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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: What Factors Impact the Success of Special Education Students in the Inclusive Secondary English Classroom?



Inclusion—the process of moving children with disabilities into regular education settings so that they are able to get the same instruction as their fellow regular education students— has been discussed greatly by legislators, educators, and parents of disabled children. Keeping disabled students in isolated settings in schools has been a practice that has taken place for many years in education. Today, one can walk the halls of schools and still find classrooms where disabled youngsters do not have an opportunity to come in contact with students in the mainstream. Many disabled children are kept in “remediation” classes. These classes are supposedly designed to improve the skills of disabled youngsters so that they will be able to perform well academically. Unfortunately, teachers in these remediation programs spend much time working on improving students’ performance on basic skills. Thus the assignments they complete are repetitive and mundane, and disabled students very often do not have an opportunity to do assignments that challenge their critical and creative thinking.

Efforts at school reform place disabled children with regular education students in the same classrooms to receive the same instruction and the same directions, regardless of their weaknesses. These reform efforts utilize varied instructional strategies that help to jump-start the skills of disabled students. While varying the process to achieve identified goals, special education students are no longer tracked and locked into groupings that are based solely on their academic capabilities but have an opportunity to get into groups that challenge their thinking, because they are based upon their interest and learning profiles.

In this action research study, I looked at one reform effort—inclusion—and studied groups of disabled students who for the first time had been placed in a full inclusion setting. I studied the progress they made in their eleventh- and twelfth-grade English classrooms and further examined how these students fared in their new setting. I also looked at the factors that support and/or hinder their academic progress.

As states push to get students to pass high-stakes tests, a large amount of money is being expended to improve the performance of students so that they can reach the school district’s Average Yearly Progress (AYP) targets that are established by state department of education personnel. Placing students with disabilities into these settings places additional burdens on these expenditures while also placing districts at risk of being labeled substandard when large percentages of their students are not meeting AYP targets.

My findings demonstrate that disabled students can perform just as well as—and in some cases better than—their regular education counterparts when schools take the initiative to implement school reform efforts that are designed to help improve the academic performance of students, provide a school atmosphere where students feel connected to their environment and school personnel, and provide much needed resources to help address the health and social problems students encounter. The participants in this study were asked to complete a student survey. The results indicate that all but one of the forty-four participants enjoyed being in the inclusion setting.


  • Policy makers should study the results of inclusion classrooms, considering both the academic performance and the social wellbeing of the disabled students.
  • Inclusion should be part of all districts that have students with disabilities, and the proper training should be provided to the teachers involved.

Full Study
Coming Soon!

Juanita Pritchett

Special Ed., 11th and 12th Grade English
Glasgow High

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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