Friday, April 26, 2013

Separate is NOT Equal...We Know This...Let's Move

"We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." 
United States Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)

19freaking54.  What on earth are we still talking about 59 (!) years later?
Why is there any question how children are educated and why children are educated this way?
Because old habits die hard and ignorance and preconceived notions die even harder...or maybe they never die.

We have students separated from each other. All sorts of students.  We have the students that are identified as "gifted" (based on their performance on an exam) separated in my town from the rest of the students.  This is a big controversy here.  Ironically, this spot is a fully inclusive district for students that have identified special needs.  Those students are included in the regular classroom, no questions asked.  
How refreshing.

In other districts, if you have a child with an identified disability you have to fight your way into the regular kindergarten. As if all of those other typical kids entering kindergarten spoke coherently, had well-developed social skills, knew all of their phonemes and were ready to read. Ask any kindergarten teacher about her typical class.  She (or he) will tell you of the wildly differing abilities of the students.   This, in fact, couldn't be a better time to allow students with special needs into the regular classroom...but often the parents of these kids feel cornered into a separate classroom known as an SDC class (special day class -- that sounds super equal to the typical kindergarten class, right?) 

Here's the deal...separate is not equal.
It was true in 1954 and it is still true in 2013.

Let's look at the data.  We have 30+ years worth now.
It's overwhelming.

"The largest study of educational outcomes of 11,000 students with disabilities, the National Longitudinal Transition Study, showed that when students with disabilities spent more time in a general education classroom they were more likely to score higher on standardized tests of reading and math; have fewer absences from school; experience fewer referrals for disruptive behavior; and achieve more positive post-school outcomes such as a paying job, not living in segregated housing, and with having a broad and supportive social network. These results were true regardless of students’ disability, severity of disability, gender or socioeconomic status."
Also, the data is substantial for non-disabled students within that same classroom -- they do better too.  Together, they also are learning how to live with each other in a positive way so the social implications are huge too.
(cited by Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire)

In a nutshell, if a student with disabilities is in a fully inclusive school environment they have a better chance at:
1) finding work
2) making friends
3) living independently
4) having a serious and lasting relationship

In short, they get a real chance at freedom.
That is exactly what Brown vs. Board of Education was fighting for...freedom.  They were fighting for a real chance.  Fighting for some hope.  
Fighting for the opportunity to become the person they were meant to be.

We ALL deserve that chance.  Kids with disabilities are no exception.

At two different places, with two different groups of educators I was pleading my case this week. On my way to speech #2 in the car I was practicing my presentation out loud.  Out of annoyance and silliness at having to say that "separate is not equal" in another room of educators in 2013, I decided to call myself The Lorax.  
Only instead of speaking for trees, I'm speaking for something even more important: kids.

Who doesn't want to find work, make friends, live independently, or have a serious relationship?
All people want is a chance.
That's all anybody deserves.
It's a given.  We figured it out 59 years ago...
can we please follow through?

Imagine how amazing our world would be if we used the vast and amazing and exponentially growing technology to actually serve our students in inclusive classrooms.

Imagine not having to prove yourself just to get through the door?

Why should ANY kindergartener not be included?  
You tell me.

Why should any student be told you're not good enough?
Why should any student have a separate education?

We have a beautifully written law called the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  It was ground-breaking legislation in 1972.  And it stated boldly:
 “Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

That right there is telling the students with disabilities to come out of the shadows. 
Get out there and "fully participate".
You are part of us.
You deserve every opportunity.

19freaking72. That's when that law was written. 
Why are we still talking about it?

Open the doors.
Let the students into the very same classroom as all of the others.
Use technology.
Use the best practices for teachers that we know work.
Give supports to the students who need it.
Use the internet to connect with educators who are doing it right this minute and doing it well.
Watch the magic.
Watch the typical students rise to the occasion.
Give them that chance.
Watch the students with disabilities rise to the occasion.
Get ready to smile and know joy and see social justice and educational equity in action.
Full inclusion's time is now.

Ben Franklin said it best:
"There are three types of people: the immovable, the movable and those that move."

Let's move.

It's Where's Waldo!  Can you spot the kid with a disability during PE?
They are all just having fun...they all deserve to...together.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing Lorax, I love u :)Me :)