Thursday, September 28, 2006

Most Convenient Environment

A major section of IDEA is the Least Restrictive Environment clause (LRE). LRE is defined as the educational setting where a child with disabilities can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) designed to meet his or her education needs while being educated with peers without disabilities in the regular educational environment to the maximum extent appropriate. This means that we can't have self-contained classes of students with disabilities unless less restrictive settings are inappropriate. You can seee that you've got that mushy word "appropriate" in there which can, and does, cause all sorts of problems. It seems to me that "least restrictive" is often reinterpreted to mean "most convenient" and not for the student but for the teachers. It's inconvenient to have a student in your class that learns differently and/or acts differently from most other students because that means you might have to change your teaching. It's that or move the student to a different class. Which one happens most often, I wonder?

So, in my district, it's no wonder that there is a good deal of resistance to the push to include students with disability in mainstream classes by ending self-contained classes that took students away from their home schools and relegated them to spending the whole day with one teacher and a bunch of other "high needs" students - a recipe for disaster if there ever was one. That and the district office keeps reminding everyone that we have to do this because it's part of No Child Left Behind that is being enacted this year and the district got in trouble last year from the state department of ed. for having too many students in self-contained classes. Notice that no one mentions that inclusion is more ethical, leads to better educations for all and the LRE for the vast majority of students.


Anonymous said...

Most interesting! You sound frustrated by your district's interpretation of these issues. Does "no child left behind" really help your students? Do you agree with that law?

Joe said...

hi ben--
what struck me most about your thoughts here is what came at the end. it seems that you lament the fact that administrators appeal to your legal obligation rather than the proposition that inclusion is more ethical. what's wrong with this? isn't the role of law (when it is working), in part, to get people to comply with good things that are not necessarily in their self-interest (ie, makes their jobs more complicated)? we have speed laws because we'd all like to go 100 mph, but we know that if we all did that, there would be more traffic accidents. in your case, isn't reminding people that their jobs bind them to inclusion a better incentive than telling people it is ethical?

B said...

Anonymous: I'm not a fan of NCLB. I fnd it ironic that it has pushed this district into inclusion (via certification issues) though because I do think inclusion is good.

Joe: I like a law that as incentive when necessary. However, you know that I think it shouldn't be necessary. We shouldn't drive 100 mph because it's dangerous, not because there's a law about it. However, I'm grateful there is a law so I can get home safely tonight. The issue in the district is that it's much easier to resent being forced to change your teaching because a law was passed at the federal level than it is to resent doing what's right for kids. Inclusion is more ethical - its a civil rights issue. Not talking about that is a mistake. However, in the absence of someone talking about ending segregation of students with disabilities because segregation is morally wrong, I'll take adherence to a federal law. You dig?