This is my thoughts on full inclusion programs.
This has been something on my mind for a while and I hesitated to write about it because it goes against the current "norm" of the public school system model. This became of great interest to me last year when I was looking for a middle school program for my 11 (now 12) year old. I wanted to look at each school, how it organized, how they handled inclusion and what types of supports were available in the middle grades.
I set out to learn all I could about special education in the middle school setting, charter programs, magnet schools, non-public placements and private schools (expensive!!!). I looked in my county, other counties around ours and even other states. I found a lot of information including accommodations, modifications and ideas for transitioning into Middle School but also I found instances of continued segregation (Washington Post) and how charter schools may be contributing both to continued segregation and reducing funds available to special needs students (Huffington Post & Aljazeera).
So then I took the information I collected and applied it to MY situation and MY boys and what are OUR options? How does all this good, bad and ugly apply to Autism, ADHD, Aspergers?
For example this article tells us that charter programs cannot turn away a special needs child but that they often aren't equipped to handle them therefore the majority of the time special needs students remain in the public school setting. And it was then that doors started closing and I started to get mad.
Charter Schools do not receive all of their operating costs from the school system budget but they receive a large amount. Magnet Schools (gifted and talented programs) housed within the school system do receive all the operating costs from the school system budget. BOTH of these programs are closed to kids like mine, one isn't equipped to handle their needs and for the other, my kids don't qualify. Which means mine are excluded.
So I went looking for the specialized program that will meet their needs and found NONE.
In a school system that has two charter schools and a magnet program, they have NO program to meet the needs of a high functioning special needs population. In many cases high functioning special needs students cannot always be included in the typical public class setting, large class sizes, constant changes in routines, massive amounts of distractions and stimuli make it almost impossible for them to learn. These kids (MY kids) cannot learn in a standard class setting but many are at grade level and diploma bound. For them it is a constant challenge just to exist within a typical class setting, much less access the education they are promised.
Can the kids in the charter schools and magnet programs learn in a standard class setting?
School districts are allocating funds to teach kids in a specialized setting because they won the charter lottery or because they are super smart but there are no specialized programs for my child who cannot learn in a regular classroom setting. Why does "least restrictive environment" not apply to them but it is the ruling fist of law that special needs parents need abide?
So there, I've spoken out against Charter Schools and Magnet Programs but here's the kicker, I'm NOT OPPOSED to those programs. I have friends who have kids in the charter schools and in the magnet program and I am very happy that their kids have that opportunity. I am not opposed to the parent who wants the very best education for their child, I want the same for mine as well. I just cannot understand how a school system can create specialized programs for kids who are fully capable of functioning within a typical class setting and yet completely and wholly dismiss the needs of the kids who cannot.
As an aside I would like to speak about segregation which is something that I just cannot abide. I am saddened by the research I found that it is worse now than 40 years ago. This both hurts and infuriates me. I read a quote where someone suggested that all schools within the same county (city or district) are fundamentally the same which begs the question, if they are all the same, why not let families chose the school they want? I think then you will find very quickly that there are schools who have better teachers, better resources, more money. When 90% of the school age population asks to attend one school, you have to wonder why....