/RantOn – I know inclusion classes are one of the two most destructive forces hurting our children in education – a belief that proves I must be insensitive, selfish, mean-spirited, uncaring, and probably a racist

(It’s time for one of my periodic /RantOn posts. Sorry, right up front, for the tone – this is (hopefully) an uncharacteristic “no more Mister Nice Guy” moment! A /RantOn is always about a topic that deeply frustrates good classroom teachers by preventing us from teaching!)


Speaking up against all the harm inclusion classes have done to a generation of children is guaranteed to be a career-threatening move.  It doesn’t matter if you are one of the many teachers, like me, whose caring for these children means we volunteer to teach inclusion classes year after year.  It doesn’t matter if the teacher speaking out is like anonymous in the following post – a teacher who both loves helping inclusion children, and had two of her own that she shepherded through the process.  Nope – speak out and you are a bad person and a bad teacher.  At best you are insensitive, selfish, mean-spirited, and uncaring.  At worst you are probably a racist (even if your inclusion class had no minority students!).

And if you speak up about how inclusion classes have helped destroy the education of a generation of our children, you certainly can expect to pay the price when your principal and school administrators hear about your views.

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The problem with inclusion classes has nothing to do with insensitivity – it is simply a question of math.  Every teacher I have ever met believes in, and owns, the goals behind inclusion classes.  It’s in our blood to want every child to get the best education, be challenged, not be stuck in a lesser track, get the best teachers, and to be an integral part of the school experience.  But career DoE bureaucrats have taken those awesome goals, and came up with an implementation that absolutely undermines the goals.  The mechanics of every inclusion class destroys any possibility of achieving those lofty intents.

It is like having an effort to meet the good goal of avoiding skin cancer, by defining an implementation of locking everyone in their basement for life.  Good goal, destructive implementation.

And the reason is simply math:

  • We put such a wide mix of students with different issues into a single class that would require a team of specialists trained in a wide range of child disabilities, and expect a single teacher trained in English (or history, science…) to match that team’s experience, training, and abilities. Then we hold that teacher accountable if he or she is not fully proficient in all those aspects of child behavioral interventions.
  • We expect the teacher to stop teaching and provide accommodations to all the inclusion children, and then still expect the full lesson plan to be delivered. With just 10 inclusion children in a class (I typically had 15-18) and providing 3 minutes to each means half the core lesson plan must be eliminated while accommodations are being provided.  Then we hold the teacher accountable if he or she does not teach the entire mandated lesson plan while providing mandated accommodations, or does not provide all mandated accommodations while teaching the mandated lesson plan – a lose-lose choice.
  • We create an environment that pits inclusion children against non-inclusion children in the same class. The inclusion children (rightfully) complain that “…they are making us go too fast,” while the non-inclusion children complain (rightfully) that “…they are making us go too slow.”  The teacher does his or her best to give the non-inclusion children tasks to work on while away from the board helping provide inclusion accommodations.  Then we hold the teacher accountable all the negative impact on expectations and motivation that has on the children in the class.

The following passage is an outstanding, and very typical, view of an inclusion class.  This is from a teacher who clearly has a passion for helping inclusion children.  She does so because of her experiences shepherding her own two children through inclusion classes.  It would be fairly difficult to try to label her as insensitive, selfish, mean-spirited, uncaring, and probably a racist!  In her example, she focuses on the impact just one of the inclusion children in the class has on the entire class – inclusion and other non-inclusion students alike. But the result is the same – six months into the school year and ALL children in the class – including the rest of the inclusion children – are not learning the subject.

And the worst part – the reason this is a /RantOn piece – is the underlying bureaucratic incompetence that both created this disaster, and then worsens it by the inept process required to make a change.  Here four (repeat:  FOUR!) psychologists monitored and confirmed the problems, yet months of paperwork are still required to get a resolution and decision.  The education of a classroom full of students is held hostage to the process for one – and that one student is hurt even more by unreasonably delaying the transition to a more supportive environment!   The inept career DoE bureaucrats are mightily concerned about their paperwork, but seem to have zero caring for the rest of the children in the class.

Hmmmm.  Perhaps the career DoE bureaucrats are the ones who are insensitive, selfish, mean-spirited, uncaring, and probably racist?


Anonymous is a 4th grade teacher in California. Like many teachers, she volunteers for inclusion classes because of her passion to help these children.  She is part of our ongoing effort via BeHeard! to nationally publicize teacher voices via this blog.  She chose to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation from school principals and administrators for speaking out – a reaction that is common in all schools.

As a classroom teacher, I bring a unique skillset to the classroom.  I have both an emotionally disturbed child, and a child with a learning disability. Both are adults now, so I have navigated the k-12 IEP process as a parent. So, as a teacher, I get it. I get the injustice, I get the rights, and I get that everyone wants an equitable education for everyone.

The education budget in California is sparse, to say the least. Kids that were once in county SDC programs are now in district SDC programs. So that puts the district SDC kids in the general education classroom, which brings me to my story.

I started the year as I do every year.   Because of my background with my own children, I will get the most difficult behavior cases – which I honestly don’t mind, because I can successfully navigate that minefield. This year, on the first day of school I noticed that one of my new students was exhibiting behavior that didn’t fall into the “variations of normal” category that you see in a classroom. Without going into the ugly details, I realized very quickly that this child was most likely emotionally disturbed.   (Please remember that I have an emotionally disturbed child of my own.)  I immediately started the process of intervention, modifications, SSTs, and parent meetings. I documented like crazy and saved every piece of work that the student didn’t do.  He had skills and it was clear that there wasn’t a learning disability.

With this child in my class, I couldn’t get through a lesson without disruption. This is disruption beyond the regular fourth grade behavior. After a month or two I was a full month behind my colleagues in the first year of the Common Core adoption. The district wants us to increase the rigor and DOK in our kids, but this one child derails my lessons all day, every day, to the point where no one is learning. He isn’t learning because he’s emotionally disturbed and that interferes with his learning process.

And remember, the other 29 students in my class aren’t learning either – because we have an emotionally disturbed kid in my class.

EVERY ONE of the school professionals agreed that he was emotionally disturbed and the test results supported our suspicions.  I sat in his IEP meeting with four pages of documented interventions I had tried. The school psychologist documented his disruptive behavior from his other schools. In-class observations from three different psychologists witnessed what I went through on a daily basis.

Despite all this, because we have to show “due diligence” before any change, he still was not put into an SDC classroom. Even though I documented very sophisticated intervention strategies and why they failed, I was expected to follow the behavior plan in the IEP so everything could be documented, again, officially.  Meanwhile it’s February and no is learning. 30 fourth graders are not learning because of one student. I have to give the “plan” 2 months before we can meet again to reevaluate the situation.

The year is half over, and no one is learning.


When I interviewed hundreds of teachers in the three years of research leading up to writing Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education, inclusion classes were cited as one of the two most destructive forces in today’s education.  It is a textbook example (wry pun intended) of the destructive unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation.

We must fix this.


The 2nd edition of the acclaimed book about today’s failed education system
 Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education –

is now available, with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine
new chapters.  Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book

“…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher”
that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education
of our children.  Please get a copy
HERE or on Amazon.

This entry was posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to /RantOn – I know inclusion classes are one of the two most destructive forces hurting our children in education – a belief that proves I must be insensitive, selfish, mean-spirited, uncaring, and probably a racist

  1. Pam Holland says:

    Thank you for this forum. As a previous Sped teacher and then a “regular Ed” teacher I see gross injustice on both ends of the spectrum. Inclusion is NOT the answer. We are “dumbing down” An entire generation…been in the trenches!


  2. Kristen says:

    I am only in my second year of teaching and, of course, my students are the most challenging, since they usually give these assignments to the least experienced and newest teachers. My inclusion students are failing miserably despite my best attempts at differentiation. Due to the fact that they are frustrated, they lack the appropriate foundation level skills, and frankly, in many instances are poorly behaved in the first place, I am baffled as to what my next move should be. Meanwhile, the “regular ed” students are annoyed and bored. Consequently, they are either “zoning out” or engaging in attention getting behaviors that are not acceptable. I am trying to “keep the faith” and remember why I made a career change and pursued teaching, however, the system is so broken. In my former profession, I operated as a technology sales manager and we used to have a saying: “80% of the time the problem can be found in the system.” Clearly, the educational system is not focused on the right issues. If we cannot diagnose the core ailment, how can we ever prescribe the right treatment? Don’t even get me started on the Common Core……what a joke!


  3. Virginia H. says:

    There is an angry part of me that wants to selfishly comment that perhaps if we swaddle all our students that have no IEPs and protect them from dealing with students that have issues that range from Down Syndrome to Receptive/Expressive language disorder to Autism Spectrum Disorder to all the other IEP qualifiers that they’ll suddenly be brilliant. You know better and so do I. The truth is that we have conflated the material that is taught. We have allowed students to be disrespectful, out of order and down right discipline issues because parents are absent, or present with no intent of allowing their precious baby to be corrected for poor behavior and awful choices. And we use ‘standardized’ tests to determine if the teacher is doing their job.
    Not every student on an IEP should be mainstreamed or inclusion, just as not every student should be. If a student can not or will not follow directions they should not be in a regular classroom. Insisting that we segregate students who are capable of learning and are working on it and need SOME, (please note not massive amounts) support, will create bigger problems and it teaches those who do not have things like autism, like dyslexia, like ADHD that they are ‘better’ than those who do have those issues. Ask yourself if you would accept being told that you are good but not good enough for you or your child, then tell me that we should segregate the population in a school by whether they’ve an IEP or not.


  4. Linda Pearce says:

    As a nation we HAVE to get rid of the idea that we all learn equally. As a former school administrator, my hands were tied by laws and regulations as to “equal treatment and abilities.” I KNOW there are excellent teachers who have students that hold everyone else back. It is patently unfair to hold the teacher accountable for the progress of the other 30 students in that class not progressing because that teacher’s time is spent with one child. The REAL problem is what is happening to the other 30 students. They lose a year of education for the sake of ONE? And that is not the end of it. Because education speeds up after the third grade, and most of the “basics” are taught up to the third grade (reading fundamental, multiplication, etc.), students who are held hostage by a disruptive classmate, never catch up.
    I am an old timer. My education in a rural Arizona mining town prepared many of us to go on to be doctors, lawyers, educators, engineers, etc. Our teachers taught ALL of us, but I do not remember anyone disrupting classes. The principal, backed-up whole-heartedly by the parents, made sure that everyone was allowed to learn. If there were disruptive students they must have been sent home. So a few may not have graduated. Better than half of a class not graduating or graduating with half of what they needed to know.
    Doctors don’t give the same treatment to every patient, why do those who don’t know jack about education tell teachers that one treatment must be applied to all? Hey, six children in this ward have pneumonia today, but this guy has an ear ache. Everyone in here gets what good for an ear ache. If it’s good enough for him, its good enough for everyone.


  5. Linda N. says:

    So true. In my school, the autistic students were placed with the gifted classes. Impossible to teach when one child screams at the top of their lungs and their aide does nothing. They say we have this situation because a parent of a special needs child sued. One of the parents of the students who are not special needs should sue because one child is keeping 29 from learning.


  6. Kat says:

    This is even true in EC classes. I have everyone from mild intellectual disabilities to profound. Who takes much of the teaching time away from my kids who can learn – the profound kids with constant seizures that have to be monitored, constant bathroom issues. It isn’t just an issue in the regular classroom.


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