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Encyclopedia > Mainstreaming in education
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Mainstreaming in education is the process of integrating students who have special needs into regular school classes. The idea behind mainstreaming is to bring students who would previously have been educated in special schools into the "mainstream" of student life. Image File history File links Circle-question. ... A special school is a school catering to students who have special educational needs (SEN), for example, because of learning difficulties or physical disabilities. ...


U.S. Mainstream in Education History

Before 1975, the majority of disabled children were denied access to education and opportunities to learn. The common view was that these students were unable to learn and could not get any smarter, and therefore were placed in their own separate schools (History of Idea). Then the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed. This was a government effort to support states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for disabled students and their families. In order to carry out the IDEA, special needs students were provided an Individualized Educational Planning Team (IEPT) made up of specialists, educators, and parents. The purpose of the IEPT was to identify the problem the student is facing and work to provide the best possible education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law, , most recently amended in 2004, meant to ensure a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities, designed to their individualized needs in the Least Restrictive Environment. ...

In order to more clearly determine students as disabled, the federal government defined thirteen categories of disabilities. These included autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, serious emotional disturbance, special learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment. Autism is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Psychological Association as a developmental disability that results from a disorder of the human central nervous system. ... Deafblindness (or deaf-blindness) is the condition of a person who is both deaf and blind. ... This article discusses the way the word deaf is used and how deafness is perceived by hearing and Deaf communities. ... Hearing impairment is a full or partial decrease in the ability to detect or understand sounds. ... Mental retardation is a term for a pattern of persistently slow learning of basic motor and language skills (milestones) during childhood, and a significantly below-normal global intellectual capacity as an adult. ... Visual impairment is the functional loss of vision. ...

In the 1980s, the process of mainstreaming became popular after the requirement of a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) (Clearinghouse, E. 2003). Students with minor disabilities integrated into classes of normal students while students with major disabilities were secluded to special classrooms, with the opportunity to be among normal students for a few hours each day. Many parents and educators found the method of allowing disabled students to be in classrooms among normal students favorable. For this reason, there has been a growing trend of teacher’s aides and part-time special education teachers in the classroom.

In 1997, IDEA was modified to strengthen mainstreaming requirements. The IEPTs must more clearly relate to the general-education curriculum, children with disabilities must be included in state and district assessments, and regular progress reports must be made to parents. Regents Examinations, or simply Regents, are a set of standardized tests given to high school students through the New York State Education Department, designed and administered under the authority of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. ... In education, certification, counseling, the military, and many other fields, a test or an exam (short for examination) is a tool or technique intended to measure students expression of knowledge, skills and/or abilities. ...

Today, all states comply under the IDEA. Any taxpayer-supported school is responsible for the costs of providing continual care for disabled students under a federal law that says all children must receive "free, appropriate public education." Regular education classrooms with supplementary services are now the foundation for public schools. Although IDEA does not necessarily require inclusion, it does promote that a significant effort be made to find an inclusive placement. The term public school has two contrary meanings: In England, one of a small number of prestigious historic schools open to the public which normally charge fees and are financed by bodies other than the state, commonly as private charitable trusts; here the word public is used much as in...

See also: Inclusion (disability rights)

Inclusion is a term used by activist people with disabilities and other disability rights advocates for the idea that human beings should freely, openly and happily accommodate any other human being that happens to be differently-abled without question or qualification of any kind. ...


Studies show that special-education students who are mainstreamed have higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem, a greater probability of attending college, and better physical health. They are more likely to graduate and find employment. In fact, graduation rates of disabled students increased by 14% from 1984 to 1997 (National Research Center on Learning Disabilities, 2005).

As far as advantages as a whole, mainstreaming promotes diversity and acceptance. It also allows opportunity for all students to advance. For the learning disabled students, they are motivated through competition to improve. The general education students have the ability to rise up to leadership roles.


Although mainstreaming in education has been shown to provide benefits, there are also disadvantages to the system. First off, education cost is higher per student. The Special Education Expenditures Program (SEEP) indicates that the cost per student in special education ranges from a low of $10,558 for students with learning disabilities to a high of $20,095 for students with multiple disabilities. The average cost per pupil for a regular education with no special education services is $6,556. Therefore, the average expenditure for students with LD is 1.6 times that of a general education student. (The Special Education Expenditure Project, 2005) Image File history File links Gnome-globe. ...

The fact that more and more students are claiming disabilities provides a financial nightmare for school districts. The national percentage of enrollment of students with disabilities is 13.4%. The rise could be attributed to several factors. One may be that detection methods have improved, allowing identification of cases that would have been overlooked in the early years of the LD field. Another factor may be increased cases of teratogens (substance abuse, environmental agents, improper nutrition). In regard to the home life, single parenting may also contribute to rising numbers of LD. Increases in the number of single mothers over married mothers have decreased the income in the homes. (Niolon, R. 2004). With parents unable to spend as much time with their children, students do not get the basic foundations that allow them to be driven to succeed in school. Some believe that the rise in LD students is contributed to the American school system. Children who were not taught well in the beginning are placed into a special program. The determining of a student with physical or mental problems requires the following steps: referral by general education teacher, prereferral intervention efforts implemented in the general education setting, formal assessment of the student, and eligibility and development of an individualized education plan (IEP) by a team. (Macmillan, 2004) Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ...

Because it is a government effort, school districts are required to provide special education services and often are not given the necessary financial resources. Without money comes cutbacks in other programs. This proposes the greatest threat to low-income schools that are already inadequately funded.

One serious disadvantage is that in a mainstream setting with a general education teacher (as opposed to a special education teacher) the special needs students may require more attention than other students in the class, thus time and attention may be taken away from the general student populace of the class to meet the needs of the special needs student. For students with bodily disabilities this may not be a large factor but for students with emotional disabilities, autistic spectrum diagnosis, or other mental or emotional disabilities this can rapidly become a situation infeasible for meeting the needs of both the general class populace and the needs of the special needs student. One example would be story time in a 1st grade class where the teacher must interrupt story time several times to address the behavioral needs of an emotionally or mentally challenged student who is having difficulty focusing, disrupting, or having emotional outbursts. Another example would be when a child with behavioral issues physically assaults another child because he or she does not know how to control their anger or sadness and the teacher has to sit with this child or remove them from the classroom until he or she calms down.

Many fear that general education teachers do not have the training nor the time to accommodate special needs students in a general education class room setting. Parents often end up moving their children back into special programs because they find that their children cannot be accommodated. Other parents, might fear their child's safety when a child with behavioral needs enters the program and is physically violent with the other children. However, under IDEA and NCLB, all special education teachers are required to meet the “highly qualified” definition. IDEA requires that all special education teachers hold a license in that particular state to teach special education. There are different categories of special education teachers: how many core subjects they teach, whether or not they teach students who are assessed through standardized testing, degree of the disability, and grade level range. With the growing number of students claiming learning disabilities, there is also a growing demand for LD teachers. Employment of special education teachers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. (Teachers-Special Education, 2004) Because the work is intense, salaries are not sufficient, and attaining a special education license is rigorous, it will be difficult to achieve the desired number of these teachers.

There is also the fear that general education standards will be lowered. If the teacher must accommodate the learning for LD students, it is almost impossible to also accommodate the general education or higher level students. The range is just too broad. As far as grading goes, there are two methods in which LD students are graded: by the general education teacher or the special education teacher. A major concern for high school teachers is the fairness of the grading. By giving an LD student a higher grade, the teacher may be lowering the class rank of other students and potentially harming their chances of getting into college. (Children Have Opportunities in Inclusive Communities Environments and Schools, 2004)

Minorities and Education

Studies have shown that the labeling of students as disabled or with the wrong disability has provided disproportionate numbers for minorities. The data concerning this issue is relatively new since states were not required to collect special education data by race/ethnicity until the IDEA was reauthorized in 1997. While there is over-identification of minorities, the disability categories and race/ethnic groups of greatest concern are that of emotional disturbance and mental retardation as it relates to black and Hispanic students.

Just as the overall rate of identification of students as Learning Disabled, disproportional numbers of race/ethnic groups also vary among the states. IDEA now requires that states and school districts take action to eliminate this. Therefore, states are now required to collect and report data concerning minorities with disabilities.

The number of non-English speaking students entering schools is rising. In 2003, English learners made up 8.4% of the national enrollment, jumping 1.4% from 2001. Without proper English skills, it is difficult to assess these children and they are often placed into LD programs. Teachers are unable either to accommodate or properly diagnose these students and place them in the care of special education teachers.

The fear is that most minority students in the United States leave school without reaching their full potential. In the past, the group that receives the lowest-achievement rates have been boys and girls who are poor and of racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity.

Many advances have been made in the special education area. However, evidence shows that flaws still exist in the system when involving minorities. Upon being placed in special education, it is very difficult to find the motivation to excel, especially without support from parents, poverty, and exposure to deviant behavior. When looking at national statistics, more than one in four nonmetro Hispanics, Blacks, and Native Americans live in poverty. (Rural Poverty at a Glance) This contributes greatly to the success of the child. Teachers need to encourage the “disabled” minorities to rise up. Following these teaching styles and providing a learning environment where all students are grouped together is a way in which the learning ability status of a minority student can be determined. Whereas immediately placing a child in a separate environment for learning disabled student promotes stagnation and learned helplessness, mainstreaming of minorities promotes academic acceleration.

Not only is mainstreaming of minorities beneficial in academics, but also on a humanistic level. Through this education, it will allow students to be more accepting to minorities. The current situation involves a huge separation between different races. They find identity by sharing similarities and connections. Although identity is important, it also brings risk towards racism and segregation in the future. Interaction at a young age will likely provide positive peer role models, leadership opportunities, acceptance of unique needs, and friendships.

Web Resources

Clearinghouse, E. (2003). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from History of Special Education Web site: http://ericec.org/faq/spedhist.html

Special education. (2002). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.michiganinbrief.org/edition07/Chapter5/SpecialEd.htm .

History of idea. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.html.

Rogan, P. (1992). inclusive education. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.nekesc.k12.ks.us/seikres.html.

Educate America: a call for equity in school reform. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from Changing Mainstream Education Web site: http://www.maec.org/educate/4.html.

Legal requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.uni.edu/coe/inclusion/legal/.

Individuals with disabilities education improvement act. (2005). Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/109th/education/idea/ideafaq.pdf.

Niolon, R. (2004). School report #3. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/intell/school3.htm.

Bohmer, D. (n.d.). Talking about racism. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2005, from http://www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,1-3482,00.html.

The special education expenditure project. (2005). Retrieved Nov. 28, 2005, from http://www.csef-air.org/.

MacMillan, D. (2004). Retrieved Nov. 28, 2005, from Learning Disabilities as Operationally Defined by Schools Web site: http://www.nrcld.org/html/information/articles/ldsummit/macmillan.html.

Teachers-special education. (2004). Retrieved Nov. 28, 2005, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos070.htm.

Project Choices, (2004). Children have opportunities in inclusive communities environments and schools. Retrieved Nov. 28, 2005, from http://www.projectchoices.org/faqPlace.aspx.

Rural poverty at a glance. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 28, 2005, from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/rdrr100/rdrr100.pdf.

National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (2005). Twenty-five years of progress in educating children with disabilities through IDEA. Retrieved September 05, 2006 from http://www.nrcld.org/resources/osep/historyidea.shtml Last Updated: May 27, 2005



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