Tag Archives: special education students

The Cannibalization of General Education—Guest Post

Before I address the topic of Integrated Collaborative Teaching (ICT), which is the combining of special education and general education students in the same class, I want to thank Mr. Lofthouse for publishing my anonymous guest post on his Crazy Normal blog.  I have read many of Mr. Lofthouse’s blog posts that covered charter schools, Common Core curriculum and other pertinent educational issues, and I appreciate Mr. Lofthouse creating his Crazynormal blog so that teachers can educate the public.

Before I address Integrated Collaborative Classrooms (ICT), here is a brief bio about me.  I am currently teaching at a comprehensive high school in California, and I have been teaching for 26 years.  The reason why I am publishing this post anonymously has to do with the often hostile and combative environment that our public schools have become as reformers attempt to silence teachers through fear of losing their jobs.

Returning to the issue of ICT classrooms: ICT has become a highly charged educational issue.  With Special Education cannibalizing the budgets of school districts, ICT classes seem like a true knight in shining armor for financially strapped school districts.

Why do school districts across the nation need a financial knight in shining armor? They are being bled dry financially.  Unscrupulous advocates and lawyers, who are lining their own pockets, are helping parents obtain expensive accommodations for their special education children. For example, “One southern California school district pays for a severely brain-damaged boy to attend a specialized school in Massachusetts, and to fly his parents and sister out for regular visits, at an annual cost of roughly $254,000.  The superintendent only balked when the family demanded extra visits for the boy’s sister” (Worth).  In the Gilroy Unified School District, district spokesperson Deborah Toups explained how her district’s unfunded annual special education costs rose from $170,000 in 2002 to $3,200,000 in 2010 (Melendez).

The special education teacher in the video makes valid points about how the old Special Education model was ineffective.  However, full inclusion is not the answer either.

  • Special education students can be successfully included in physical education, art and music classes, but it is more difficult to include them in core academic subjects, such as English, Math, or Science.
  • The special education teacher also talked about how she could “jump in” and assist with a lesson, but most of the time this does not occur at the high school level because most special education teachers are not trained in a core subject.  Hence, they are not able to co-teach a Geometry lesson, a lesson over rhetoric in English, etc.
  • What tends to happen is the special education teacher ends up sitting in the back of the classroom and observes the lesson or assists individual students.
  • A final point made in the video was co-teaching takes a lot of time. In addition, most general education teachers do not share a common prep period with their special education counterpart; hence, planning does not occur.

In 1975, the Federal government promised it would fund 40% of special education costs, but the current reality is the Feds cover only 10% (Worth).  The states do not make up the difference, so school districts have to rob their other programs to pay for special education.  In addition, a recent ABC news report stated that the increase in the number of lawsuits has grown substantially due to the parents of autistic children (Shah).  School districts are not fully addressing the accommodations for autistic children because “… scientists and researchers and families still have a lot to learn about [autism]” (Shah).  Autism is a complex neurological disorder, and there is still yet a lot to be learned about it.  Unfortunately, school districts are unrealistically expected to have complete knowledge about how to meet the needs of their autistic children.  It doesn’t help that the spike in the number of autistic children has been dramatic.  In 1990, nine in 10,000 kids were diagnosed with autism; in 2000, forty-four in 10,000 were diagnosed (Melendez).  School districts know that their spending for special education is going to increase due to the spike in the number of autistic children.

Hence, Integrated Collaborative Teaching.  ICT classrooms utilize two teachers:  a general education teacher and a special education teacher.  ICT classrooms can place up to 12 special education students in an ICT classroom.  Theoretically, special education and general education teachers are supposed to plan their lessons together, examine pre and post testing data of their students, discuss student behavior, plan for IEP meetings, work out differences in teaching style, etc.  On paper, ICT classrooms represent a knight in shining armor for school districts.  Special education students are being mainstreamed and school districts are also saving money, because they do not have to hire as many special education teachers due to general education teachers becoming de facto special education teachers.

Unfortunately, many ICT classrooms are not serving the needs of their general education students.  In fact, most ICT teachers report that they don’t share a common planning period.  Hence, special education teachers and general education teachers are not able to plan lessons together, coordinate disciplinary actions, examine testing data, etc.  The most negative outcome of ICT classrooms is that the course pacing slows dramatically.  General education teachers have to spend more time over discipline issues stemming from the special education students, which hurts the overall learning environment.  Moreover, many general education teachers report that they neglect their general education students because they are hyper- focused on their special education students.  Many times special education teachers are not in the classroom because they are attending IEP meetings for other special education students on their caseload.  Also, many school districts only have their special education teacher in the ICT classroom two to three times a week. That leaves the general education teachers with 30-plus students of which 12 are Special Ed.

What school districts must do is to legally challenge excessive IEP accommodations that they are being forced to implement.  Currently, the legal teams of special education parents represent the A-team.  Most school districts do not have A-team type lawyers, so they cave into the unreasonable requests that some special education parents demand.  Also, school districts need to come together and sue the Federal government.  When the Supreme Court ruled that special education students were to have their academic needs met, the Federal government promised that it would cover 40% of the costs (Worth).  School districts must force the Federal government to cover the 30% that it’s not paying.

The costs for special education can be reeled in; however, school districts across the nation are going to have to work together to challenge excessive IEP accommodations and also force the Federal government to honor its financial obligations.

More information on this latest fad in public education comes from: Canadian Teachers’ Associations and the Inclusive Movement for Students with Special Neds

“This study shows that when inclusive schooling for students with special needs appeared on the education reform horizon in the mid-1980s, Canadian teachers’ associations were wary and unconvinced.

“In general, they viewed the concepts and implementation as replete with unsustainable assumptions and prescriptions – an imposed government initiative that severely compromised the working conditions of their members. They undertook penetrating, comprehensive, and extensive data collection that examined the impact of inclusive schooling and provided feedback on the conditions of learning and teaching.

“Common views criticized governments for not offering systematic support for schools as they attempted to implement inclusive policies and chided that the process was often effected without systematic modification to a school‘s organization, due regard to teachers‘ instructional expertise, or any guarantee of continuing resource provision.”

Works Cited

Melendez, Lyanne. “Special Ed Students Could Bankrupt Districts.” 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 April 2015.

Shah, Nirvi. “Do Parents of Children With Autism File More Lawsuits?” 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 April 2015.

Worth, Robert. “The Scandal of Special-Ed.” June 1999. Web. 11 April 2015.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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