Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mainstreaming and test scores

A University of Florida research group argues that mainstreaming of special education students has helped improve their academic peformance, in the classroom and on standardized tests:
Students with mental retardation are far more likely to be educated alongside typical students than they were 20 years ago, a University of Florida study has found. However, the trend once known as “mainstreaming”— widely considered the best option for such students – appears to have stalled in some parts of the country, the study’s authors report. And a student’s geographic location, rather than the severity of his disability, often determines how he will spend his school days, the researchers say.

“We’ve known for a long time that students with MR (mental retardation) are better off educationally if they can spend at least part of the day in a typical classroom,” said James McLeskey, chair of special education in UF’s College of Education and an author of the study. “We’ve found that there are still lot of students who could be included in the general classroom but aren’t included"...

Inclusion can also have a beneficial effect for students already in the general classroom. When typical students attend school with classmates who have MR, the researchers say, they learn leadership skills and become more tolerant. They even score higher, as a group, on standardized tests.

“The inclusive classroom environment seems to work better for students who are struggling, academically, but not identified as having MR,” McLeskey said. “That tends to bring up averages on test scores for typical students in the entire class.”
McLeskey also argues that because NCLB requires that schools account for those in special education classes, the incentive to separate (and not test) such students is removed.

(Cross-posted at JoanneJacobs.com.)
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