Current Practices in Special Education: Perspectives of Consumers in Middle School
Legislation has provided parents and, in some cases, the students themselves the right to participate in developing instructional programs suited to their needs and abilities. Students enrolled in special education programs are now being looked at as valuable consumers of these services, as such, their input has been sought by some professionals in the field (Habel, Bloom, Ray, & Bacon, 1999; Kortering & Braziel, 1999; Lovitt, Plavins, & Cushing, 1999). This study surveyed 52 students in special education in four schools. All the students were placed in self-contained classrooms, and less than 25% were mainstreamed for one academic subject. The only time all of them were in the same setting as their peers without disabilities was during art, music, and other "specials". The students were in grades 6, 7 and 8, and were asked to complete questionnaires about their perceptions regarding the quality of special education services they had received and were receiving. More than 40% of the respondents felt comfortable asking questions, but less than 30% felt safe making mistakes in their classrooms. The characteristics most common in teachers they liked the most: he/she was "fun", "helpful" and "nice"; and the least: he/she "yells too much" and was "mean". About 25% of the respondents had been in special education at least four years. More than one-third of the respondents felt that special education had helped them. Some of the reasons they gave in support of special education: their reading ability improved, they received individualized instruction, and felt more confident about themselves. About 18% felt that they had not benefited by being in special education. Most of the respondents who were not satisfied with their special education services said that they were being taught material they had already learned earlier, and some felt stigmatized by being in the self-contained room.
Keywords: Special Education, Middle School, Student Perspectives
Prof. Poonam C. Dev
School of Education, Nazareth College of Rochester