A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of all Children with Disabilities - 1995

Assessing the Impact of Secondary School Experiences

Secondary school has many facets for youth receiving special education:what courses they take, where they take them (in regular or special classes), what supports they receive in the regular classroom, what type of school they attend (regular or special),the size of the school, the characteristics of the student body, how students spend their time both in and out of school, and whether they have friends and how those friends spend their time. Any of these and many other factors could act and interact to influence young adults' chances for successful results when they leave school. Unfortunately, not all of these could be measured within the resources of the NLTS, and space does not permit reporting on all those that were measured (for additional information about the school programs of youth with disabilities, see Wagner, 1993).

The NLTS data were based on the secondary school programs attended by students with disabilities between 1985 and 1990. The data show how those students did under the set of circumstances that existed at that time. It is clear that schools as they existed in the late 1980s were not the only way schools could be structured. The massive amount of attention currently devoted to school reform at multiple levels within the educational system is an indicator that change is desired. From the NLTS, it is possible to glean several insights into why students with disabilities encountered problems in regular education courses.

When comparing regular and special education classroom settings, the NLTS found that the regular academic classes averaged one teacher and 23 students, two or three of whom had disabilities. Seven percent of teachers reported that they had aides in their classrooms to help the students with disabilities. The special education classes averaged one teacher and a part-time aide and nine students. Fewer than half of students with disabilities in regular academic classes had their progress monitored by a special education teacher. Tutoring from a special education teacher was provided to slightly more than one-third of students who were placed in regular classes. Nearly all students placed in regular classes had regular education teachers who reported receiving some kind of support, but most of that support was in the form of consultation from the special education staff. Only one in five students had teachers who reported receiving training in the needs of students with disabilities, and only 14 percent had teachers who reported that special materials had been made available to them.

The National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (NCERI) (1994) has conducted a national survey of all chief State school officers. Their preliminary results show that inclusive programs are being implemented across the nation in both large and small districts and that eight factors are necessary for inclusion to succeed. These factors highlight some of the problems that NLTS found to exist and emphasize the types of changes needed:

  1. foster visionary leadership that promotes the view that all children can learn, teachers and schools have the capacity to change, and that everyone benefits from inclusion;

  2. make available to individual teachers the support systems that provide collaborative assistance and that enable them to engage in cooperative problem solving;

  3. refocus the use of assessments in a way that builds greater understanding of the student and his or her needs;

  4. provide supports for staff that include systematic staff development and flexible planning time for special education and regular education teachers to meet and work together.

  5. support students with aides, curriculum adaptations, needed therapy, peer supports, and computer technology and other assistive devices;

  6. establish funding formulas that support inclusion;

  7. encourage parental participation through family support services as well as the development of educational programs which engage parents as co-learners with their children; and

  8. develop models and classroom practices that support inclusion by focusing on cooperative learning, team teaching, and consultant and resource teacher models.


[The Relationship of Secondary School Experiences to the Early Post-School Results of Youth with Disabilities] [Table of Contents] [Post-School Results]