ERIC Identifier: ED459000
Publication Date: 2001-12-00
Author: Hines, Rebecca A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Inclusion in Middle Schools. ERIC Digest.
Current legislation supports the concept of including students with
disabilities in the general education classroom but leaves many wondering, "Is
this approach working?" Determining the effectiveness of this practice is a task
not easily accomplished. The term itself-inclusion-is not found in any law and
is used inconsistently in the educational community. Inclusive programs differ
greatly from district to district, both in definition and implementation.
Variables such as amount and nature of support provided to the regular classroom
teacher differ dramatically from district to district, sometimes from school to
school and child to child, and are not easily controlled for research purposes.
This Digest discusses the rationale for inclusion of students with mild to
moderate disabilities in middle schools, explores recent research on inclusion,
and discusses barriers to implementation.
The rationale for inclusion has never rested on
research findings, but on principle. Proponents insist that the integration of
students with disabilities is inherently right, compared often to the same right
to racial integration. The generally accepted concept of inclusion is that
students with disabilities attend classes with their general education peers
with direct support from special educators.
According to Halvorsen and Neary (2001), inclusion differs from mainstreaming
in that students are members of only the general education class and do not
belong to any other specialized environment based on their disability. This
notion is supported by middle schools using the true middle school model. In
these schools, students with disabilities are members of the classroom as their
first association, not members of a special education population. Middle schools
also lend themselves to inclusive practices because the co-teaching model
(common in middle schools) is more successfully implemented where
interdisciplinary teaching teams share planning.
The Twenty-First Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/Research/OSEP99AnlRpt/) reports that the
number of students with disabilities served under IDEA continues to increase at
a rate higher than the general population. With this growing number of students
served and specific provisions in the amendments calling for more access to the
general curriculum for these students, examining the research on inclusion is
imperative to understand its effects and barriers to overcome.
RESEARCH ON INCLUSION
Kochhar, West, and Taymans (2000)
draw from the research to conclude that the benefits of inclusion across grade
levels far outweigh the difficulties inclusion presents. For example, they
believe that for students with disabilities, inclusion:
* facilitates more appropriate social behavior because of higher expectations
in the general education classroom;
* promotes levels of achievement higher or at least as high as those achieved
in self-contained classrooms;
* offers a wide circle of support, including social support from classmates
without disabilities; and
* improves the ability of students and teachers to adapt to different
teaching and learning styles.
authors further contend that general education students also benefit from
inclusion. For these students, inclusion:
* offers the advantage of having an extra teacher or aide to help them with
the development of their own skills;
* leads to greater acceptance of students with disabilities;
* facilitates understanding that students with disabilities are not always
easily identified; and
* promotes better understanding of the similarities among students with and
Research appears to support many of these claims. Walther-Thomas et al.
(1996) found benefits for both special and general education students in a
three-year study of elementary inclusive settings where co-teaching was
practiced. Improvements in social skills for special education and low-achieving
students were found, and all students were reported to have developed a new
appreciation of their own skills and accomplishments. In addition, all learned
to value themselves and others as unique individuals. In a review of research on
inclusion at both the elementary and secondary levels, Salend and Duhaney (1999)
also report that academic performance is equal to or better in inclusive
settings for general education students, including high achievers. Social
performance also appears to be enhanced because students have a better
understanding of and more tolerance for student differences.
Hunt (2000) similarly reports positive effects for both general and special
education students at the elementary level. Academic benefits for general
education students include having additional special education staff in the
classroom, providing small-group, individualized instruction, and assisting in
the development of academic adaptations for all students who need them. The
author also reports that students have a better understanding of individual
differences through learning in inclusive settings. In a meta-analysis of the
effects of inclusion on students with special needs, Baker and Zigmond (1995)
found a small to moderate positive effect of inclusive practices on the academic
and social outcomes of pupils in elementary schools. Academic benefits were
measured through standard achievement tasks, while self, peer, teacher, and
observer ratings were used to evaluate social effects. Another study reporting
perceptions of middle school students, their parents, and teachers indicated a
shared belief that middle level students with mild disabilities included in the
general classroom experienced (1) increased self-confidence, (2) camaraderie,
(3) support of the teachers, and (4) higher expectations. The study also
indicated that these students avoided low self-esteem that can result from
placement in a special education setting (Ritter, Michel, & Irby, 1999).
Specific results for students with disabilities, however, are inconclusive.
Salend (2001), like most who examine research on the effectiveness of inclusion,
reports mixed results. While some studies show increased academic performance of
students with disabilities in inclusive settings, others question inclusion's
effectiveness. Likewise, some studies report positive social gains for students
with disabilities in the regular classroom, while others report that students
included have experienced isolation and frustration.
Tiner (1995) surveyed 120 teachers from six middle schools in one Colorado
school district and found that teachers were most concerned with ensuring that
all students have an opportunity to learn. Participants in the study voiced a
concern that too much time was spent on special students and resulted in time
taken away from others in the classroom. These findings have been echoed in the
literature, but are these concerns valid?
Staub and Peck (1995) examined studies using control groups to compare
progress of children who are not disabled in classrooms said to be inclusive
with those in classrooms that do not include students with disabilities. No
significant differences were found between the two groups of students. In
addition, the presence of children with disabilities had no effect on either the
time allocated to instruction or the levels of interruption. Other studies have
obtained similar results. Hines and Johnston (1997) report results of a study of
25 general education middle school teachers whose schedule included "regular,"
co-taught (inclusive), and mainstream settings. Instructional interactions
across the three settings were analyzed, and results indicated that there was no
significant statistical difference in instructional time across the three
settings, "but significantly more time was spent in managerial interactions in
mainstream classrooms than in regular or co-taught settings" (Hines &
Johnston, 1997, p. 113). The co-taught classes had the fewest incidences of
correcting student behavior by the general education teacher. On a corresponding
survey, however, these same teachers perceived that they had less instructional
time when special students were present.
BARRIERS TO INCLUSION
The current barriers to inclusion
generally fall into three categories: organizational, attitudinal, and knowledge
barriers (Kochhar, West, & Taymans, 2000). Organizational barriers are
related to the differences in ways schools and classes are taught, staffed, and
managed. The National Education Association recommends that inclusive class size
be no higher than 28, and that in classes including students with learning
disabilities, this population should make up no more than 25% of the class. This
arrangement could mean extra faculty in schools using co-teachers. Scheduling
the amount of time needed for collaborative planning, especially at the middle
and secondary levels where a co-teacher may be working with as many as six
different teachers during the course of the school day, is another difficulty.
Attitudinal barriers, especially among teachers, have been explored as
inclusive practices are implemented. The primary findings are that teachers
agree in principle with the goals of inclusion, but many do not feel prepared to
work in inclusive settings (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000; Hines &
Johnston, 1997). In addition, collaboration calls for a shift in control and the
sharing of a learning environment rather than having individual space, both
concepts foreign to the traditionally trained teacher. Also, accepting new ideas
about teaching, learning, and learning styles is called for and not always
embraced by teachers.
Both general and special educators feel that knowledge barriers also exist in
inclusive classrooms. In many cases, general educators do not feel that they
have received the necessary training for working with students with special
needs. Conversely, special educators may be at a disadvantage in middle level
classes if they are not content experts and may thus be placed in more of a
Both opponents and proponents of inclusion can find
scattered research to support their respective views, although current research
is inconclusive. Opponents point to research showing negative effects of
inclusion, often citing low self-esteem of students with disabilities in the
general education setting and poor academic grades. For those supporting
inclusion, research exists that shows positive results for both special and
general education students, including academic and social benefits. Currently,
the "issue" of inclusion appears to be moot. With legislation supporting the
practice, schools continue to look for ways to include special needs students as
outlined in the IDEA.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Baker, J. M., & Zigmond, N.
(1995). The meaning and practice of inclusion for students with learning
disabilities: Themes and implications from the five case studies. JOURNAL OF
SPECIAL EDUCATION, 29(2), 163-180. EJ 509 951.
Halvorsen, A. T., & Neary, T. (2001). BUILDING INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS: TOOLS
AND STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hines, R. A., & Johnston, J. H. (1997). Inclusion. In J. L. Irvin (Ed.),
WHAT CURRENT RESEARCH SAYS TO THE MIDDLE LEVEL PRACTITIONER (pp. 109-120).
Columbus, OH: NMSA. ED 427 847.
Hunt, P. (2000). 'Community' is what I think everyone is talking about.
REMEDIAL & SPECIAL EDUCATION, 21(5), 305.
Kochhar, C. A., West, L. L., & Taymans, J. M. (2000). SUCCESSFUL
INCLUSION: PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. Upper Saddle River,
Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2000). THE INCLUSIVE CLASSROOM:
STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTION. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Ritter, C. L., Michel, C. S., & Irby, B. (1999). Concerning inclusion:
Perceptions of middle school students, their parents, and teachers. RURAL
SPECIAL EDUCATION QUARTERLY, 18(2), 10-17. EJ 607 015.
Salend, S. J. (2001). CREATING INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS: EFFECTIVE AND REFLECTIVE
PRACTICES. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Salend, S. J., & Duhaney, L. G. (1999). The impact of inclusion on
students with and without disabilities and their educators. REMEDIAL &
SPECIAL EDUCATION, 20(2), 114-127. EJ 585 702.
Staub, D., & Peck, C. A. (1995). What are the outcomes for nondisabled
students? EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, 52(4), 36-40. EJ 496 166.
Tiner, Kathy A. (1995). Conditions conducive to special learners in the
general classroom: Inclusion in the 1990s. DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS INTERNATIONAL,
Walther-Thomas, C. S., Bryant, M., & Land, S. (1996). Planning for
effective co-teaching: The key to successful inclusion. REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL
EDUCATION, 17(4), 255-264. EJ 527 660.