Because of the whole inclusion thing I decided to do a little research into when inclusion fails. This is written by Nadina Bourgeois who is a Professor of Advanced Psychology at the University of Michigan. (she knows her stuff). I’ve bolded out portions I think will be of most interest to you. The first part is on fleek.  From the story and beyond she loses focus on the topic of inclusion and instead talks about the NCLB act.  That may still be interesting to you though.

The first part might be something that could anonymously float onto the superintendents desk…

When Inclusion Fails

After reading so many articles on the benefits of inclusion and how it can improve the situation of both the special ed student and the mainstream student I decided to look behind what was being told to me. These journal articles I had been reading were all for the inclusion of special ed students into mainstream classrooms. But what I began to wonder was why public schools in low SES areas were not being included in any of this research. It seemed as though all these studies were taking place in areas where there were enough teachers, money, and resources for there to be an aid for every special education student. What happens when this is not the case? What do parents from extremely low SES areas do when they have a severely mentally handicapped child?

While doing my research I came across an article in The New York Times that caught my eye because it was an up to date assessment of what was actually going on with special education in our cities. This article in specific had to do with New York City’s public schools. I was not shocked to hear that their system was not doing as well as they had hoped since there are enough problems in the New York public schools system without even thinking about the special education department.

One shocking statistic was that although there had been a 5% improvement in reading proficiency for special education fourth graders, there was a 4.4% decrease in reading proficiency for special education eighth graders. This meant that only 4.1% of these 8th graders were proficient in reading. (Winerip, 2005). I keep thinking of that statistic over and over again, it is haunting to think about. The problem with the school system has been that there isn’t enough support for the teachers and [students] are being expected to learn the material too fast.

A new program of integration of special education students with mainstream students has also started. The report praised the city for incorporating 10 special ed students with 15 general ed students in a classroom with one special ed teacher and one general ed teacher. But because of the extremely low support the classes are very poorly run which in the end leads to no improvements for anyone and these mixed classes have become the “dumping ground” for the lowest tracked children.

Even though the NCLB act is supposed to ensure quality teachers for everyone it is clear that this isn’t happening. One kindergarten teacher tells the horror story of how 12 children with serious health and mental conditions were split between two classes and instead of a special education teacher in each class there was a first year special ed teacher had to divide her time between the two classes. How is anything supposed to be ever accomplished in this kind of setting?

One mother fought her son’s way to a school where he would receive treatment for his severe dyslexia, she made a point of telling us just how hard it is to get what you want out of the special education system and if you want it you have to really fight for it.

This article really reminded me of the article by David C. Berliner titled Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform. Both Berliner and Winerip showed how hard it is to implement educational reforms in areas that have very low socio-economic status because there are not enough well trained staff and resources to get it done. Berliner ties how NCLB is merely a spectacle for the government to pretend to be doing something about educational reform by getting statistics as to which schools need the most help. According to him we have had these statistics for over 50 years, we know which schools are failing, and we know why. Poverty has powerful effects on schooling and although educators may be able to overcome these effects the chance is low and these out-of-school-factors play both a powerful and a limiting role in what can be achieved. (Berliner, 2005). As he says, we need to acknowledge the 600 lbs gorilla that is sitting in our classrooms and do something about it.

The following quote from Berliner’s journal article articulates what these kids are going through and how difficult it is to get past it.

The number 6 train from Manhattan to the South Bronx makes nine stops in the 18-minute ride between East 59th Street and Brook Avenue. When you enter the train, you are in the seventh richest congressional district in the nation. When you leave, you are in the poorest.
The 600,000 people who live here and the 450,000 people who live in Washington Heights and Harlem, which are separated from the South Bronx by a narrow river, make up one of the largest racially segregated concentrations of poor people in our nation.Brook Avenue, which is the tenth stop on the local, lies in the center of Mott Haven, whose 48,000 people are the poorest in the South Bronx. Two thirds are Hispanic, one third black. Thirty-five percent are children. In 1991, the median household income of the area, according to the New York Times, was $7,600.St. Ann.s Church, on St. Ann.s Avenue, is three blocks from the subway station. The children who come to this small Episcopal Church for food and comfort, and to play, and the mothers and fathers who come here for prayer, are said to be the poorest people in new York. .More than 95 percent are poor,. the pastor says. .the poorest of the poor, poor by any standard I can think of..

At the elementary school that serves the neighborhood across the avenue, only seven of 800 children do not qualify for free school lunches. .Five of those seven,. says the principal, .get reduced-price lunches, because they are classified as only .poor,. not.destitute…In some cities, the public reputation of a ghetto neighborhood bears little connection to the world that you discover when you walk the streets with children and listen to their words. In Mott Haven, this is not the case. By and large, the words of the children in the streets and schools and houses that surround St. Ann’s more than justify the grimness in the words of journalists who have described the area.  Crack-cocaine addiction and the intravenous use of heroin, which children I have met here call .the needle drug,. are woven into the texture of existence in Mott Haven. Nearly 4,000 heroin injectors, many of whom are HIV-infected, live here. Virtually every child at St. Ann’s knows someone, a relative or neighbor, who has died of AIDS, and most children here know many others who are dying now of the disease. One quarter of the women of Mott Haven who are tested in obstetric wards are positive for HIV. Rates of pediatric AIDS, therefore, are high. Depression is common among children in Mott Haven. Many cry a great deal but cannot explain exactly why. Fear and anxiety are common. Many cannot sleep. Asthma is the most common of illness among children here. Many have to struggle to take in a good deep breath. Some mothers keep oxygen tanks, which children describe as .breathing machines,. next to their children’s beds. The houses in which these children live, two thirds of which are owned by the City of New York, are often as squalid as the houses of the poorest children I have visited in rural Mississippi, but there is none of the greenness and the healing sweetness of the Mississippi countryside outside their windows, which are often barred and bolted as protection against thieves. Some of these houses are freezing in the winter. In dangerously cold weather, the city sometimes distributes electric blankets and space heaters to its tenants. In emergency conditions, if space heaters can’t be used, because substandard wiring is overloaded, the city’s practice is to pass out sleeping bags.
“You just cover up.and hope you wake up the next morning,” says a father of four children, one of them an infant one month old, as they prepare to climb into their 54 sleeping bags in hats and coats on a December night. In humid summer weather, roaches crawl on virtually every surface of the houses in which many of the children live. Rats emerge from holes in bedroom walls, terrorizing infants in their cribs. In the streets outside, the restlessness and anger that are present in all seasons frequently intensify under the stress of heat.
In speaking of rates of homicide in new York City neighborhoods, the Times refers to the streets around St. Ann’s as .the deadliest blocks. in .the deadliest precinct. of the city. If there is a deadlier place in the United States, I don’t know where it is. In 1991, 84 people, more than half of whom were 21 or younger, were murdered in the precinct. A year later, ten people were shot dead on a street called Beekman Avenue, where many of the children I have come to know re-side. On Valentines Day of 1993, three more children and three adults were shot dead on the living room floor of an apartment six blocks from the run-down park that serves the area. In early July of 1993, shortly before the first time that I visited the neighborhood, three more people were shot in 30 minutes in three unrelated murders in the South Bronx, one of them only a block from St. Ann’s Avenue. A week later, a mother wasmurdered and her baby wounded by a bullet in the stomach while they were standing on a South Bronx corner. Three weeks after that, a minister and elderly parishioner were shot out side the front door of their church, while another South Bronx resident was discovered in his bathtub with his head cut off. In subsequent days, a man was shot in both his eyes and a ten-year-old was critically wounded in the brain. What is it like for children to grow up here? What do they think the world has done to them? Do they believe that they are being shunned or hidden by society? If so, do they think that they deserve this? What is it that enables some of them to pray? And when they pray, what do they say to God?

The No Child Left Behind Act leaves schools responsible for how their students perform on tests and all students must participate in these examinations. Is it fair to punish a school that is located in a neighborhood like the one described above? Can we do that to them and really not feel guilty about it later? As a whole I realize we want to improve our education system so that one day all children are actually receiving an equal education no matter where you are in the world. I think that there has to be some better way than punishing the schools that didn’t make the requirements. Instead of punishing them why not offer them more resources and see what they need most to improve their school system. The NCLB, at least to me, seems as though it will keep the Matthew Effect as strong if not stronger than in the past. This gap will never close if those at the lowest end of the spectrum are punished even more when they deal with conditions that the schools at the top can not even imagine.