The Inclusion Of Students With Cognitive Disabilities in a High School Environment
Roth, Esther Streed
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The Problem: The purpose of this study was to investigate the inclusion of students with cognitive disabilities in high school environment primarily from the teachers’ perspectives. Specifically tow questions are addressed: (a) What are the characteristics present and to what degree in a high school inclusionary environment? (b) What are the roles of the special education and general education teachers in an inclusionary environment? Procedures: Two freshman students are included in numerous courses and activities at Newberg High School. Environmental characteristics and teachers’ roles surrounding them provided the natural setting for this single case, descriptive, ethnographic research. Data collection through a qualitative design consisted of an initial site visit, a series of interviews, formal observations, document analysis, journaling, and follow-up interviews. Findings: The analysis of data indicated the presence of visionary leadership, collaboration, and physical accommodations. Curricular modifications were primarily the responsibility of the special education teacher. The staff was enthusiastic, desired to do more and shared mutual respect and admiration for one another. They valued highly the role of peer acceptance for students who are included and recognized inclusion as an evolving process. Parent support was strong and resources were targeted towards inclusionary activities. Teachers identified their roles as facilitators, mostly for modeling social skills, or as providers of direct instruction. Conclusions, and recommendations: The study concurs with previous research in elementary schools that found visionary leadership and collaboration as the two outstanding characteristics of a meaningful educational environment. Other characteristics such as supports for staff and students, funding, effective parent involvement, and accessibility were also evidenced. Transition planning and refocused use of assessment did not evolve as themes with this investigative approach. Teachers’ roles are in a state of change. The study offers suggestions specific to Newberg High School based upon its strengths and beliefs.
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