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Advantages and Disadvantages of Inclusive Classroom Models

Winner’s Circle Center is a special education, or what is referred to as a pullout program setting for children and teens with behavioral or developmental disabilities (or both) that emphasizes high student-teacher ratios, supportive services, and alternative educational environments to assist clients in successful academic achievement and development of social skills. Current thinking in most mainstream and public-school settings tend towards an inclusive classroom model, where such students are, for the majority of time, included in mainstream classes, sometimes with direct support and assistance. Both of these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of the pull-out programs are that each student gets more individualized attention. Students in the pull-out programs are working with other students that are on the same level academically, which makes it easier to structure lessons in a way that will help each student learn the material. In a traditional pull out program setting “the technical expertise required to work with students with mild disabilities is assumed to reside with the special education teacher, within the separate class.” (Manset, 1997, p. 10) indicating that the students are getting help from teachers that are specially trained to work with children with mild disabilities, supporting the theory that being segregated from mainstream classes is more beneficial to the students’ academic success. An added benefit is the opportunity for students to spend time with others who are on a similar level academically and with whom they may have more things in common (Mursky, 2011, p. 1). Teachers in pull out programs are also able to make various changes to the normal curriculum which allows for creative methods to assist students in grasping concepts and applying them, as well as allowing time and attention to work on the social skills aspects. The freedom to stretch the boundaries of standard curriculum makes room for specialists who are not certified teachers to assist in the development of curriculum and delivery methods (Renzulli, 1987, p. 248). Such departures from standard curriculum also creates space for “development of individual interests, opportunities to explore various approaches to learning and thinking styles.” (Renzulli, 1987, p. 248).
Advantages of inclusion programs are that students are not removed from their classrooms and do not miss as much instruction. There is also a great opportunity for
“collaboration, in the form of planning meetings and committees.” (Manset, 1997, p. 11) which increases the awareness and develops skills and experience of teachers. Another benefit of push in programs is that the specially trained teachers come to the classroom, which not only boosts teacher-to-student ratios but also gives students with mild disabilities the opportunity to work with a specially trained teacher. Push in environments also provide students a different opportunity for the development of social skills, which can be a positive but can also be challenging for some. Some inclusive classroom models give students a feeling of responsibility by giving students an instructional role.
This paper will examine whether the inclusive classroom model provides better academic outcomes for children with intellectual disabilities than pull out program settings, specifically regarding the student’s ability to keep up academically with their peers and to absorb, understand and apply material. We will review studies dealing with academic achievement in pull out and push in programs and compare the results regarding academic progress. Our expectation is that special education settings, with typically smaller class sizes and opportunity for more individualized academic support, will prove to yield better academic progress on the part of children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities than inclusive, mainstream classroom settings.
Study 1
First, I took a look at the experiment done by Stoutjesdijk and colleagues which focused on children of an average age of 9 years old who manifested significant ADHD behaviors. The study’s goal was to highlight the differences in both academic and behavioral progress between the children in a pull-out environment and those in an inclusive education setting (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 21). The Stoutjesdijk study noted that the findings of this study may be impacted by the participant population, as academic underachievement and trouble with social interaction are common amongst children with this diagnosis, and often persists into adolescence (p. 21). This exploratory study put forth two hypotheses. One was that progress would be expected from children in both educational settings, but that those in a pull out program setting would show better outcomes; the other was that teaching strategies would have greater emphasis in pull out programs, primarily because of lower teacher-student ratios (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 22).
The study included 64 children, from third to fifth grade; the majority of the children where in fourth grade. They were selected by random sample of 7 out of 16 special schools and 2 out of 4 educational services at mainstream schools (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 22), excluding residential pull out environments. These children represented two groups, one group of 38 children who attended a separate educational facility for special education and another group of 26 children who were fully integrated in regular classrooms where they received special educational support. Analysis showed that there were no significant differences in the background variables of the two groups and the gender distribution of both groups was statistically similar. Stoutjesdijk notes that the study did not include participants with conduct disorders or comorbid ODD. Additionally, the study notes that there were no significant differences in classroom materials or curriculum, nor in additional support provided beyond academic support.
As with most pull out programs, children in special schools had fewer students in each class, a more structured daily program, and fewer stimuli. The trade-off is that students in these classrooms had little opportunity to interact with typically developing peers during school (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 24).
The Stoutjesdijk study notes that participant’s progress was evaluated during the first year by pre- and post-assessments on multiple measures designed to speak to behavioral function and academic achievement (p. 24). The subscales Hyperactive/Impulsive Behavior and Inattentive Behavior of the SEQ were used to measure the severity of ADHD symptoms. The Dutch version of the Teacher’s Report Form was used to find non-disorder-specific problem behavior as noted by teachers (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p 24). Academic achievement was measured utilizing a battery of tests recommended by the Dutch Ministry of Education and concentrated on reading, spelling and math. These tests provide performance levels of students in terms of months of education, with ten months equal to one academic year (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 24). Additionally, the Stoutjesdijk study notes that IQ scores were obtained from diagnostic reports in the school assessment files of the participants (p. 24).
Finally, teaching strategies employed were examined by school psychologists who utilized the Pedagogical Methods Questionnaire (PMQ), which consists of an inventory list used by respondents to indicate how teachers emphasize common teaching strategies used for children with ADHD in their classrooms (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 25). The PMQ focused on four strategies for behavioral and emotional function. Three items on the PMQ provided insight into the level of support for participants in the area of academic achievement including use of concrete instructions, provision of individual instruction, and repetition of instructions and assignments (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p. 25).
Results and Conclusion.
The study notes that the IBM SPSS Statistics 19 was utilized to conduct the statistical analyses. Stoutjesdijk finds that no significant effect of setting was found on any of the variables, indicating that both groups had comparable behavioral and academic needs and therefore valid comparisons could be made. The Stoutjesdijk study notes that while both groups were already lagging behind their peers academically at the beginning of the study and while both groups made significant academic process, neither made enough progress to catch up with their peers, and neither made significantly more or less academic process than the other (p. 27). So, the study did not bear out the anticipated results of a special education setting fostering better academic outcomes; however, it seems the results indicate steady and similar improvement in both participant groups.
Study 2
The second experiment reviewed was “Effects of inclusion on the academic achievement and adaptive behavior of children with intellectual disabilities” done by Dessemontet and colleagues. The purpose of this study was to determine if children with intellectual disabilities who were part of fully inclusive mainstream classroom environments (with support) were able to make as much academic and behavioral progress as similar children in special education settings (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 579).
The final research sample was made up of 68 participants age seven to nine; diagnosed with ID (with an IQ between 40 and 75); and lived in their parent’s home. None were found to be on the autism spectrum. According to the article, no statistically significant differences were found between the two groups for the controlled variables of socio-economic status; associated impairments; cognitive skills; literacy and math scores; or ABAS-II scores (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 582. The participants were divided into two equal groups. One group was fully included in general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools. The other group of participants were mixed into classrooms of five to eight students that were also diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, instructed by a special education teacher with the support of an assistant. The group educated in mainstream classrooms received approximately 4.3 to 6.3 hours of support from a special education teacher per week and 71% of them were provided with therapies such as speech therapy (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 583). Alternatively, 95% of the group in special education settings received therapies (mostly speech and psychomotor therapies) (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p.583). Each student was given a standardized academic achievement test individually, three times over two school years (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 581). The tests were conducted at the children’s schools by proctors who had been trained to administer the test, and focused on literacy and math skills. The ABAS-II form was sent to the teachers of the participants, who completed their portion and distributed the parent’s portions appropriately at the beginning and end of two school years (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 581). These forms were requested to be returned to the main author by each recipient in a postage paid envelope. A brief survey was also given to the parents of each participant to collect data on their profession and education level (Dessmontet el al. 2012, p. 583).
An ANOVA for repeated measures was carried out on academic achievement and adaptive behavior (Dessmontet et al. 2012, p.583) and the results utilized to compare the progress of the two groups of participants. When the assumption of sphericity was violated, degrees of freedom were corrected by using the Greenhous-Geisser correction (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 584).
Results and Discussion.
The results of the ANOVA concluded that although both groups significantly improved their math and literacy skills, there was statistically no difference in the progress made in math skills between the two groups; however, those in the mainstream classrooms did realize slightly better literacy scores than those in special education settings (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 584). The ABAS-II scores from the ANOVAs indicated that teacher assessments revealed no differences between the two groups in terms of adaptive behavior – again, both groups seem to have significantly improved, by the results derived from both teachers and parents (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 584). However, it must be noted that the results may be affected by the lack of an unbiased source of information regarding children’s adaptive behavior rating (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 585).
Winner’s Circle Center Academy is a pullout program for students with intellectual disabilities that are unable to progress in mainstream schools due to academic and/or behavioral issues. Students come to the Center via referral from the county in which they reside, and participate in Internet-based approved curriculum to complete high school. The program utilizes a non-traditional setting (classrooms are set in large rooms of a farm house) that promotes a relaxed environment with the goal of reducing stress that can lead to maladaptive behaviors. Currently there are sixteen students enrolled at in the program, aged 14 to 17. Three are three full time staff and three interns. Academic classes do not start until 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. each weekday; the shorter academic workdays have proven to be less of a challenge for students who struggle to maintain focus and are credited with more predictable attendance rates. Academic assignments are broken up into lessons, and students are generally given two hours to complete six lessons which works well for the majority of students. Staff and interns are available for one-on-one assistance and support throughout the academic day. I have observed that many of the clients show marked improvement in both academics and behavioral function over time.
For example, Matt (not his real name) enrolled in the Winner’s Circle Center Academy program after being expelled from public school for poor academic performance and physical altercations with classmates. Matt has oppositional defiant disorder, and was not attending classes or finishing his assignments. He was lagging far behind his peers in public school. Matt has been with the Academy for three months. He is already showing marked improvement in both his behavior and academic achievement. When he first arrived, he had difficulty staying on task and completing lessons; after a few weeks he was completing all six lessons each day and frequently doing more then what was expected of him. He has also made efforts to be patient and avoid altercations with classmates and staff.
Jaxon (also not his real name) is another client who was also expelled from the public-school system, lagging far behind his peers academically. Jaxon is autistic and has great difficulty with focus, and staying on task through completion. Jaxon has thrived upon the individualized support that Winner’s Circle Center provides. Although he needs support to complete schoolwork, his understanding and retention of the material have greatly improved, resulting in better grades.
Nate (not his real name), was expelled from public school for physical altercations. He exhibited serious maladaptive behavior, which caused him to fall significantly far behind in school. This is his first year at Winner’s Circle Center and both his grades and behavior have transformed. He is now one of the calmest and quietest students in the program; he has caught up with his peers academically, and his GPA is now over 3.0. He frequently needs support, but he is always one of the first students to finish his work. He has had no serious behavior issues at Winner’s Circle Center.
The studies we have reviewed conclude that both mainstream, inclusive classroom settings (push in programs) and pull out programs based on special education environments produce similar positive progress academically for students diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, with neither having statistically significant advantages.
What could account for the success that Winner’s Circle Center has demonstrated with students who were failing in mainstream inclusive classrooms? To find this answer Winner’s Circle Center was compared to traditional pull out programs in public schools. While there are several similarities with the Center’s Academy program, there are also important differences that are key contributors to student academic success.
One of the key differences is the classroom – or lack thereof. A relaxed atmosphere, without the typical rigidity of a traditional classroom, may be a contributing factor to removing obstacles to academic success. Studies show that symptoms of opposition, defiance and aggression are often associated with ADHD (Stoutjesdijk, 2013, p.21). It is also well-known that children on the autism spectrum exhibit both intellectual and behavioral challenges. A calm environment, with predictable structure, that does not present the anxiety and pressure of a traditional classroom setting, seems to be a factor in fewer displays of maladaptive behavior that can hinder learning.
Traditional pull out programs give the “opportunity for students to interact with others who have similar strengths and interests.” (Mursky, 2011, p. 1) This concept is based on the fact that students with the same or similar diagnoses, and level of academic progress are often put together in special education classrooms. This of course simplifies lesson and activity planning and implementation. However, it is also true that the mixing of perspectives resulting from a non-traditional setting like Winner’s Circle can be beneficial to each student. Dessemontet, et al points out that adaptive skills and independence are also critical to the development of individuals with intellectual disabilities (Dessemontet et al, 2012, p. 580). Students in programs such as Winner’s Circle with both similarities and striking differences in behavior and academic levels learn from each other and create opportunities for social skill-building and development of adaptive behaviors which may not be present in a more traditional classroom where all students have more similarities than differences. Additionally, the mix of students with differing levels of need for assistance helps to create space for a smaller support staff to concentrate attention where and when it is needed.
Another major difference between traditional pullout programs and Winner’s Circle Center is the curriculum. In traditional pullout programs teachers have the ability to change the normal curriculum to assist their students which can be a benefit but also means that students may not be receiving the same level of instruction or demonstrating the same level of understanding and ability to apply knowledge as their peers. At Winner’s Circle Center the curriculum is set, students are all instructed to the same standard, and each student has set expectations for the school day. While the school day is shorter, there is a routine established that in itself provides predictability and structure which assists students in maintaining focus. Internet-based lessons provide more opportunity to spend school hours pinpointing areas or concepts which are challenging individual students, allowing staff to tailor one-on-one instruction to the needs of each student.
In conclusion, it is clear that there are several different models that can contribute to better academic outcomes for students diagnosed with intellectual disabilities; the key is in understanding the needs of each individual and ensuring that placement is matched to those needs in order to maximize academic progress and success.

Dessemontet, R. S., Bless, G.,

Essay on Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards are essential to promoting and advancing the educational growth of our nation’s students as they develop an in-depth understanding of not only solving a problem, but also being able to investigate, strategize, and choose the best solution to solving the problem. Common Core Standards require students to think more critically about the content being taught before them, which creates a more stimulating and in-depth classroom experience. Common Core ensures equity in education by providing all educators the means to teach all students the same content across the board. This allows all students the chance at a high quality and fair education because they are working with the same objectives as all students in their grade level across the board. Common Core provides standards and objectives that are clear to teachers, which allows them to modify daily lesson plans for diverse learners. Common Core State Standards prepare students to be more competitive in our global economy. In order to succeed in the real world, students must be able to investigate, organize ideas, and select an appropriate plan to solve a given problem. The standards provide structure for teachers to educate students by teaching them how to consider what actions need to be taken in order to solve a problem instead of just knowing a simple set of facts. Common Core State Standards are beneficial to our nation’s education because they are more developed than previous state standards, promote equity between students, and prepare students for the job force in our nation as it continues to adjust to daily advances in technology in a competitive global economy.
Healthy Child Care Colorado
Healthy Child Care Colorado arose out of the Healthy Child Care America initiative that began in the 1990s with support from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration; the Child Care Bureau, Administration for Children and Families; the American Academy of Pediatrics; and the American Public Health Association. These partners recognized the potential to positively impact the health and safety of children in early childhood settings throughout the country. Their cognitive growth will be equivalent to their peers. This will mean they do better in school and have better social skills. These children will also be physically healthy to compete and function like other children their age. Adding these kinds of policies adds work to teachers and school administrators. Policies like these take away from time and resources that can be used for education. Schools also need to provide the food to the children directly. The food must also meet the guidelines of the food administration. Documents must be kept as well as financing for reimbursement. Students who receive free lunch are also affected by this because they are able to recognize that they need additional resources. Parents will have a lighter burden because they will not have to worry about how they will pay for lunch. Tax payers will also be affected because schools do not often have the budget to pay the food vendor so many is taken from funds used for learning. The United States Department of Agriculture provides tools for schools to follow mandates. Some of these mandates focus on preventing child obesity and focus on health. This system shows how to properly serve food, including portions of grains, amounts of sodium and portions. School administrators can utilize these tools to create ideas so that serving a healthy lunch is made easier.
Dual Language
“The US Census Bureau projects that by the 2030s, children whose home language is other than English will increase from roughly 22 percent to 40 percent of the school-age population” (Magruder, Hayslip, Espinosa, and Matera (2013) p. 9). This increase in second language learners will cause the educator to accommodate for those needs. Second language learners “need teachers who welcome them and recognize their unique abilities, what they know, and what they need to learn” (Magruder, Hayslip, Espinosa, and Matera, 2013, p. 10). Educators can encourage conversation and language learning by making the student’s experiences interesting and interactive with things such as reading, and singing (Magruder, et al., 2013). The more second language leaners communicate with adults and peers, the stronger their vocabulary and listening skills will grow (Magruder, et al., 2013). It is important that the educator intentional plan activities and opportunities to build on the second language learner’s experiences and language skills. Magruder et al. (2013) states, “intentionality in goal setting, planning, instruction, and observation is critical” (p. 15). When an educator has students in the classroom who speak a language other than English only, it is important that he or she develop language learning opportunities through intentionally planned and prepared lessons (Magruder, et al., 2013).Second language learners have unique needs just as any other student in the classroom does. The educator must be prepared and filled with knowledge on how to support the needs of all the students. Second language learners need extra support in the environment and instruction as well as family support (Magruder, et al., 2013).
Zero Tolerance Policy
A national survey conducted in 2004 declared that parents and educators of secondary and high schools had almost mutual view regarding the necessity of having adequate school discipline and student behavior in order to succeed (Public agenda, 2004). Certainly, schools as educational institutions have the right and responsibility to create an inclusive, effective, and safe learning climate. Nonetheless, there is a tremendous controversy regarding the approaches in keeping inclusive and safe school environment. Instead of traditional ways of dealing with misbehaviour on a case by case basis, analyzing the conditions of each situation, and the repercussions for the overall safety of the school environment, almost each school district in the USA now applies zero tolerance policy that extremely restrict discretion in particular cases, involve law authorities, and designate students from school (Skiba, 2006). These policies generally require out-of-school suspension or expulsion on the first offense for a range of behaviors- firstly constituted for owning of a weapon or illegal drugs, but now frequently also including smoking tobacco or fighting in school. The first steps towards the zero tolerance policy were taken in early 1990s when crime rate started to grow rapidly especially violent ones involving young people (Puzzanchera 2009). Correspondingly, Congress legislated tough-on- crime laws to the educational institutions environment and passed the Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994. According to that Act, a student who brings a weapon to school must be expelled for at least one year. In 1996-97 academic year, 79 percent of schools had implemented zero tolerance policy for violence, going beyond federal mandates. In order to strengthen these policies, the federal government and states started to increase funding for school based security system.
So how do we as leaders help build capacity for sharing and implementing the Quality Initiatives with staff and with families? Emphasize your school’s strategic plan and the importance of Quality Initiatives. Use professional development trainings to help teachers understand effective Quality Initiatives. Identify ways to organize and communicate student progress, such as by setting up an online student information system and parent portal. Collaborate with teachers to set response times for replying to emails and phone calls regarding families’ concerns. Encourage teachers to use a variety of means for sharing student data with families.. Help teachers understand the importance of the Quality Initiatives on a consistent basis so that parents know how frequently they can expect to see information posted about their child’s progress. Work with teachers to develop effective and culturally appropriate tools for sharing Quality Initiatives plans and progress with families.