(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.
Please be sure to FOLLOW our blog by clicking FOLLOW in the
upper right corner of this page. Following a blog is always anonymous.
You simply will receive a confidential email when new posts are made.
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.