|The idea of an inclusive setting is far from being a new theory in education. Various provisos with a great deal of narrations include integration, least restrictive environment, mainstreaming, deinstitutionalization, regular education initiative and normalization. These ideas are synonymously used to categorize the educational setting of students with special needs. Terminology commonly used to express important differences in the placement of student with special needs differ in meaning. Some of the common terms such as inclusion, mainstreaming and integration have perplexed the issues involving providing access to the general education curriculum.
Inclusion implies that students with disabilities will receive academic instruction in a classroom setting with non-disabled peers (Danforth & Rhodes, 1997). In Alabama’s Black Belt and other areas of the State of Alabama student have been too long segregated based on their specific disability. Research has shown that students regardless of the severity of the disability receive both social and education benefit from the general education setting. According to IDEA, the goal of inclusion is to ensure that students with disabilities are educated in the appropriate least restrictive environment (2001). According the Alabama State Department of Education Director of Student Assessment Dr. Gloria Turner stated in a speech to the Alabama Association of Federal Program Education Program Administrators that, “As a result of inclusion and No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 special education student are significantly closing the achievement gaps.” (Ivey & Sanders, 2004)
In many of the counties across the State of Alabama schools have been placed on the list of schools in need of school improvement. In most cases this is a result of lack of students meeting the standards set by No Child Left Behind and student with special needs are usually the cause of new schools being added to the list of school in school improvement (Ivey & Sanders, 2004). The results are far less in counties where inclusion has become a practice. One example of this is Central High School in Lowndes County, Alabama. The students in this school not only met the standard but 100% of students in last year’s senior class passed the graduation exam and received a high school diploma. During the 2003-2004 school year Central High School met ten of the thirteen goals set by No Child Left Behind the three goals not met was a result of participation. This was a direct result of lack of participation of special need students participating in the Alabama High School Graduation Exam administration. The next year the school realized that more students must be included in the administration and fully included all students in the general education setting. During the 2004-2005 school year, all academic and participation goals were met along with a 100% graduation rate for all special education children. The only goal not met by the school was anticipated dropout rate. The dropout numbers did not include any special education students.
Although the schools in Alabama’s Black Belt are still falling behind many schools in the state there are some who can be shining examples for the others. Inclusive environments are painstaking in the beginning; however, the final result for the school and the individual student is tremendous. When students are exposed to the general education curriculum the end result is a win-win for all parties involved.