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Page 25 Law & Disorder

Inclusion in the
Classroom: Finding What
Works for General
Education Teachers
Angela Refice
Elementary General Education, Senior, Indiana University

ABSTRACT
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enabled students
with disabilities to be included in a general education classroom. A stu-
dent can be part of a full inclusion classroom where a general education
teacher teaches the students with and without disabilities for the entire
day. Exceptional students are also immersed in partial inclusion class-
rooms where the student spends part of the day in the general education
classroom and the other part working with a special education teach-
er outside of the general education classroom. In a partial inclusion
classroom, general and special education teachers will work together
to find a method of instruction that will benefit these special students.
This article identifies the advantages and disadvantages of inclusion, the
laws that govern it, and how general educators can integrate different
methods of teaching into their classroom to maximize its success. The
writer argues that both forms of inclusion have their benefits, but partial
inclusion is the ideal method for students with disabilities.

T
he Individuals with Disabilities en the opportunity to learn together in the
Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 same classroom. Students with exception-
made it possible for students alities had the chance to learn the same
with disabilities to be included to learn in things their peers were being taught.
a general education classroom (Hallahan Although IDEA has had a positive
& Kaufmann, 2003). Before this Act, stu- influence in the field of education, it has
dents with disabilities could only learn in also made some general educators wary
special schools. With IDEA, students with of the classroom. Some educators feel that
and without disabilities did not have to be it may be too difficult to include students
separated from each other, they were giv- with disabilities into a general education

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class (Hewitt, 1999). The teacher may al- inclusion of students with disabilities was
ready have twenty students, and it could the Pennsylvania Association of Retarded
be overwhelming to have a student with a Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth in
disability added to the group. Some gen- 1971. The court held that the state of Penn-
eral education teachers believe that they sylvania was required to give a free educa-
are not prepared to teach students with tion to mentally retarded children in a gen-
disabilities. eral education classroom. Later, the Mills
This paper is designed to discuss the v. Board of Education (1972) case gave
advantages and disadvantages of inclu- the opportunity for a free education, held
sion. Yet, to fully understand inclusion, by PARC, to all students with disabilities.
this paper also discusses the many laws This case strengthened the movement to
that help govern inclusion in a general provide every student with the right to a
education classroom. Because the term free and equal education. The Rehabilita-
“inclusion” is so broad, full inclusion and tion Act of 1973 was a federal policy that
partial inclusion will be the main focus of helped to create laws prohibiting the dis-
this paper. Full inclusion allows a student crimination of individuals with disabilities
with a disability to be placed into a gen- from programs or activities that received
eral education classroom, where the gen- federal funding (Mithaiwala, 2004). Be-
eral education teacher is responsible for cause public schools received federal fund-
children with and without special needs ing, they were prohibited from excluding
(Hallahan & Kauffman, 2003). In a par- students with disabilities from receiving an
tial inclusion classroom, the student with equal education.
a disability is placed into a general educa- In 1990, the Individuals with Disabili-
tion classroom for either part of the day, ties Education Act (IDEA) gave all stu-
or for the entire day and both the general dents with disabilities the right to a Free
and special education teachers are respon- Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in
sible for the student’s learning. Finally, the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
this paper will discuss how general educa- (Hallahan & Kauffman, 2003). IDEA
tors in an inclusion classroom can make gives students with exceptionalities the
the students with exceptionalities have a right to be included in a general education
successful experience in the general edu- public school classroom. To ensure the
cation classroom. Although advantages students with exceptionalities receive an
exist for both methods, partial inclusion is appropriate education, IDEA requires an
the ideal method of inclusion for a general Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to
educator and their students who have vari- be designed for each student. The IEP is a
ous disabilities. binding contract that will guide a student
with a disability through school to meet
Laws Governing Inclusion their educational goals. An IEP allows
In the case of Brown v. Board of Educa- students to have modified lesson plans to
tion (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court held help them learn the curriculum in general
that segregated school facilities were inher- education classrooms.
ently not equal. This landmark case opened If a public school fails to comply with
many doors for children receiving educa- IDEA, parents have the right to due pro-
tion in segregated schools. This ruling cess (Mithaiwala, 2004). If parents find
eventually paved the way for students with the public school has failed to give their
disabilities to enter traditional classrooms. child a Free Appropriate Public Educa-
The first court case dealing with the tion, under IDEA, the parent can file suit

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Page 27 Law & Disorder

against the school. An example of this (Shindel, 2004). If students with disabili-
was the Board of Education of the Hen- ties are going to participate in general edu-
drick Central School District v. Rowley cation classrooms, each student must have
(1982), which was the first lawsuit un- an IEP, which is required by IDEA. Rather
der IDEA that went to the U.S. Supreme than trying to figure out the best way to
Court. Amy Rowley’s parents felt that she teach a student and reach the desired goals
needed a hearing interpreter in order to on the first day of class, a teacher has been
reach her full potential in a general educa- provided with an IEP to know the needs of
tion classroom. In the end, the Court held the exceptional learner. General education
that “as long as a disabled child is receiv- teachers may also have access to different
ing a benefit from his or her placement; kinds of technology such as CD-ROMs
the FAPE requirement will be satisfied” and educational videos in order to help a
(Mithaiwala, 2004, p. 377). Therefore if student with a disability learn the course
the IEP requirements of a student with a material (Brucker, 1994). Furthermore,
disability are met in the inclusive class- according to Renzaglia, Karvonen, Dras-
room, the school does not need to provide gow, and Stoxen (2003), a person is better
other benefits. The court found that the able to use problem solving and life skills
hearing interpreter would not be of use to in a regular environment, which is fostered
Rowley, because she was already excel- by the IEP.
ling in school. Although she had a disabil- In a full or partial inclusion classroom,
ity, she was still succeeding in the general the teacher is encouraging the student to
education classroom. be more independent by including them
Students with special needs can re- in a classroom with students who do not
cieve assistance both in and out of the have disabilities (Renzaglia et al., 2003).
general education classroom. Although The students with disabilities will be able
some general education teachers question to learn how to work with students with-
inclusion, it does have its advantages. In out disabilities. Yet, in a partial inclusion
2002, President George W. Bush signed classroom a general education teacher is
the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). able to receive more immediate support.
Because students with disabilities are Because a general educator works with
now included in general education class- a special education teacher, the general
rooms, they are required to take the same educator can have help in assisting the
standardized test as students without dis- student with exceptional needs. Also,
abilities in order to meet the state stan- instead of having the general education
dards for student performance. However, teacher working with the student all day,
NCLB has provided accommodations for the special education teacher is able to
students with disabilities, so that they are take the student during portions of the
able to take the test. For example, students day to work on the specific needs with
with exceptionalities can be allowed lon- the student inside or outside of the class-
ger testing times, changes in how the test room. This also allows the general edu-
is presented, and students can be given a cation teacher to direct needed focus on
different method of responding to ques- all students. This key advantage of partial
tions on the exam (Keele, 2004). inclusion makes including students with
Another benefit that NCLB has pro- disabilities much more successful in a
vided for the inclusion of students with general education classroom.
disabilities requires every state to provide The inclusion of students with dis-
an IEP for the students with disabilities abilities may have its advantages, but

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there are also disadvantages that arise teach a full lesson. This could potentially
with this issue. Although NCLB has make the class fall behind in learning the
made accommodations for students with required curriculum. In partial inclusion
disabilities to be included in taking the the teachers use a team approach with the
standardized tests, some exceptional special education teacher providing the
students, despite accommodations, will appropriate aide to students with special
not perform well on the exam. Students needs while the general education teacher
with severe cognitive disabilities may keeps the whole class moving forward.
still have trouble completing the exam, On the other hand, when dealing with
even with the 3% of those who have ac- partial inclusion, special education teach-
commodations made for them (Keele, ers sometimes feel that they are work-
2004). Also with so much riding on these ing more with the students without dis-
high-stakes tests for general education abilities than the students with disabilities
teachers, the teachers may feel the need (Hewitt, 1999). This gives special educa-
to take away their individualized atten- tors the sense that they are used more as
tion from the exceptional students in the “instructional aides than fully qualified
full inclusion classroom in order to en- teachers,” (Hewitt, 1999, p. 134). Taking
sure that the students without disabilities the teacher’s attention from the student is
meet the state standards. essentially taking away instructional time
Many educators and critics share simi- from that student. It also makes it more
lar concerns about inclusion. Some teach- difficult for the special educator to stay
ers feel that inclusion was forced onto on task. If the special education teacher is
them, and they are concerned that their helping more general education students
teaching will not be as beneficial to their than students with disabilities, it may be
students (Bruneau-Balerrama, 1997). This difficult for the teacher to stay focused on
can be overwhelming for a teacher. The what is being taught. Yet, the general edu-
general educator will be working with cation teacher can eliminate this problem
students with and without disabilities, by making certain rules with the class-
especially in a full inclusion classroom, room about the purpose of the special
the teacher may feel that she is unable education teacher.
to reach out and help all of her students Having a special education teacher in
during class time. Teachers may also feel the classroom is not the most difficult issue
they are spending more time working to solve in the inclusion movement. One of
with students with disabilities rather than the largest problems is that regular class-
the students without disabilities. This can rooms are lacking the special equipment
take up more class time than the teacher and materials that students with disabilities
originally planned. This leads to another need to learn (Hewitt, 1999). It is nearly im-
disadvantage of full inclusion. General ed- possible to teach students with disabilities
ucators feel they are not allowed enough if the classroom does not have the recom-
time to cover certain lessons (Bruneau- mended resources the students need in or-
Balerrama, 1997). Depending on the der to learn. Without the proper materials,
student’s disability, it may take longer to educators may become increasingly frus-
connect and comprehend the information trated with teaching in an inclusion class-
presented through the lesson. Because the room. It is difficult to have any form of in-
general educator must take more time to clusion without knowing the proper way to
help the student make the connection, this integrate the students with disabilities into
hinders the teacher from using the time to the classroom environment.

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Page 29 Law & Disorder

Integrating Inclusion into living…” (Reisberg, 1998, p. 272). Inte-


the Classroom grating these skills into the curriculum
When integrating either full or partial will benefit these students by allowing
inclusion into the classroom one impor- them to learn skills that are essential to ev-
tant aspect is to keep the parents involved. eryday life. Yet, combining life skills with
“Parents are viewed as valuable assets a lesson plan will probably be more ben-
to the school community and should be eficial to the students in a partial inclusion
encouraged to take an active part in the classroom. Students without a disability
child’s academic program,” (Hewitt, 1999, are usually fully capable of performing
p. 134). Parents know their child best, es- everyday tasks, so the multidisciplinary
pecially if their child has a disability. The lesson may not be as beneficial to them.
family can help the teachers in determin- On the other hand, students with disabili-
ing what is important for the child’s IEP. ties tend to struggle with these life tasks.
This will help the parents to be aware of A special education teacher can work with
how their child is being taught in school. It the student with a disability to combine
can also help the teacher to determine the the skill into the lesson, while the rest of
special resources the student needs in order the class is learning. Instead of focusing
to learn. Parents can also keep the teachers on one subject during the class period,
updated on the student’s success outside teachers are able to incorporate lessons
of the classroom. For example, if a student such as life skills the student with the
with a disability learns an integrated les- disability will need (Reisberg, 1998). Ex-
son about independent living, parents will ceptional students will be able to use the
be able to determine if the child is able to skills learned in the curriculum in school
use this skill at home. This will enable the as well as outside of school.
teacher to know if the method of teaching Another method to integrate inclusion
is benefiting the student. into the classroom is by collaborative
An experiment by Praisner (2003) dem- teaching. Collaborative teaching is pre-
onstrates that the more experience an edu- dominately used in partial inclusion. This
cator has with inclusion, the more positive type of inclusion requires a general and a
view one will have of it. Although this seems special education teacher to work together
it would be true in any case, many educators inside or outside of a general education
currently find inclusion troublesome, even classroom to meet the special needs of an
stressful. Yet, there are different methods to exceptional student (Hallahan & Kauff-
using inclusion in a general education class- man, 2003). The blending of personalities
room that will be beneficial to the student as and teaching styles will allow the student
well as the teacher. to get the most out of a lesson (Bruneau-
One method used in an inclusion class- Balderrama, 1997). The students with dis-
room is an integrated curriculum that in- abilities will be able to learn the lessons
volves combining a regular lesson with that students without disabilities are learn-
life skills that students with disabilities ing, but have the lesson modified so they
will need in the future (Reisberg, 1998). are able to learn better and grasp the infor-
Under IDEA, these skills are included in mation they are being taught. Collabora-
the student’s IEP. This method can be used tive teaching is crucial when working with
in a full and partial inclusion classroom. students that have disabilities. The student
Students with disabilities also “need ad- is able to get the special attention he or she
ditional instruction, skills, and knowledge needs, and the general educator does not
in such areas as self-help and independent have to feel overwhelmed with the respon-

Issue 1 • January 2006


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sibility of teaching both students with and interact with students without disabilities,
without disabilities. This form of teaching which will teach all students to embrace
allows the student with a disability to learn diversity. In the end, partial inclusion is
in an environment he or she is most com- the ideal method of making inclusion in
fortable. This will allow the student to keep schools a success.
their focus on the lesson being taught. This
is one of the main reasons why having par-
tial inclusion in schools is so important.
According to Brucker (1994), the inclu-
sion movement may allow special educa- references
tion to be viewed as a valuable component Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S.
of general education. Over the years, dif- 483 (1954).
ferent laws have been made to make the
inclusion in a general education classroom Brucker (1994). The advantages of
possible for students with disabilities. inclusion for students with learning
These laws have provided the means for disabilities. Journal of Learning
general and special educators to work to- Disabilities, 27, Retrieved September
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system is a more difficult issue to examine. Bruneau-Balderrrama. (1997). Inclusion:
Although in a full inclusion classroom, Making it work for teachers, too.
teachers and students can be introduced to Clearing House, 70, Retrieved
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education classroom. Exceptional learn- Kavale. (2002). Mainstreaming to full
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or receiving the special assistance they Keele, C. (2004). Is No Child Left Behind
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Issue 1 • January 2006