Inclusion opens a world of opportunities for special education and non-English-speaking students. It provides a means for teaching same-age children in the same classroom, regardless of physical, mental or speech barriers. At the primary level, inclusion helps young children form positive ideas about persons who are different. It gives disabled and non-English-speaking students an early start to a fair and equitable education.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) defines "inclusion students" as those who have disabilities or those that do not speak English as their primary language. Inclusion students are provided with special accommodations, according to their individualised education programs (IEPs). Since all English language learners do not have IEPs, the accommodation decisions are made by the school staff.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees students with disabilities a right to a free and public education. The IDEA, amended in 2004, does not require inclusion, but states students with disabilities should be educated in the "least restrictive environment appropriate" to meet their needs. As a result of the law, 95 per cent of students with disabilities were served by the state school system in 2006, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. At the turn of the century, one out of every seven school-age children met the definition for English language leaner, according to the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.
The New York Department of Education defines inclusion as providing the students with disabilities or English language learners with access to the appropriate age-related, general education classroom. Inclusion students receive the support and services needed to function in the classroom. Inclusion allows disabled or English language learners to benefit from the regular classroom experience.
Inclusion provides both regular education students and students with disabilities at the primary level with benefits, according to the article, "Full Inclusion-The Benefits and Disadvantages of Inclusive Schooling." Students with disabilities are provided opportunities to develop social relationships and to learn from their non-handicapped peers. General education students learn important lessons about what it means to be disabled. At an early age, they learn that disabled persons have valuable contributions to make to the classroom and society. For many inclusion students, the general education classroom provides the academic standards needed to stimulate interest and motivation. The same benefits apply to English language learners.
Inclusion benefits schools as well. Schools spend less on resources because special education and regular classrooms are combined into one. Funds allocated for special education help fund inclusive programs. Money saved can also be used to provide teachers with additional support.
Inclusion in schools does not enjoy unanimous support. The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) contends that some believe inclusion is unrealistic and unfair to students who might fare better in special education classrooms. Another point of controversy lies in the confusion concerning the inclusion concept. Many parents do not understand the legal requirements that regulate inclusion. Other parents wonder if inclusion is the best answer and how the school and teachers will meet the needs of special education students in a general education classroom. On the other hand, the WEAC points out good teachers possess the skills "needed to meet the needs of all students." This is especially true when teachers with different skill sets are paired in classrooms.
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- National Center for Education Statistics: NAEP Inclusion Policy
- New York Department of Education: Inclusive Education
- National Middle School Association: What is the Impact of Inclusion on Students and Staff in the Middle School Setting?
- Wisconsin Education Association Council: Special Education Inclusion
- Azusa Pacific University: Full Inclusion-The Benefits and Disadvantages of Inclusive Schooling