Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 | midnight
Editor's note: René Hill is taking a week off. Here is one of her favorite columns.
As a special educator, I am working in classrooms where students with learning disabilities are mainstreamed into the regular education environment. The research shows that doing this helps the student socially and academically.
There are different findings depending upon which research is read, but the fact that many students with disabilities learn from the behaviors of their peers is something most in education agree upon. Kids want to be accepted by their peers and will do what they believe is acceptable in order to fit in. Students with disabilities are no different.
While socialization is a part of the reason for inclusion, academics is the more important role the practice plays.
Children are active participants in the process of seeking knowledge, making sense of their experiences and learning to solve problems. The classroom experience should open opportunities for all students to gain a greater depth of understanding and finds ways to increase their academic knowledge.
The inclusion classroom exposes students with learning disabilities to different teachers and teaching styles. It also allows for peer tutoring as another way to help student learning. Studies have shown the advantages of cooperative learning and peer tutoring in the classroom setting, but the models are based on smaller class sizes and more teacher interaction.
The real glitch in the inclusive classroom in today's environment of education is the overcrowded classroom. This is especially true of middle and high school classes, where very few states have imposed maximum class sizes. Here in the Clark County School District, some of the core class sizes run from 38 to 42 students per class.
This is a difficult situation for students with learning disabilities, because often times, they become lost in the crowd.
It isn't the fault of the teachers or even the schools. It is more a function of the fact we are growing faster than funding and buildings can accommodate.
The lack of resources has an impact on inclusion of students as it shortchanges their need for more teacher interaction, accommodations and modifications. A teacher has to have time to get to know and interact with students. It is difficult when dealing with 200 students a day to know who needs what.
While the concept of inclusion is a great ideal, its practice is shortchanging our students with learning disabilities. They are not always receiving the help necessary for their continued success.
As a parent, advocate for your child and try to help them as they do homework. Check with them daily to make sure they are progressing and not having difficulty. If they do experience problems, contact the teacher and let him or her know that your student is having difficulty.
We as teachers try to stay on top of what our students are doing, but sometimes the sheer numbers become overwhelming.
René Hill is a special education and former English teacher in the Clark County School District. She can be reached c/o The News, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.