The planned integration of special education students

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Virginia Tech

This study examined the process of integrating special education students into a regular education program. The study focused on needs, successful strategies, role changes, supervision of teachers, and outcomes of the integration process for a school engaged in transition from more restrictive toward more integrated placement for students in self-contained special education classes.

Qualitative interviews were used to elicit self-perceptions of the director of special education, county task force members, principals, teachers of regular and special education, and ancillary staff. These interviews were triangulated with relevant documentation and observations of activities during school days.

The study found two distinct styles of supervision in place: 1) a bottom-up approach used by the special education director to guide the county task force as it developed district guidelines; and 2) a top-down approach used by the principal to guide implementation of increased integration at the school level.

The study found that progress in implementation of integration was impeded by the fact that teachers of regular education were not represented on the county task force.

Other factors which contributed to and impeded integration during the first year of implementation were: 1) a lack of a clear definition of integration at the school level; 2) a perception that positive outcomes of integration are primarily social benefits for students in both regular and special education; and 3) a premise held by all study participants that full inclusion was not feasible in their school. These findings from the local setting are generally consistent with findings from key studies in the literature. Other suggestions were made by participants to formalize integration procedures, to allow teacher choice in acceptance of students with disabilities, to mix classroom placements within the school, and to give a smaller class size to teachers who integrated students into their class. One further recommendation reducing the wide range of abilities within each integrated classroom, was found in the literature reviewed to be a barrier to integration success.