning Disabilities Research, 1 (1), 50-55.

The latest edition of Teaching Exceptional Children, Volume 32, no. 2,  Nov/Dec 1999 has several articles pertaining to inclusion, including one on the changing role of teachers and one on classroom tips.