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Is Your Child’s School Inclusive?
Is Your Child’s School Inclusive?
Understanding the inclusivity of your child’s school is an essential part of evaluating their educational experience. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure your children are protected, nourished, and receiving the rights owed to them as human beings.
Like food and shelter, children need an education to thrive. But what does education mean? And what role does inclusivity play in education? Here are three things to consider when evaluating your child’s school for inclusivity.
The Value of Inclusivity
Education within a school setting usually means learning a specific set of subjects and skills. However, education in its broader sense covers a wide spectrum of experiences, including developing a moral compass and practicing healthy engagement with others.
One of the goals of inclusive schools is to help students learn to interact with people who look, act, and live differently from them. Inclusive education works to bring everyone into the same classrooms, regardless of behavioral or learning challenges.
Students with disabilities still have access to special education services, but they are kept in the regular classroom as much as possible. Some research suggests that inclusive classrooms are the best way for students with disabilities to gain healthy interpersonal skills and learn the curriculum.
Inclusive policies are regulated by several government mandates, including the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Laws like IDEA were passed to ensure students with disabilities had access to free, quality education within American school systems.
An important component of this act stated that children with disabilities should learn in the least restrictive environment, or LRE. This means their education should look as much like a typical classroom education as possible.
Educational Impact of Inclusivity
Disability as a term can describe many different expressions of learning and behavioral challenges. While many students with disabilities can benefit from more time in the general classroom, others may do better with extended special education. The right ratio depends on each student and, in part, their educational environment.
Policy-makers have been moving toward inclusivity in the classroom for years. However, there are very few studies showing the impact of inclusive policies on the classroom as a whole. Some studies suggest a negative impact from having a wide range of students in the classroom.
While inclusive policies can strengthen interpersonal skills for all students, they may also take away time from classroom instruction. For example, many general education teachers feel poorly equipped to meet the needs of all students in inclusive classrooms. They may give more time to class management and thus less to actual instruction.
To succeed in the general classroom, students with disabilities need the help of trained special needs educators. Unfortunately, this care is expensive, and there is a shortage of special education teachers in many states.
In inclusive classrooms, this puts the burden on general education teachers to exceed their training and work multiple jobs at once – both as the teacher they trained to be and as a special education teacher to students with disabilities.
Many teachers work very hard to ensure every student is receiving the highest quality of education possible. However, teachers who give more time to students with special needs will logically have less time to give to other students.
Teachers have two main roles within the classroom. First, they manage the class to keep everyone on task and focused. Second, they ensure that every student can access and learn from the curriculum. Teachers with many different students face challenges in both areas and need the proper support from specialists to serve all their students well.
Laws put in place to ensure educational needs are met may work against students in some cases. For instance, teachers and parents may be forced to change educational plans for students with disabilities based on funding or other available resources. Sometimes, having to follow more rules can make finding a unique solution more difficult.
In a perfect world, legislation would mean justice and equal opportunity for all within the classroom. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case in the day-to-day experiences of students and teachers.
Although federally funded schools must follow federal policies, a genuinely inclusive school will focus on what is best for all teachers and students. Talk to your school board about their strategies for inclusivity in the classroom. Here are a few questions you can ask:
- How does the school comply with federal and state standards, and what criteria do they have of their own?
- What special education services can they offer students?
- What is the ratio of time students with special needs spend in the general classroom vs. receiving personal instruction?
- What does the school believe is best for students with special needs?
- Are the school building and play equipment accessible for students with disabilities?
- What is the interpersonal environment at the school like? How friendly are the other kids and teachers?
- Does the school board seem to want to work with you? What might be restricting or holding them back?
- Is this the best place for your child to learn and grow into a mature adult?
The Next Step
As a parent, you care more for your child’s welfare than anyone else. Being their educational advocate is your responsibility, but you must also keep in mind the limitations of the school system.
If the schools in your area don’t seem to be a good fit for your child, you can consider alternatives such as charter schools or homeschooling. These choices give you the freedom to develop an educational approach entirely tailored to your child’s specific needs.
Work with your school board to find the best solution for your child. As their parent, it’s your job to ensure they are placed in an educational environment that will benefit them for the rest of their lives!