Special Education Reform:

Districts Grapple with Inclusion Programs

T-HEHS-94-160: Published: Apr 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed special education reform, focusing on elementary school inclusion programs. GAO noted that: (1) some parents, teachers, and administrators are generally supportive of inclusion programs because of the positive effects on disabled students, their nondisabled classmates, and school staff; (2) in inclusion programs, the general education teacher is responsible for the education of all students; (3) the Department of Education's fiscal year 1994 estimated budget for special education was $3 billion; (4) eighteen states are currently receiving $4.4 million in inclusion program grants; (5) in the districts reviewed, parents, staff, and state officials believe that the success of inclusion programs depends on a collaborative learning environment, the proportion of disabled students in the local education setting, and adequate classroom support; (6) inclusion programs rely on special education and general education professionals working together to produce a total school curriculum that allows disabled students to learn at their own level; (7) the percentage of students with disabilities served in inclusion programs varies significantly; (8) inclusion programs give disabled students the opportunity to have good peer role models and be exposed to a broad curriculum; (9) the greatest gains for disabled students have been in the areas of social interaction, language development, appropriate behavior, and self-esteem; and (10) placement in an inclusion program depends on the individual needs of the disabled student and not on the severity or type of disability.

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