SPED 502: The History of Inclusion

Stacy Peterson


  1. Watch the "Module 1, Topic A: The Compelling History of Inclusion: A Blueprint for Success" video.
  2. Discuss the following: What are some of the milestone events in the history of inclusion?

Discussion based on the Module 1, Topic A Video

The legislation of the early 1970’s lacked the requirement for teachers and personnel to be trained in special education. Thus, teachers were ill-equipped to provide an equitable educational experience to all the students in a mainstreamed classroom. The teacher in the video describes decisions as being very emotionally-based. Students with disabilities were only mainstreamed into “special’ classes: music, physical education, recess and lunch. Since these were environments with “the least structure”, there were many difficulties. It was thought that students with disability could not manage the STEM classes. Until the 1990’s, segregated environments were still dominant; only parts were mainstreamed.

Many educators and policymakers in the 1990’s concluded empirically that mainstreaming was inconsistently applied, poorly prepared for and not just unhelpful, but possibly deleterious to the educational experience of the student with disabilities. A few of the initiatives to address the challenges and achievement gaps were the Standards-Based Instruction for All Learners: A Treasure Chest of Strategy, APEX and Leadership for Results. One of the goals was to have performance assessments that could determine effective strategies for learning in individual students. These initiatives functioned to address the needs of all students, regardless of where medicine, traditional education or the law might pre-define them.

Interspersed between legislation and initiatives were research findings. Starting with Teacher Expectation/Student Achievement (TESA) in 1965, the researcher (Rosenthal) found “brighter” students were held to higher standards and were given more attention. Contrast this with Bloom’s Taxonomy, whose higher levels were thought (by many) to only be achieved by these same “bright” students. The child with disabilities was being “kept in the world of knowledge level questions”. There was also a research compendium entitled “What Works in Schools” by Marzano that revealed that IQ can grow. Payne found that 85-90 percent of students on IEPs were also considered impoverished. This would lead future generations to question whether it was poverty or, more likely, cultural and/or linguistical differences. Madeline Hunter, in her research, concluded, “If it can be taught, it can be learned”. She looked at changing strategies versus “giving up” on teaching a child.

There were also pivotal individuals whose work laid the foundation for many of the ways we teach the way we do today. For example, Feurerstein (1948) said that if children feel safe and welcome, then critical thinking and mastery level teaching can occur. There were also many unnamed parents with children with disabilities whose child was just a “designation” and not a person.

The 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation requires that every child “approach the same standards”, but with individualized strategies.

Further Thoughts

This video compilation was amazing. I appreciated the broad history that was presented regarding mainstreaming and inclusion. This wasn't what I expected, which was a list of legislation and court proceedings, but a down-to-earth accounting of the history, research and philosophy of inclusion. Inserted into the video was the speaker's own experience with her own daughter, and her in her many roles (teacher, administrator, etc.) in education. The part that I will literally go to bed with thinking about tonight is Feurerstein's comments about making children feel safe and welcome first - that critical thinking and mastery level teaching can then occur. Also, the story regarding her daughter learning how to count money when she changed the strategy - but only after her conversation with Hunter after she was ready to give-up. It makes me want to reevaluate each and every interaction I have with my students, and challenges me to continue to learn various strategies for teaching.