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The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education

Question Four: How does inclusive education promote successful learning?

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Patrick Schwarz: How does inclusive education promote successful learning? And there are a lot of learning benefits from inclusive education. There are a lot of research studies that have shown various things. And I'll mention some learning benefits is first of all there are a lot of researchers. This is George and Julie Causton-Theoharis. It's Jennifer York-Barr. It is people that are general education gurus that looked at promoting inclusive education. Smokey Daniels, Art Hyde, Steven Zemelman, a lot of people.

Here are some things that they found is, first of all, is students met their IEPs better. They actually scored better in academic types of activities. They actually became more adult-like in their social interactions with peers. There also were fewer behavior problems and issues because they had better models around them.

And George and Julie Causton-Theoharis actually found, one, that schools get judged by these days so significantly is they found standardized test scores went up not only for students with disabilities but also for the general population. Because if students who have learning challenges are in the general education classrooms, I believe that everybody who's a teacher becomes a better teacher because you're making learning more accessible for all people.

And I saw this come to life in a classroom that I've been working with for several years, and this has to do with Eddy, who's a student that I've known over the last several years. And he's a student who has Down syndrome as an attribute, and he has been included in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and we're looking at third grade right now. And one of the things is we looked at Eddy in the beginning and had to work out some things like strategies for working with other students and for supporting him with his interests in the school. A lot of different things

In second grade, so I've been following him, which was his last school year, something happened that was just wonderful is I was looking at his classroom and observing. It was a very exciting second grade because the room was set up that I think learning was happening every inch of that room.

So in the front of the room- this is when students were doing work- the general educator had a table, and when I walked into the room, Eddy was at that table. And the special education teacher had a table, and there were other students there. And then related services there was another table. In there the speech person was in the classroom providing some supports rather than pulling students out. And this is when students were doing work, so it wasn't interfering with their content instruction. And then students were in different desk groups in the classroom so they could work alone, they could work together with other students. They had some choice in terms of how they did their work. What a great classroom. Students could also make a choice to work in the library.

But here's something that happened. I was thinking about Eddy and his journey with inclusion. And he was working with the general educator. And then he gets up. He's done with her and he goes back to the table. And there are kids at that point. They are working on handwriting books. And each student had a book, and it's when they finished their work. And I'm thinking about what's going to happen with Eddy right now? And what he did is he looked at every student at the table, and he looked at what they were doing, and he got out his handwriting book and started doing it. I was thrilled, that you could knock me over, because that wasn't necessarily the case last year.

And here's what's happened with Eddy over time. He has wonderful models for doing work, for communication, for behavior, and he has learned through those models. He's within sight, sound, and reasonable distance of general students in the school that are together in the classroom. And he is benefiting from that, and he is making academic, social, behavioral and maturity gains by that.

So I am seeing so many things happen that I truly believe, and we've done some research where we've looked at kids that may have a similar type of challenge that have been included and not included, and I think Eddy has made strides, strides, and more strides compared to if he would have been in a segregated situation with only students who have disabilities. Is it okay for somebody who has a disability to be a friend with somebody else who has a disability? Absolutely yes. Where I have a problem is when somebody doesn't have access to all students in the school, and so that we have an opportunity to have relationships with anybody in the school.

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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