Do Students with Disabilities See Better Outcomes When Integrated Into Traditional Classrooms?

Do Students with Disabilities See Better Outcomes When Integrated Into Traditional Classrooms?For decades, schools have separated students with disabilities into special education classes, reasoning that they receive better education with more focused attention. However, recent research out of Indiana University suggests that students with disabilities integrated into general classroom settings score higher on standardized testing. These findings are in line with previous research, and we believe this deserves a closer look.

The Hill reports on this study in depth, talking to a variety of experts and advocates about the results, published in The Journal of Special Education. Per The Hill:

Although students with disabilities have traditionally been separated from peers into different classrooms, new research suggests a more inclusive educational setting could be beneficial for these students.

A team at Indiana University found high school students with disabilities who spent 80 percent of their time or more in general education classes scored higher on state reading and math tests than their counterparts in less inclusive settings.

This is exciting and important information for parents of students with disabilities when planning and advocating for their educational goals.

About the research

Researchers from the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community used statewide data from high- and low-inclusion educational settings. For their purposes, high-inclusion were settings where students spent 80% or more of their time in a general education classroom. Low-inclusion settings were where students spent less than 80 percent. When comparing academic outcomes for students with disabilities, researchers made the following key findings:

  • Students in high-inclusion settings scored an average of 24.3 points higher in English/Language Arts and 18.4 points in Math than peers in low-inclusion settings.
  • Students in high-inclusion settings were 22% more likely to graduate by passing the state assessment instead of receiving a waiver, suggesting they are more prepared for post-high school employment and educational opportunities.

Additionally, this study was the second phase of research, per The Hill, as “a follow-up to 2020 research assessing placement and academic outcomes for children with primary disabilities from third through eighth grade.” Students with disabilities including cognitive, learning and emotional disabilities; autism spectrum disorder; blindness; and deafness all experienced positive outcomes from inclusive educational settings.

The authors of the study said in a press release:

We cannot, as a society, afford to continue to support policies and practices that result in academic failure, limited post-secondary options and continued separation and marginalization based on disabilities. We can, however, accept the ambitious agenda to transform educational systems to create inclusive school environments, maximize student participation and increase the achievement of students with disabilities.

The Indiana University research demonstrates the need for classroom transformation, best practices, policies, and advocacy for our students with disabilities here in Nashville and across the state.

Students with disabilities have rights

If you are the parent or guardian of a child with special needs or a disability, it’s important you understand your rights in the public education system. Your Nashville special education attorney can determine everything that applies to your particular situation, but here’s a general overview from the Tennessee Department of Education.

If your child receives or is eligible for special education services, they have rights under both TN Rule 0520-01-09 and The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The Rule and the legislation, among a host of other things, give you the right to take an active role in and make decisions regarding your child’s education. You have the right to:

  • Ask your school for an evaluation of your child to determine if they have a disability and require special education services. The district has 60 calendar days to evaluate and another additional 30 calendar days to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) if needed. More about how IEPs work here.
  • Provide consent in the form of written permission for the first-time evaluation of your child, and you also have the right to revoke consent in the form of a written request. Per the Department of Education: “A revocation would forfeit all of your child’s special education services, related services, and any other supports included in your child’s IEP. If you decline or revoke consent for services, you can request services at a later time.”
  • Participate in developing your child’s IEP. Because you are part of your child’s educational team, you have the right to provide input into developing their IEP and share your opinion during any point in the process. The Department of Education encourages open communication to provide the best program possible for your child’s needs.
  • A free and appropriate education for your child (“FAPE”). The education and services provided to your child must benefit and fit their needs, via access to the same general curriculum and settings provided to all students. Further, special education services must be free of charge.
  • The least restrictive environment possible. Students with disabilities, no matter their age, should be able to learn among non-disabled peers as much as possible. Per the Department of Education: “Children are only removed from being educated with typical peers if it is determined, based on data, that they cannot be appropriately served in the regular education environment, even with the use of supports and services.”

The study from Indiana University certainly serves to highlight this last bullet point. If you feel your child is not receiving the education to which they are entitled through either state or federal law and you need assistance, consider speaking with a Nashville education law attorney.

Perry A. Craft can help. At the Law Office of Perry A. Craft PLLC, he and his team champion the needs of students with special needs. Attorney Craft understands the importance of access to fair, free, and quality public education – for every student. We can advocate and negotiate on behalf of your child, and are not afraid to take a school district to court if that’s what it takes to get your child the education to which they are entitled. To make an appointment, call 615-953-3808 or fill out our contact form today. We represent clients and families throughout Nashville.