-Reflect on the readings you’ve done so far and consider how your understanding about special education/disability has grown, changed, or been challenged. Incorporate ideas/quotes from at least three texts.

-The purpose of this assignment is for you to engage meaningfully and deeply with the course readings as they become part of your growing knowledge base of what it means to work as a teacher in the field of special education.

-To help you think through how to reflect critically and connect to the readings, here are some questions to consider: What surprises you? What resonates? What concerns you? What confuses you? What challenges your prior knowledge or assumptions? What experiences have you had that connect with the texts? Where do you see these issues played out outside of the classroom? How might these theories or histories inform your teaching practice? How do issues of equity and justice play out?

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Criteria:

-Deep and critical   engagement with class readings/discussions, especially as they relate to theories/histories/goals   of special education and inclusion.

- Reflection

c H A P T E R 1

• m

Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

The Juggler

– .. /;Vhr didn ‘r somehoczv rI’ll me that leaching is so complicated:> ”

 

 

2 Chapter I Making Sense of PublIc’ School Culture and Context

Given that you are reading this text, you are most likely approaching your first year of teaching, or perhaps you already are in the midst of that Rite of Passage through which all first-year teachers must pass. If you want to start a lively conversation among veteran teachers, wander into the teachers’ lounge and ask your colleagues what they remember about their first year of teaching. Be prepared to sit and stay awhile. As you listen to this sudden surge of tale swapping, observe how your col- leagues animatedly bond over the retellings of their early days of teaching. Surviving the first year of teaching might be considered somewhat akin to enduring initiation rites for a fraternity or sorority-a feat that confirms one’s worthiness for membership into hallowed ranks-or in this case, into the teaching profession. What is undoubt- edly one of the best of being a First-Year Teacher? Knowing that you are only a First-Year Teacher once in a lifetime.

Yet experienced teachers (including us) also look back upon the first year of teaching with a blend of sweet nostalgia and pragmatic appraisal of their younger selves in the classroom. For most of us, our very first students are unforgettable. They are, after all, the original cast in the long-running production of our teaching careers. Given our vantage point from the present, it is tempting to indulge in a bit of reminiscing about the old days” when we were both fresh-faced teachers eager to take on the world … but we think it best to spare you those memories. whose gleam, we admit, is polished by the passage of time, and instead reassure you that your first year of teaching is likely typical for most people who enter the profession.

[t is quite natural to feel overwhelmed during your first year of teaching. Right about now, you are probably wondering why your teaeher education program failed to instruct you in traffic management bus duty, carpool supervision, monitoring hallway and cafeteria activity), business strategies (e.g., organizing and managing field trips, fund-raising activities, materials fee collection), otfice skills (e.g., collec- tion, analysis, and storage of assessment data; student file maintenance; general record-keeping; special education paperwork; phone, letter, and e-mail correspon- dence; photocopier acumen), human resources collaborating with colleagues, administrators, and paraprofessionals: responding to and engaging with parents and caregivers; creating warm relationships with school secretaries, custodians, lunch- room statf. and security officers) … need we go on? As you have no doubt concluded on your own, teaching is a complex act that requires constant shifting among multiple and simultaneous skill sets-not all of which are, or possibly can be, taught in schools of education.

And if it is not enough to think about all of the above (while you are, of course, constructing curriculum. organizing your classroom, delivering motivating lessons, establishing and sustaining classroom routines, meeting the academic and social needs of all of your students. preparing students for standardized assessments, reflecting thoughtfully about your classroom practice, and exercising self-restraint toward friends, family, and strangers who suggest that teaching is a breeze because of all the vacation days), we are about to ask that you consider the historical, political, and social stage upon which public education takes place, how the role of Teacher is played, and the material consequences (intended and unintended) for all students performing in our national drama of schooling.

Chapter 1 Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context 3

The HistoricaL CompLexity of PubLic SchooLs Surely a ritual ought to occur that officially marks the transition of Student to Teacher~a ritual apart from successful completion of student teaching or college graduation. After all, it is a passage to “the other side” of sorts. Among the benefits awaiting on “the other side” is freedom of access to formerly forbidden territory, such as the teachers’ lounge, student records, parent~teacher conferences, the teacher lunch table, faculty meetings, the teacher workroom, and the storage closet. Whatever the myriad reasons are that inspire us to become teachers, we share in common the headi- ness that comes with legitimate border crossing into Teacher Territory for the very first time. Once on the inside, new teachers find answers to questions long held (“So this is what teachers do in here!”) or confirmation of old suspicions (“I knew they talked about students!”).

For others, border represents a kind of loss of innocence brought on by close exposure to the humanness and foibles of teachers. As teacher educators, we are privy to the reactions and ref1ections of new teachers regarding their work in public schools. Certainly we hear positive reports from the ficld. Yet time and time again, ne\v teachers also lament the incongruity of their sparkling idealism with the stark realities of public schools. It is noteworthy that new teachers most often express distress about what they perceive to be questionable administrative practices; responses to students and their families that might be considered “legitimate” but “don’t feel right”; and/or uncomfortable exchanges with colleagues who label their beliefs about children as naive and temporary. And in speaking of their struggles and discomfort, they inevitably muse, “You know, it’s never about the kids-it’s all this other stum” Thus, it appears that new teachers attribute much of their stress to understanding and negotiating the complex, and often contradictory, context within which they work.

Remember those foundations courses you took at the beginning of your education program? Y ou know~~courses that covered topics such as the history of public schools in American society, political and legislative aspects of public education, issues in urban education, and the like? If that material did not seem particularly relevant then, now might be thc time to rercad those texts and articles (as well as those copious notes you no doubt took during class) in order to gain some clarity on the complexity of school culture. Okay, maybe you might not have the time right now to go on an archae- ological dig through your college boxes (or perhaps you sold those textbooks back to the university bookstore long ago), so next we offer a critical (albeit briem historical review of public education as a reminder of the major points to consider about “all that other stuff”

The Purpose of Public Education Every reader of this text has a personal narrative about what led him or her to choose the teaching profession. Some of us, inspired by tcachers who opened some aspect of the world that forever changed our livcs, wish to ignite passion for learning among students. Others of us may be motivated by negative school experiences and commit ourselves to making a positive difference in the lives of children. Whatever the particulars for enter- ing the profession, it is reasonable to assume that teachers generally do so because of a gen- uine devotion to the nurturance of children and commitment to the ideals of education.

 

 

4 Cbapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

Entcr the new teach cr. Frcshly graduated. Brimming with the latest thcories of child development and instruction. Eagcr to guidc and inspire all childrcn to achieve beyond what thcy believe is possible. Committed to making a differcnce in the world. Surely the context into which the new tcacher is about to step corresponds to such ideals. The stage is set with the accoutremcnts of schooling–tables. dcsks. chairs. maps. books. bulletin boards-all awaiting the entrance of the principal aetor who will make this set come alive. What could be afoot in this benign sctting where teachcrs and students meet to do their work? Plenty. And most of it unseen and

unspoken. Most new tcachers survey their very first classrooms and imagine the future they

will construct there. They see a neutral canvas upon which they will paint their best dreams and hopes for ehildren. Yet the context of schooling is anything but neutral. That classroom, likc all othcr classrooms in America, is dec ply cmbcdded within a particular culture that is public education. And likc all other culturcs. public education has been and continues to be shaped by patterns of human activity and social structures that cmbody its history, beliefs. attitudes, practices, and values. Understanding “all that other stuff” requires acknowledgement of and awareness about how this particular cul- ture actively influences everyday lifc in schools.

Let’s start with a seemingly simple question. What is the purpose of public educa- tion? An obvious answer might be that public education is the means by which a civi- lized society lISCS public funds to teach its young pcople the academic and social skills necessary to becomc responsible, productivc, and self-fulfilled citizens. Certainly. pub- lic education is one of the major corncrstones of our democracy. Textbooks have long referred to America as “the melting pot”~a land of opportunity for all pcople. And undcniably. a free public education is one of America’s greatest opportunities. Given that new teachers participate in the legacy of one of America ‘$ greatcst opportunities, why do reports of disillusionment and discomfort continue to emerge? Pcrhaps we can more clearly understand where we are if we return for a moment to wherc we came trol1l–in other words, how did we gct here from there?

How We Got Here from There Consider thc historical context within which compulsory schooling originated during the early twenticth century. Despite romanticized notions of ‘ ‘the melting pot of America” describcd in history textbooks, the dominant culture of the timc (Anglo-Saxon Protes- tant) actively sought to preserve itself within what was rapidly bccoming a diverse and sputtcring soc ictal stew. I By 1918, all states had passed compulsory schooling laws. Recognizing the potential of compulsory schooling for creating a common citizenry, reformers targeted public education as a means by which to preserve the position and values of the dominant eulture. Thus, the arena of public education bccame “part and parcel of a national morality play in which those hopes and fears \vere enacted.’·2 It is worth noting that political and social agendas bccame embodied early on within the institution of public education-a pattern, we might point out, that is unmistakable in the current contcxt of public education.

Let’s revisit the social. political. and economic landscape of early twentieth-century America. \1ajor population shifts occur as industry lures rural citizens into urban areas. Ovcrtaxed cities strain to accommodate the heavy influx of immigrants who bring

Chapter I vlaking Sense of Public School Culture and Context 5

significant social and economic challenges. Scicnce penetrates American society. giving rise to “scientific management” of factories, a new class of scientific professionals, and scientific study of human beings. American nationalism increases in the aftermath of World War I, heightening suspicion and distrust of immigrant populations as well as governmental targeting of political radicalism. Industrial democracy theories emerge that promisc greater control over workers. Low-status groups, such as African Americans and Native Americans, face an increasingly hostile society that controls access to cultural and economic collateral.’

So where does public education tigure into this historical landscape? In response to the complexity and multiplicity of social issues in the early twentieth century, public education is conceptualized as a social institution through which to enculturate the nation’s young (immigrant children in particular) into the dominant culture. How to accomplish enculturation, however, becomes the subject of intense debate among four major interest groups with differing ideas on curriculum: humanists (supporters of a classical education in the tradition of the Western canon). developmentalists (advocates for curriculum grounded in the new science of child development), social meliorists (champions for schools as agencies of social change), and social efficiency experts (proponents of operating schools by industry principles).4 In the end. no single group controls the American curriculum: however, it is noteworthy that social efficiency emerges as a major and long-lasting influcnce upon public education. Indeed, the footprints left by social efficiency experts explain much of the taken-for-granted assumptions and values that circulate within schools today. As you read on, you might recognize vestiges of social eftlciency lingering within your own school context.

The Factory lHodel ofEdlication Consider the early twentieth-century milieu in which science and industry supreme. Social cfficiency proponents, intluenced by mechanical engineer Frederic Taylor. who applied scicntific methods to industrial managcment believe that “scientific rationality and tcchnology” will “save the modcrn school.'” Drawing upon Taylor’s notions of “scientific” task analysis and “scientific” training of individual workers to perform industry tasks according to ability, social efficiency proponents likewise support school curriculum designed to educate each class of individuals according to their predicted social and vocational roles. Public schools embrace the “factory model” as an efficicnt responsc to educating the nation’s diverse student population.0 Thus. \ve see perhaps thc first instance of business principles applied to public school management-an application, wc shall see. that has significant material consequences for particular groups of childrcn.

But how could predictions be made about a student’s future social and vocational place in society? Enter the emerging field of mental measurement at the turn of the t\venticth century. Intclligence testing provides the “scientific technology” for classifying children according to “native” ability. These classifications, in turn. give rise to a differ- cntiated cuniculum with five educational tracks ranging from accelerated to atypical. A report for the National Society for the Study of Education in 1924, for example, provides evidence of curriculum adaptation for gifted childrcn (e.g., spccial classes. grade skip- ping. enrichment, acccleration).7 At thc opposite end of the educational spectrum, “backward childrcn” are segregated into ungraded classes that emphasize a “drill and skill” instructional approach. x

 

 

6 Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

It is worth considering for whom social efficiency yields the least social and educational benefit. Immigrant children, unable to adequately demonstrate their native capacity for learning because of language and cultural barriers, are placed dispropor- tionately in slow-track classes. Girls, regardless of ability, are tracked into curriculum to prepare them for a domestic role in society. By far the most marginalized groups are children of African Americans and Native Americans. Fueled by “scientific evidence” proffered by social Darwinists, members of the dominant culture regard these two groups as inferior and primitive races who require segregated education outside the realm of public schooling. Thus, segregated schools (such as the Hampton-Tuskegee Normal Institute for African Americans and thc Carlisle School for Native Americans) train students to adopt the Protestant work ethic in preparation for their subordinate

roles in society.9

We Said ALL That to Say This What goes on inside public schools reflects the social and political climate on the outside– a phenomenon established from the inception of public schools and maintained through- out their history. If you were reading the discussion of the factory model with an eye on your current context, you might have sensed a familiarity among some of the now centurv-old issues, such as reliance on “scientific” assessment of children, “efficient” sorting of students according to ability, and the intended or unintended marginaliza- tion of students deemed “diverse.” As suggested earlier in this chapter, public education can be understood as a culture shaped by patterns of human activity and by social structures that embody its history, beliefs, attitudes, practices, and values. What hap- pened in the past lingers, to one degree or another, in the present culture of public schools. It is also worth considering how inhabitants of public schools experience the winds of political and social change within their everyday context. How might children understand the impact of such issues upon their school experience? Or do

thev notice at all? , If. for example, 1 (Jan) reflect back upon my own experiences as a white. middle-

class public school student, what stands out most about my primary years is the intensifying crisis between the United States and Cuba during the early 19608. Along with exposure to television commercials featuring modem conveniences for bomb shel- ters and interruptions of TV programming intended to refresh the public on what to do in case of an “emergency” (i.e., a nuclear missile headed our way), American school- children of this era regularly practiced diving under desks at the directive of teachers. As I huddled under my desk with skinned knees up to my chin, I wondered if my teacher really believed wooden desks were a reliable means of nuclear protection, but it was simply less frightening to believe that she did.

Beyond routine safety drills, the Cold War insinuated itself into the American school curriculum. I remember my first-grade teacher reverently passing out our New Math textbooks. I do not remember the particulars of this introduction to New Math, but I came away with the vague idea that New Math (as opposed to Old Math) was the means bv which we would fend off the Russians. Thus, in a post-Sputnik era, world politics l~nded in my tirst-grade classroom along with the directive to master math and science skills as our active contribution to the space race (i.e., world domination). It seemed that learning New Math was what 1 could do for America.

Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context 7

By the time I reached junior high school, the defining feature of my education became desegregation. Perhaps no other political event had as significant an impact upon American public schools as the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” doctrine that supported racially segregated public schools. Emerging out of the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board a/Educa- tion challenged the legal basis for segregated schooling in Kansas as well as 20 other states. The Supreme Court declared racially public schools unconstitu- tional and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law.li) As a result of this landmark decision, states were required to comply with desegregation policy “with all deliberate speed.”11 Formal compliance. however. transpired only after years of resistance, particularly among the Southern states. Integration of most public schools in the South occurred under the Nixon administration in 197012~as was the case with my junior high school in North Carolina.

To many residents of the sleepy Southern town where I lived at that time, gat ion represented government imposition upon an established way of life. It proved to be a contentious process that predictably evoked public fear, anger, and anxiety on both sides of the issue. School faculties were integrated first, followed by full integration of student bodies. I remember bomb threats and the sudden disappearance of white friends into hastily opened private schools. Yet, it is the silence that stands out most in my memory. Against the backdrop of one of the most significant social shifts in American history, teachers carried on the business of schooling as if what was happening was not happening. No discussion. No preparation. Awaiting the inevitable. And it came on buses. Lots of buses.

I was relieved that it was them and not me making the transition to an already inhabited school in a neighborhood not their own. How must that have Ie!!’! I was left to imagine in the sanctioned silence that separated us. Administrative efforts toward maintaining separation within integration wcrc not lost on either faculty or students. The unspoken hung heavily within our hallowed halls-Minimal Interaction Begets Niaximum Control. There were no forums and no community-building efforts. That year, there were two homecoming queens. One white. One black. There were two student councils. One white. Onc black.

Let’s stop for a moment to consider this of our historical jaunt. We have just passed by a number of images that illustrate how social and political agendas settle heavily into the business of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Although these images are particular to my experience, they belong to a common history that I share with my generation of schoolmates. And that history contributes to all of the other generations of schoolchildren, including yours. whose experiences make up the that is Ameri- can public education. As a new you are stepping knee-deep into a river of his- tory rushing a watery past over the present and beyond. The past is a sensible place to look for clues to the present. Looking to the educational past is akin to picking through family stories to better understand who you are in the world. And in a sensc, you have entered a family of educators connected through a shared history.

Given that it is not our intention to write a history of public education. we close by visiting one last stop on our historical itinerary~the origin and outcome of perhaps the greatcst legislation for persons with disabilities in American history~and the focus of our text.

 

 

8 Chapter I Making Sense ofl’ublic School Culture and Context

We Can Legislate Policy but We Can’t Legislate Attitude Schools are populated by human beings who come with myriad values, cultures, ethniei- ties, languages. belic[~. histories. and behaviors. As illustrated in the tragic “separation within integration” example of my early desegregation experience, legislative policy that precedes attitudinal shifts can meet insidious resistance that remains just inside the let- ter of the law. Despite the undeniable sodal progress that has occurred since the early days of desegregation. there are some who maintain that the spirit of Brown v. Board oj’ Educatioll has yet to be fully realized. Perhaps it is somewhat unsurprising, then, that the landmark legislation Public Law 94-142 (The Edllcationfbr All Handicapped Children Act, 1975)~another example oflegislative policy preceding attitudinal shifts-likewise met resistance. 1.1

Let’s return to the years preceding 1975. From the standpoint of the present. it seems rather shocking that public education was not a given for students with dis- abilities. While some public schools chose to offer segregated classes for students with disabilitics, others did not. Private facilities served affluent parents secking educational options. It was not uncommon for children with disabilities to remain at home.

Building upon the momentum of the civil rights movement and Brown v. Board oj’ Education. parents of children with disabilities and their advocates claimed violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (which guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law) and pressed for legislation that would guarantee a free and appropriate public education for all children. Their efforts were rewarded in 1975 when Congress passed P.L. 94-142.14 States were three years to create institutional frameworks to sup- port assessment and services for students with disabilities as outlined in the law-or face withdrawal of federal funding for public education. (Perhaps the imposed three- year limit reflects lessons lea111ed from the earlier federal directive to integrate public schools “with all deliberate speed.”)

In the fall of 1978. the year in which states were required to havc implemented P.L. 94-142, I began as a first-year teaehcr in a middle school learning disability (LD) resource room. I imagined entering an educational context that embodied the spirit of the law. Instead I met a school cOll1munity–not unlike most of this era-that viewed the new law’s complex requirements for institutional structures and regulations as a considerable intrusion. It was a transition marked by resentment and resistance on the part of many scllool administrators and teachers. ]\iot unlike the public response to desegregation. P.L. 94 142 generated fear. anger. and anxiety among public school stakeholders. thereby begging the question: Who are American public schools rell/l\’ intended to serve, and for what purpose”!

Who Belongs and How Do We Know? Brml’l1 v. Board EdllCllfiol1 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) established that “‘separate and unequal” is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. In other words, federal law mandates that evel)” American child has the right to a free

Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and (‘ontext 9

and appropriate public education. However, as established earlier in this chapter, public schools are highly politicized spaces where human compete for material resources as well as social and educational benefits. The persisting inequities between suburban and urban public schools are legendary. (See, for example, Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America ‘.I’ Schools. 1992; Amu:::ing Grace: The Lives ofClzildren and the Conscience uta Natioll. 1995; Ordinal’V ResurrectiONS: Children in the Years of Hope. 2000; The :’5hame of the Nation: The Restomtioll of Apartheid Schooling in America. 2005.)1′ We are not suggesting that there exists some Grand Scheme orchestrated by members of the dominant culture to ensure their advantage over others. but rather that inequities (highly correlated \vith race and socioeconomic status) have become naturalized within the practices of American public schooling. Let us illustrate with an example about the origins of one of IDEA’5 disability categories.

The Learning Disability Phenomenon: Scientific or Political? The history of the field of learning disabilities (LD) is well documented in college texts and educational journals. It is a history most often told as a continuous tale of scientific progrcss leading to the discovery of an identifiable and treatablc childhood patholouv. During the early to mid-twentieth century. children with seemingly “‘nonnal” intelli- gence who exhibited significant difficulty learning to read and write became the subject of study for ophthalmologists. neurologists. doctors, psychologists. and educators. In response to this burgeoning scientific research, the LD Held was officially established in 1963 at a conference sponsored by the Fund for Perceptually Handicapped Children. Samuel Kirk, a prominent speaker at the conference, is credited with having introduced the term disabilities” to differentiate a particular group of children with learn- ing difficulties from other children with disabilities mental retardation. hearing and/or visual disabilities). I!>

What could possibly be afoot here-after aiL this is science, righfl Let’s revisit the years preceding the 1963 conference at which Samuel Kirk first used the term “learning disabilities.” Postwar America stews with uneasiness over the threat of communism. Following the successful launch of Sputnik in I the steadily mounting competition for control of worldwide military and business interests intensifies between the United States and the Soviet Union. as docs the idea that American schools must prioritize education for the academically gifted. who will become our nation’s scientific. busi- ness, and technological leaders.17 In 1957, Rear Admiral H. G. Rickover informs the nation that it is an urgent matter of national security to raise educational standards and implcment a tracking system to provide a ;peciflc kind of education for students of

ability levels (e.g .. college-bound slow), with the most talented teachers being assigned to the college-bound track. IS Thus. it quickly becomes natura! within the American public educational system to track students according to ability and to the societal value to gifted and college-bound students.

Within the naturalized idea that students can and should be sorted within the ranks of bright, average, and slow is the assumption that not all students will meet average educational standards. To explain this failure, educators of the 1960s identify dcficieneies within particular children and/or their home environments to construct fo~r student categorics—the mentally retarded the slow learner, the emotionally disturbed and the culturally deprived. These f{mr categories provide explanations for the school

 

 

10 Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

failure of , ‘minority” children from “culturally deprived” environments, but leave unex- plained why some middle-class white children are not able to keep pace with the increased academic standards. 19 Noted scholar Christine Sleeter posits that

learning disabilities was created to explain the failure of children to meet those standards when explanations based on mental, emotional, or cultural deficiency did not seem to fit. Learning disabilities seemed to explain white middle class children partieularly well because it did not level blame on their home or neighborhood environment. it upheld their intellectual normaley, and it SU~:~””H”‘U hope for a cure and for their eventual ability to attain relatively higher status occupations than other lowachievers2o

Perhaps a more accurate rendering ofthe birth of the LD field is one that accounts for the interaction between the educational discourse of the day and newly available scientific infornlation. In other words, is it also possible that white middle-class parents of the early 1960s drew upon the latest medical research-namely a neurological condi- tion called a learning disability-to offer educators an explanation for why their chil- dren (considered to be among those students expected to perform well) were unable to meet the increased academic standards? This is not to say that white middle-class par- ents consciously sought a distinction that would set their academically struggling chil- dren apart from others; hmvevec we might acknowledge that white middle-elass parents possessed the social and cultural capital that cnabled them to ( I) avail themselves of the latest medical research, (2) seek out and pay for private diagnostic (3) garner the attention of educators regarding this newly identified neurologically based learning problem, and (4) expect school personnel to regard their academically struggling chil- dren as capable of obtaining an educational level and occupation at least commensurate with the family’s current socioeconomic status. It is worth noting that subsequent docu- mentation of students served within the LD category between 1963 and 1973 indicates that most wcre, in fact. white and of middle-class or higher socioeconomic status.

We offer you this examplc not to challenge the biological basis of learning dis- abilities, but rather to illustrate the complex nature of public schools and the people who inhabit them. The moment teachers step into this context, thcy begin to engage with the “world alrcady there”-the history, politics, economics, race/culture, social stratifica- tion, language, values. and belief systems tightly woven into thc intricate tapestry that is American public school. You know~”all that other stutf” about which our students routinely lament? This is that “stuff”-ever present and mostly unnamed,

SpeciaL Education: A ParalleL System With the 1975 passage ofP.L. 94–142, a free and appropriate public education is guar- anteed for all children. Public schools can no longer choose to educate only children without disabilities. Now evervone belongs. Well, sort of.

Central to P.L. 94-142 is the notion of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for students with disabilities. The LRE means that, to the greatest extent possible, students with disabilities are educated with their non-disabled peers, given access to the general education curriculum as well as noneurricular activities, and provided \vith services and supplementary aids as needed in order to achieve at a level commensurate with non-disabled peers. A continuum of service options is also available to meet the learn-

and social needs of thosc students whose severity of disability may necessitate a

Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context II

more rcstricti:re environment than a general education setting. Decisions regarding the most appropnate student placcmcnt are made by school personnel in collaboration with parents.

As referenced earlier. I began teaching the year that states were required to have implemented p.L. 94-142. Although students with disabilities had won the right to a free and appropnate public education in the least restrictive environment, I observed dur-

those early years that not all school administrators, teachers, or parents of children without disabilities agreed that students with disabilities belonged in general education classrooms. In my role as a middle school resource teacher. I saw each of my students in the learning disability resource room for one class period a day. Despite spending th: other six class pcriods in general education classrooms, my students \vere routinely reterrcd to by most teachers as “Jan’s Kids” (as ifT were hosting some sort of unending sehool telethon), reflecting the belief that it was I alone who was responsible for their education. It was no~ uncommon for a teacher to dismiss collaborative efforts on my part With some IteratIOn of the following: “I did not go to school to teach those kinds of children. If I had wanted to do that, I would have majored in special education.” Allow me to fill in the unspoken text: “Therefore, it is your job and not mine.”

. Havin~ experienced desegregation during my junior high school years, I recog- nized a stnkmgly SImIlar response to thc integration of students with disabilities. As required by law, school districts erected the infrastructure that would support special education. Yet little to no preparation of tcachcrs and students occurred at the school I~vel. No discussion. Awaiting the inevitable. And it came again on buses. Only this tllne on small yellow minibuses.

As the institution of special education moved into public schools and “set up shop.” a c~dre of pr~fessionals follovied-specia\ education teachers. school psycholo- gIsts, spcClal educatIOn paraprofessionals, speech languagc pathologists, special educa- tion administrators. physical and occupational therapists. and special education clerks. Materials purchased with federal dollars allotted tor special education were indelibly marked “P.L. 94–142” and designatcd for use onl)’ with studcnts identified as disabled. Special education classrooms opened \vithin school buildings and took over book auditorium stages. library reading rooms. and unused bas~ment spaces. Small villages of portable special education classrooms dotted the backs of school properties.

. Reminiscent. of the “separation within integration” phenomenon of my junior high school expenence, students w’ith disabilities were integrated into general educa- tion classrooms only if they demonstrated the ability to perform like students without disabilities-a practice called “mainstreaming” (see Chapter 2); otherwise, they were placed m segregated classrooms where their “special needs” could be met through the expeliisc of “special” teachers and “special” instructional materials. Again, we are not suggesting that there was any conscious strategy on the part of school personnel to cxclude students with disabilities from the mainstream. Rather, school personnel. oper- atmg out of long-held cultural beliefs about children with disabilities being qualitatively dIfferent from children without disabilities, conccptualized the newly implemented special education system as the place where students with disabilities helonaed- essentially a parallel system of education, b

. ,In retro~pect, it secms that such a response to special education might have been antiCipated, glVen that the law’s implementation preceded any large-scale attitudinal shifts or increased understanding about disabilities among public school personnel.

 

 

12 Chapter I Making Sen,c of Public School Culture and Context

Rather predictably, research began to mount negative ac~demic and s~cial outcomes for students in segregated classrooms Chapter 2). In ltght of these find- ings, inclusive philosophies and practices eventually emerged to bring support services to the general education environment in lieu of segregation~an approach to students with disabilities that is the focus of this book.

Back to the Present look around at your current school context. You do not need us to point out that y~u are teaching in the Age of Accountability. At no other time in the history of public education has student and teacher performance been under such mtense survetllance bv local. state and federal government. At this historical moment. public education IS d~tined bv th; standards-based educational reform of iVO Child Left Behind (NCLB).

. ReI~ember the first application of business principles to public educatlOn?Dunng the early twentieth century, social efficiency reformers overlaid tenets of the “factory model” onto public schools-the vestiges of which remam wlthm the struetur.e and tradi- tion of American public schools. There is no mistaking that we are expenencmg the s.ee- ond wave of business principles applied to public education. It seems that school dlstncts around the country arc increasingly tapping young Ivy Leaguers with MBAs to “save ~s from ourselves” (i.e., to implement the ideology of corporate Amenca m\o our schools). In New York City, where both of us live and work. the language of co:porat~ Amenca IS finding its way into public education. There are CEOs (111 heu of supennten~ents). Network Support Specialists (in lieu of curriculum consultants). Customer SatisfactIOn (in lieu of home/school relationships), and the creation of Standard Operatmg Proce-

dures Manuals (SOPMs)-to cite only a few examples. As teacher educators, we regularly engage in conversations with public school

teachers about their daily work. We hear ongoing lamentations about the exceSSive tllne and energy directed toward formal assessment (see Chapter R) as well as teacher con- cerns regarding the capacity of standardized measures to reflect the acade~1lc growth. of children as individuals within local contexts. Experienced teachers admit to choosmg

levels in which less formal asscssment is required. (We might ask ourselves what might result from the least experienced teachers working in grade levels requiring ~he most extensive fonnal assessment.) Still others acknowledge resistance to eo-teachl.ng in inclusion classrooms (sec Chapter 4) for fear that test scores of students With (i1sabIiI- tics might reflect poorly on their teaching. Clearly, the context within which teachers do

thcir daily work can be described as anything but neutral. .’ ‘) And hmv mioht today’s children make mea1l1l1g of the of Accountability. For

cel1nin. even the y~l1ngest children appreciate tests as something curiously impm1ant to adults. Betore long. they grasp that test pertonnance has something to d:) with .the way m which other people~nal11c1y teachers and peers-think about them. We routmely over- hear children in public schools referring to themselves and othc:5 as Is, 2s,. 3s, or 45 1\1 rcference to standardized tcst scores-reflecting not only the 1I1temahzatIOl1 of these rankings but also the ralue attributed to each score. Tn some school districts. such as New York City. high-stakes determines student promotIOn or retentIOn:. moreover. public schools reccive (based on test scores) that ultit~at.ely .~le~ermll1e whe:~le~ or not a school remains open. In I1ght of l11creased attention to nllnollty populatIOns. as required under NelB. English language learners as well as students With disabilIties

Chapter I Making Sense OfPllblk School Culture anti Context 13

experience both intended and unintended consequences of this heightened surveillance. Wnhm a climate of intense accountability, we can expect that students will inevitablv become positioned. to one degree or another, as more or less desirable-which returns u’s to our rhetorical question: Who belongs and how do we know’?

What You Believe and Why You Believe It = How You Teach ~e.hope that our first chaptcr has not sent you searching through the want ads in hopes of tmdmg an casler career path. Rather. we hope to have affirmed that the school contcxt \vithin \vhich you leach is predictahlv complex. contradictory, and mirror of the political, social. and economic times in which \ve live. \-10reover, it is a context \vithin which multiple, simultaneous. sometimes eontlicting human interactions occur in every moment. Teaching is messy business—and gloriously so. To be entrusted with the l11i.n~s and souls of America’s young is to accept a protc)und. exhilarating, and daunting pnvliege.

. Thro~ghout this chapter, we have noted the impa..:t of legislation upon the cvery- hves of teachers and students. We have related examples of federal policy enacted

at the local level which lead us to contend that “we can legislate polic\! but we can’t 1>0- • ~ J S Islate attitude.” Whether or not the of a law is carried out depends upon teachers comlTIllted to the Ideals of public education in a democracy. Thus. what you believe and why you believe it has everything to do with who you arc as a teacher. ,t\nd who you are as a teacher has everything to do with how you think about and teach children.

It follows. then, that what teuchcrs believe about disability determines how stu- dents with disabilities arc reelll1′ educated. Federal law creates the infrastructure and procedures for identifying and serving students with disabilities, but the spirit of this revolutIOnary law happcns (or not) in the relutionship between teacher and student. Let’s consid~r the following example. A new fourth-grade student arrives. His parents bring a copy of hIS IndiVidual Education Plan (lEP). Teacher A reads the IEP with an eve to how well the student will “fit into” her classroom. Skeptical that her classroom is -the lcast Restrictive Environment (LRE) in which to meet the cducational and behavioral needs of this student. Teacher A carefully documents student behaviors that support her bclief that a more restrictive environment is warranted. Shc presents her documentation to special education staff. expressing particular concern that she is not qualified to teach thiS student. Teacher B, on the other hancL reads the IEP with an eye to what the student needs in order to succeed in his classroom. He prouctively supports the student’s transi- tIOn. T~acher B carefully obscrves the student and focuses upon developing organic strategies ~hat wIll support his inclusion within the class community. He regularly engages WIth the child’s parents and consults with special education statl”.

What is noteworthy about the preceding example is that the student with disabili- ties remains constant. What shifts is the COllceptllali:::aliol1 of that studen!. depending upon who is doing “the looking.” And IlOw a teachcr conceptualizes a student with dis~ abilities has everything to do with the educational outcome tor that student.

What i.nterests us as teachcr cducators is when and where teachers develop beliefs abot:t dlsablhty (as well as ;tilr) and what thesc beliefs have to do with classroom practice. Hav1I1g established within this chapter that public education has been and continues to be

 

 

14 Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

shaped by patterns of human activity and social stmctures, we turn now to an examination of beliefs about disability within American culture (past and present) and the impact of those beliefs upon educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

Questions to Consider I. As a new teacher, what do you find most challenging about your school context? 2. How do you define the purpose of education? 3. Are vestiges of social efficiency evident within your school context? Explain. 4. Think back to your own school experience. What social and political issues

impacted your own education? As a child, did you notice anything about these issues \vithin your schooling? Explain.

5. What are the most salient social and political issues today? How do you see these issues impacting your work as a teacher?

6. Do you agree with our assertion that we can legislate policy but we can’t legislate attitude? Why or why not?

7. What parallels do you see between racial integration in schools and the integration of students with disabilities?

8. How do you know “who belongs” in your school community? Explain. 9. How might students in your classroom understand the current political and social

issues that impact schools today? How do you know? 10. Do you agree that disability can be constmcted differently depending upon the

viewpoint of the observer? Why or why not?

Endnotes I. H. M. Kleibard, The Strugglelor the American Curriculum. /893-1958. 2nd ed.

(New York, NY: Routledge. 1995). 2. Ibid, p. 251. 3. J. D. Anderson. The Education o/Blacks in the South. J860-/935 (Chapel Hill,

NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Kleibard, Strugglefi)r American Curriculum; K. T. Lomawaima. “Domesticity in the Federal Indian Schools: The Power of Authority over Mind,” in Deviant Bodies: Critical Perspectives on Differences in Science and Popular Culture. ed. 1. Terry and J. Urla (Bloomington, 1:–1: Indiana University Press, 1995), pp. 197-218.

4. Kleibard, Strugglefor American Curriculum. 5. K. Rousmaniere, Citv Teachers: Teaching and School Reform in Historical

Perspective (New York: Teachers College Press. 1997), p. 3. 6. Kleibard, Strugglefiw American Curriculum. 7. Ibid. 8. B. M. Franklin, “The First Crusade for Learning Disabilities: The Movement for

the Education of Backward Children,” in The Foundations of the School Subjects. ed. T. Popkewitz (London: Falmer, 1987). pp. \ 90-209.

9. Anderson. Education olBlacks in the South; Kleibard, Strugglefor American Curriculum: Lomawaima, “Domesticity in Federal Indian Schools.”

10. Brown v. Board o(Education (1954), 347 U.S. 483.

Chapter I Making Sense of Public School Culture and Context

II. See http://,,:ww.supr~mecourthistory.org/02_historyisubs._historyi02_cI4.html 12. See www.ttme.com/ttme/magazine/article/0.9171.902634

13. B. A. Ferri ~nd D. J. Connor, Reading Resistance: Discourses oft.xclusion in Desegl~egat!on and Incl~sion Debates (New York: Peter Lang, 2006).

14. :ducat~on for All Han~lcapped Children Act (PL. 94-142) 1975, amending Educat~on of the HandIcapped Act, renamed Individuals with Disabilities EducatlOn ~ct, as amended by P.L. 98-199, P.L. 99-457, P.L. 100-630. and P.L. 100—4/6.20 U.S.c., Secs. 1400-1485.

15. 1. Kozol, S~vage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (New York, NY: Harpe~Collllls, 1992); 1. Kozol, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the ConscIence of a Narion (New York, NY: HarperCoIlins, 1995): J. Kozol. Ordmary R~surrections: Children in the Years oj Hope (New Yark, NY: Ha~erColl111S, 20.00): 1. Koz~l, The Shame o.lthe Nation: The Restoration o.l ApartheId Schoolmg III America (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. 2005).

16. D. P: Hallahan ~~d. W. M. Cmicksh~~k, Psycho educational Foundations of Lear flIn~ Dlsabliztles (Englewood Chffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1973).

17. J. H. Spnng, Conflict ol Interests: The Politics olAmerican Education, 4th ed. (r-;ew York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002).

18. H.~. Rickov:~, Education. an~ :,:eedom (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1959). 19. C. E. Sleeter, Leammg DlsablhtIes: The Social Construction of a Special

Educa:lOn Ca,~egory,” Exceptional Children 53, no. I (1986), pp. 46-54. 20. C. E. Sleeter, . Wh’y Is T~ere Learning Disabilities? A Critical Analysis of the

Birth of the FIeld III SOCial Context,” in The Foundations of School Subject~ ed T. Popkewitz (London: Falmer, 1987), p. 231. c ‘. •

 

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