To the editor:
The transformative ideas for changing special education programs in Matt Erickson’s article, “$24.5 million grant to establish national special education center” (Sept. 27) are vital to creating an equitable and inclusive system of public education. Segregating students with disabilities has proven harmful to both the academic and social well-being of the student. It also further alienates students with disabilities from their peers, which inhibits the development of tolerance needed in our diverse society.
Unfortunately, simply creating inclusive classrooms is not the answer. As explained in the article, one version of this model could be a form of co-teaching where one certified instructor is at the front of the room while the other certified teacher is circulating the class. On paper, this approach is the perfect solution that meets the needs of all students.
In practice, however, this approach fails on many levels. First, both certified teachers need extensive training, practice and coaching to become expert co-teachers. From where will this time, money and expertise come? Second, many special education teachers have not been prepared to teach in a mainstream classroom, which creates an atmosphere of stress, disorganization, and frustration. Who will force teacher-education programs to adapt? For an inclusive classroom to function, these issues must be addressed and solved. Perhaps during the observation stage of this program, researchers will focus on the pitfalls evident in order to make this ideal form of public education a reality. It would do all students and teachers well if part of this grant money is used to solve these problems of training and preparation before rapidly desegregating students.