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Special Education Studies

In 2012, a general population survey was conducted of Minnesota heads of household and a parallel survey of households with a son/daughter with a developmental disability to compare changes in attitudes about developmental disabilities over the past 50 years Findings regarding education revealed a significantly more negative outlook from households with a family member with a developmental disability about the near term future of education services. 

In followup, a qualitative research study was conducted in 2013, K-12 Education Study for Students with Developmental Disabilities, to help determine the basis for these findings. A Narrative Research approach was used. Over 200 stories were collected from 110 individuals that provided an understanding of the current state of public education from the perspective of students, parents, case managers, teachers, public education administrators, and others. 

Seven themes emerged from the stories and anecdotes that described the special education experiences of participants  – emotional roller coaster, special education in its own bubble, through the cracks, fear of parental empowerment, education heroes, integration to inclusion, and transformation. Focus group participants were then asked to identify elements that would best describe a best case and worst case scenario as it applies to special education services for students with developmental disabilities and families. These elements created two paths, one leading to a desirable outcome and one leading to an undesirable outcome for special education.

Insights gained from the 2013 study guided the design of the 2014 quantitative study, Special Education Experience Survey, done in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education, Special Education Division. The purpose of the 2014 study was to obtain benchmark measures of overall quality perceptions and satisfaction with the special education experience from the perspective of parents, advocates, and the students themselves.

Survey results showed that 74% of families with a son or daughter receiving special education services were satisfied; however, only 43% were very satisfied and 20% were very dissatisfied. Satisfaction measures were usually higher in the elementary grades, and lower in middle school and secondary grades.

The majority of respondents provided detailed comments about the reasons for their satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings.  About 54% of comments were positive and 43% were negative. Respondents then rated 39 experience statements and those were rank ordered and specific action items identified that would have the most impact on the overall quality of a student's educational experience.

Special Education Resources

Video: Patrick Schwarz: The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education

The top questions include these 10 videos plus an introduction:

1. What makes a school inclusive?
2. Are there some kids, for example those that have significant disabilities, that can't be included?
3. When a student has extreme behavior support needs, you couldn't include him, correct?
4. How does inclusive education promote successful learning?
5. Isn't inclusive education more expensive?
6. The best way to include someone is to put them in classrooms with younger peers who are at their level right?
7. What are examples of the best supports for students in an inclusive classroom?
8. My child seems to have a lack of interest and engagement in the general education classroom. What can we do?
9. Don't kids with disabilities learn better in a quiet place separate from all the noise of a general classroom?
10. What are the research benefits of inclusive education?

Patrick Schwarz

Books: There are a variety of book resources that are worthwhile for further reading about effective quality special education, instruction and inclusive education:

Carter, W. W., L. S. Cushing, and C.H. Kennedy. 2009. Peer Support Strategies for Improving All Students’ Social Lives and Learning. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Causton-Theoharis, J. 2009. Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Hehir, T., and L. I. Katzman. 2012. Effective Inclusive Schools: Designing successful schoolwide programs. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.

Kluth, P. 2013. “Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?”: 100 ideas for improving inclusive schools.  Wisconsin: Cambridge Book Review Press.

Kluth, P. 2010. “You’re Going to Love this Kid!”: Teaching students with autism in the inclusive classroom (2nded). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Rapp, W.H., and K.A. Arndt. 2012. Teaching Everyone: An introduction to inclusive education. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Sapon-Shevin, M. 2007. Widening the Circle. Boston: Beacon Press.

Schwarz, P. 2006. From Disability to Possibility: The power of inclusive classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Schwarz, P. 2013. From Possibility to Success: Achieving positive student outcomes in inclusive classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.   
Theoharis, G. 2009. The School Leaders Our Children Deserve: Seven keys to equity, social justice, and school reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

Udvari-Solner, A., and P. Kluth. 2007. Joyful Learning: Active and collaborative learning in the inclusive classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Villa, R., J. Thousand, and A. Nevin. 2008. A Guide to Co-Teaching: Practical tips for facilitating student learning, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Willis, J. 2007. Brain Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom: Insights from a neurologist and classroom teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

US Supreme Court Decisions

Fry, Et Vir, As Next Friends of Minor E.F., Petitioners v. Napoleon Community Schools, Et Al, 580 U.S. ____(2017)
On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Endrew F, a Minor, By and Through His Parents and Next Friends, Joseph F. Et Al. v. Douglas County School District
On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit