Monday, June 11, 2012

Mainstreaming Is Not For Everyone

I just read NYC parents blog post is mainstreaming ISS kids. While I never taught an ICT class, I have taught many ISS kids in mainstream courses and have had very mixed experiences with these children. Some thrive in this environment while others flounder.

Placing a child with special needs in a mainstream class has to be more than a random placement from a computer.  While it is not politically correct, I am going to say it anyway--some teachers work better with these students than others.  These kids need teachers with more patience and understanding, teachers that will be willing to bend the rules slightly when the change will help the child succeed. The teacher needs to understand that these children might not process information the same way they do and they have to be willing to find ways to get the material across.  Now, with 34 kids in a class, even two teachers wil find this an impossible feat to  accomplish.  I've watched ISS teachers spend every free second with their students doing all they can to help these kids succeed and often it is not enough.  And, it is not fair to the teacher who must sacrifice all lunch and prep periods to offer this extra assistance.

For the placement to be successful the student must have some ability to succeed in that area.  I remember many years ago before mainstreaming was even popular placing several of my students in mainstream math classes.  Both made it through algebra and geometry because math was an area of strength for them. 

Lastly, the student must not have emotional problems that will prevent him from sitting in class and paying attention and not being disruptive.  I had a student one year who had no self control, said whatever he thought and disrupted the class continuously.  He had no compunction about locking himself in the bathroom the entire period to talk on his phone.  Although he had a para with him, she did nothing to monitor his behavior.  I've had others no one would ever know was an ISS student.

I've taught ISS students who could not pass a regents but learned quite a bit in the classroom and, in spite of what their test grades showed, I know they got more out of my class than they would have gotten in an ISS class.  If they are going to be mainstreamed, there has to be a way to grade and take their special needs into consideration.

Mainstreaming is a good thing.  But, it is not for everyone.  It is certainly not for the student with a 70 IQ.  And, it certainly should not be used as a way to save money and increase the school's AYP reports.

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