Specialized: Comparing Perceptions of the Inclusive Classroom

Author: Caitlin Blake
Major: Elementary Education
Approved: Fall 2020
Status: In progress

This project is intended to provide a look into how government officials’ and teachers’ perceptions of ideals pushed by advancing educational inclusion law differ. Students with disabilities, at least once admitted into public schools in the United States, have historically been separated from their neuro- and otherwise typical classmates until recently. With the changes brought by ideologies and Special Education (SPED) legislations such as No Child Left Behind, Every Student Succeeds, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the concept of “the least restrictive environment” has become largely popular and prevalent in the education world. The question this project attempts to address, then, is whether teachers of students with disabilities at different levels view these policies in the same light as the larger educational community. It certainly won’t answer the overarching debate of which methods are most helpful to students of Special Education, but it aims to provide some insight into the deeper issue there. My project will take the final form of a research paper and presentation for the project defense, but the project itself really is in the literature review of laws, current practices, and past research; the development of an IRB-approved survey, analysis methods, and application of those methods of qualitative analysis to the politicians and lawmakers’ own words; distribution of the survey (and its qualitative extension to a percentage of random respondents) to teachers through presence at The Margaret Sue Copenhaver Institute for Teaching and Learning (henceforth referred to simply as MSCI) and through my access to a Facebook group of SPED teachers, ‘SPED Ahead’; summary of those results using the same methods applied to the lawmakers; and finally comparative analysis of the two groups’ perceptions. The final analysis will include drawing lines between teachers as a population, SPED teachers, and Board & Dept. Of Education employees among other comparisons. It will be concluded with the research paper, public presentation, and project defense.