Integration in Special Education
Literature on integration abounds, but
it doesnt often describe how it actually works.
Heres how Mount Hope Public School tackled it.
By Jim Files
the spring of 1996, the administration at Mount Hope
Public School in Mount Hope could see that special
education needs outstripped the capability of the
existing model a phenomenon many schools are
experiencing. Although the government promised not to
cut special education funds, if needs grow and
funding fails to keep pace the effect is the same.
The accommodation of
children with special education needs continues to
perplex educators and administrators. Historically,
students with special needs were left on the fringes,
but now integration into the mainstream is a concern
for all. Proponents argue it increases
childrens self-esteem, provides positive role
models and exposes children to age-appropriate
materials and content.
special education needs were quite acute, and sending
all the kids with problems off to the learning centre
and resource room was no longer an option. The
schools principal, Bob Vardy, and the staff all
Involved at the Start
Vardy discussed plans at
a staff meeting in September 1996. He said the
groundwork had to be laid for a new resource model.
While this would not be easy, new special education
personnel would facilitate the change.
He outlined a model in
which only the most needy would be served for about
half the day in the learning centre by Carolyn
Nidzgorski, the learning centre teacher. The others
would be served in the resource room and the regular
The learning centre
would replace classroom programs with remedial work.
The resource room would test students and provide
programs that parallelled the regular classroom and
remedial strategies so that students might cope in
the regular classroom. The resource teacher would
help students in the resource room and the classroom.
A memo circulated to the
staff reiterating that the numbers of students seen
in special education would be reduced, but that
support would be provided for the most needy. Staff
also learned the extent of the problem. A list was
circulated of all the students involved in special
education in one way or another. When staff saw that
almost 25 per cent of the student population was
monitored by the special education team, they
recognized that some students with special education
needs would have to be served in the classrooms.
Although staff were
understandably apprehensive about the changes, they
appreciated the need for a fresh approach.
Another aspect of the
September blitz involved encouraging staff to use
special education documentation. In most boards,
procedures and paperwork are amassed for children
involved in special education and kept in the Ontario
Student Record. It is essential that teachers be
familiar with the contents of this chronicle.
information was important preparation for special
education team meetings at Mount Hope. These
meetings, held twice a week, included the
vice-principal and learning centre, resource and
classroom teachers. Here, they made critical
decisions about the students educational needs.
A crucial aspect of the
restructuring was making sure that parents noticed
the changes. The September newsletter told parents
that, because of the high number of needy students,
the resource room and learning centre could not
accommodate all of them. The newsletter assured
parents that special education would continue to
serve the very needy and provide strategies and
support for the students and teachers coping in the
Then came workshops for
teachers, led by resource personnel. These provided a
number of indispensable suggestions to teachers for
assisting kids in the gritty world of the regular
classroom. Teachers were offered a number of
metacognitive strategies for reading, as well as a
scheme for the organizing paragraphs. This also had
the benefit of providing a basis for skills
consistent throughout the school.
The portrait would not
be complete without mention of the modification
checklist for teachers developed at the Wentworth
County Board of Education. Under various headings,
the list outlined possible classroom modifications.
The checklist also went
out to parents with student report cards so that they
could see how the school was adapting programs to
meet their childs needs.
For staff, the checklist
was no mere chore. It heightened their interest in
special education needs by showing how easy it was to
modify for students needs. The changes included
preferred seating, rephrasing questions and extra
time for tests and assignments, to name just a few.
In the end, the model
gathered enough steam to see it through
implementation because of a concerted effort on the
part of teachers, students, administration and the
The model gave the
teachers reasons for change and the means to meet new
needs. Most important, it was an open process in
which difficulties were weighed and debated. Proposed
solutions were shared throughout the models
Implementing this model
was also a testimony to how effectively schools can
put plans in the works for themselves and solve
problems. The winners, in the end, were the kids.
Jim Files was the resource teacher at Mount
Hope when the model was set up. He now teaches Grade
6 at Bell-Stone School, just outside of Hamilton. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org