Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by teachers when inclusive programs are developed is addressing the wide range of academic needs that students bring into classrooms. Unfortunately, all too often schools are ill-prepared when students fail to learn using the typical methods in the general education classroom. Consider the following example.
Chuck is a bright, engaging 7-year-old who is repeating the 1st grade. During his first year in the 1st grade, Chuck was in a classroom that emphasized a “whole-language” approach to reading instruction. Throughout the school year, Chuck was highly motivated and cooperated with his teacher and parents as they had him read predictable books, write in a journal, and complete a variety of other activities in an attempt to help him learn to read. Midway through the school year, as it became apparent to Chuck's parents that he was not learning to read, they met with his teacher and the school principal on repeated occasions in an attempt to arrange an alternative method of reading instruction. It seemed clear to the parents that the whole-language method was not working. While the principal and teacher agreed that the whole-language method was not working for Chuck, they stated that this was the only method that was available in their school and that they did not have the funds to provide alternatives. The parents noted that several other students in Chuck's class also were failing to progress in reading. At the end of his first year in 1st grade, Chuck was reading at a pre-primer level. The school principal met with Chuck's parents on the last day of school, expressed her frustration that the school did not do a better job with Chuck, and described her plan to offer more alternative approaches to reading instruction during the coming school year.
During his second year of 1st grade, Chuck moved to a school in another state. His teacher in this school used a more traditional approach to reading, built around a basal reading series. At the end of the first grading period, the teacher gave Chuck a very low grade in reading but noted that he was a very “nice boy to work with” and “worked very hard.” By November, Chuck was still not making appreciable progress in learning to read. In a meeting to share this information, Chuck's parents were told that the basal series was the only reading method available in the general education classroom and that Chuck would have to be “pulled out” to receive alternative instruction as part of the school's Title I program. The principal further noted that the basal series was working for most other students in Chuck's class.
Chuck soon was pulled out of his reading/language arts instruction for 30 minutes each morning. During this time, he was taught, along with a small group of other students, using a highly structured, scripted (direct instruction) reading program. After three months in this program, the principal and teachers arranged a meeting with Chuck's parents, shared evaluative information, and stated that Chuck was making little progress in the Title I program. The principal noted that they were “baffled” regarding what to do with Chuck. She further noted that the only alternative available through the school was to offer Chuck instruction in the Title I program for an additional 30 minutes a day. When asked about other alternatives, the principal suggested that the Reading Recovery program might be a good option for Chuck but that his parents would have to arrange for this support after school.