Research note on inclusion of special students in regular classes

Several major studies in the 1980s led the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that the procedures for classifying and placing children in special education classes were both ineffective and discriminatory. These studies recommended special education placement only if the students could be accurately classified and only if their placement in special classes demonstrated results superior to regular class placement.

Moreover, recent legislative enactments and court decisions now mandate the inclusion of special-needs students in regular classrooms. Edward T. Baker, Director of Clinical Information, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Hospital; Margaret C. Wang, Director of the National Center on Education in the Inner Cities; and Herbert J. Walberg, University of Illinois at Chicago, recently reported on the results of three meta-analyses* of research data that compared the effects of inclusive versus noninclusive educational practices.

Modest results from inclusion

The results indicate that special-needs students achieve slight to moderate academic and social benefits from attending regular classes, and that the results of inclusion were positive and worthwhile but not huge. Although they tried to determine if the type of special need or the age of the student influenced the amount of benefit received, they did not discover any consistent pattern of results.

Baker et al. also found that although special education students may benefit from inclusion in regular classes, inclusion alone did not measurably close the gap in achievement that lies between them and regular students. They conclude that researchers and educators need to identify the most feasible and effective instructional methods increasing achievement gains of special students in regular classes.

Editor’s Note: Meta-analysis refers to techniques that enable researchers to more objectively integrate large amounts of data from multiple studies by statistical manipulation. Researchers believe it provides the basis for a more rational approach to educational decision making.

“The Effects of Inclusion on Learning”, Educational Leadership, Volume 52, Number 4, January 1995, pp.33-35.

Published in ERN March/April 1995, Volume 8, Number 2

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