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Now that you’ve selected a topic and problem/issue for your Capstone Project that fits with your personal, professional, and academic goals; you now will think more specifically and deeply about what you have selected. Why this particular topic? What is the problem you are attempting to address and why? Now that you have identified a problem/issue, you need to take the next step and write a fully developed problem statement. For this assignment you will write the problem statement, developing and expanding on the problem that you have identified.To prepare:Review the “Problem Statement Guidelines” document attached.Review the attached articles related to the topic of special needs and inclusive learning classrooms.Review the justification for the topic of “the effectiveness of inclusive classrooms for special needs/developmental disabilities students.”The assignment:In 1-2 pages, respond to the following:Write a problem statement for the problem/issue selected for the Capstone Project.APA Format. Scholarly writing. No more than 2 pages.


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Hamline University
[email protected]
School of Education Student Capstone Projects
School of Education
Summer 2017
Inclusion Of Students With Mild To Moderate
Disabilities In Grades 1-5 Mainstream Language
Arts Classrooms
Jodi Lyn Smith
Hamline University
Follow this and additional works at:
Part of the Education Commons
Recommended Citation
Smith, Jodi Lyn, “Inclusion Of Students With Mild To Moderate Disabilities In Grades 1-5 Mainstream Language Arts Classrooms”
(2017). School of Education Student Capstone Projects. 2.
This Capstone Project is brought to you for free and open access by the School of Education at [email protected] It has been accepted for
inclusion in School of Education Student Capstone Projects by an authorized administrator of [email protected] For more information,
please contact [email protected], [email protected]
Jodi Lyn Smith
A capstone submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Master of Arts in Education.
Hamline University
St. Paul, Minnesota
August 2017
Primary Advisor: Susan Manikowski
Secondary Advisor: Lana Talberg
To my five children Sierra, Fayese, Caleb, Eshetu and Miranda. Thank you for being patient with
me over the years while I have been completing my education. May you share my love of
learning and follow your dreams throughout life. I love you all.
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction
My Journey to Discover What Makes a Successful Inclusive Language Arts Model
Action Research Question
CHAPTER TWO: Literature Review
Historical Background
Judicial Hearings
Determining the Least Restrictive Environment for Services
Benefits and Barriers to Inclusion
Strategies for Creating an Effective Inclusive Environment
Conclusion of Literature Review
Principles of Learning
Current Model for Special Education Services
CHAPTER FOUR: Conclusions
New Learning
Literature Review Revisited
Implications of Project
Future Possibilities for Related Research Projects
About This Capstone
For my capstone project, I will be researching Inclusion of students with mild to moderate
disabilities in grades 1-5 mainstream language arts classrooms. In this chapter, I will share my
journey in the field of special education as well as what lead me to research my topic. In
addition, this chapter will discuss the importance of designing a successful inclusive language
arts setting for staff members and students. This chapter will end with a summary of my journey
and an introduction to my literature review in chapter 2.
My Journey to Discover What Makes a Successful Inclusive Language Arts Model
It was the summer after my first year of college, and I had accepted a job working at a
group home for severely handicapped adults. A good friend of mine worked there and
encouraged me to work there with her, saying for a part time job, it paid well and it was ‘fun’. So
I did, and I fell in love with the individuals who lived there. It was my first experience working
with anyone who had a disability. The individuals who lived there had multiple severe
disabilities; most were non-verbal, many non-ambulatory, and they all needed assistance with
most aspects of their lives. I learned to feed someone using a feeding tube, I learned about their
special diets, how to puree all types of food and how to add thickener to the food so they would
not choke. I loved the people who worked there because they were caring and laid back people,
who I believed I was similar to.
Time to choose a major.
I also discovered at this time what I wanted to major in:
special education. Up until this point, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I had just been
taking my generals and was not too worried, because there were many things I was interested in,
it was just a matter of choosing. Everything happens for a reason. I have been told that many
times, and now I was experiencing it. My friend encouraging me to work at a group home with
her was meant to be, because it was that experience that lead me to my major, my passion, my
future. It was then I chose my major: special education.
A great opportunity.
I finished another year of generals and transferred to St. Cloud
State University where I finished my Bachelors of Science in Special Education and Elementary
Education. Soon after I began classes there, I was informed about a special program being
offered to students in education. This program, entitled Inclusive Teacher Education Project, or
ITEP, as we referred to it, was a two year program that allowed students to double major in
Specific Learning Disabilities and Elementary Education in the same amount of time that it
would have taken us to major in one or the other. It was only offered one time, as a result of
grant money, and only twenty students would be admitted into the program. Although I had
intended on majoring in Emotional Behavioral Disorders, I knew I could not pass up this
opportunity. I was one of the twenty fortunate students chosen for the program, and in May
1996, I graduated with my BS in Elementary Education and Specific Learning Disabilities.
Starting my career.
Immediately after graduation, I went back to my comfort zone,
and accepted a position working with high functioning adults living on their own, but who
required assistance with daily living skills. Although I liked this job, I knew I wanted to be back
in the classroom. In February 1997, I accepted my first teaching position at an alternative school
in a major metropolitan city. To date, this was probably my favorite place I have taught. The
staff and students taught me so much, and I definitely grew as an instructor and a human being. I
was surrounded by more diversity than ever before, and I loved it!
After a year and a half of teaching experience under my belt, I moved on to the public school
system, where I have been ever since. I have taught in inner city schools, as well as first, second
and third tier suburban school districts. All of these settings, except for my current, functioned on
the belief that students on an IEP should remain in the mainstream for core academic instruction
and be pulled out at a different time of the day for supplemental support in the area(s) they
qualified in for special education services. That was my norm for nine years, what I had been
prepared for in college and what I believed was the right way to service my students.
A Different philosophy for service.
Then I moved to my current school district and
accepted a job at the local elementary school as a learning disabilities teacher. I quickly
discovered that my new district functioned on a different philosophy for our special education
students. My new district serviced students on an IEP in the resource room in the areas they
received service (reading, writing, math) at the same time their peers received their instruction in
these areas in the mainstream setting. Our students did not get a “double dose” of service in the
areas they had a disability, but rather they received “replacement” instruction.
I have to admit, I had a difficult time adjusting to this model of service. I was always
advocating for our students to remain in the mainstream for core instruction and come to a
resource room later for extra support in the area(s) of specialized need. My suggestions did not
go over well with general education teachers, special education teachers or with administration.
After all, change is difficult; it is always easier to just keep doing what we had been doing
instead of changing our mindset, our teaching practices and our curriculum.
A welcome change.
Three years ago, a new principal came to our school. He shared
my belief that students should receive their core instruction in the mainstream, and told us we
would be working towards that model. I was excited! Two weeks before the 2016-2017 school
year started, we were told this would be the year we would start the transition. We were to select
our “higher functioning” students to be placed in our supplemental groups, meaning they would
stay in the mainstream for core instruction in Language Arts, then come to special education
resource rooms at a different time of day for supplemental service. It was finally happening!
Although I had been waiting for this moment for years, it came on quickly and without time
to prepare. The general education teachers felt they were especially unprepared. The special
education teachers felt equally unprepared. This has been a year filled with questions and
concerns: who is responsible for grading these students? How can these students be in my class
when they are failing? What kind of accommodations and modifications should be made for
these students? Who is responsible for these accommodations/modifications? What is the point
of special education if these students are still in the mainstream for instruction?
It has also been a year of growth for the staff, as well as the students. My fifth grade students
who are now in the mainstream for core instruction are PROUD to be there! I hear weekly how
much they like being in the mainstream for Language Arts. I have never once heard them
complain that it is too difficult for them in the mainstream or that they wish they could be back
in a small group. They have never once said they feel out of place or like they do not belong in
the mainstream. Their grades may not match their effort and enthusiasm, but I believe
wholeheartedly that they are benefitting from being in the mainstream.
Action Research Question
This glimmer of hope for moving towards a more inclusive setting, along with my own
personal beliefs, has lead me to my research topic and project: Inclusion of students with mild to
moderate disabilities in grades 1-5 mainstream language arts classrooms. I feel this is an
important topic to research as our school begins the process of switching to a more inclusive
service model of serving our special education population. We owe it to our students to provide
them with the best possible learning environment. We owe it to our students’ parents to provide
their children with an appropriate education. We owe it to ourselves to create an environment
that we feel comfortable in, and where we have the supports in place to help us succeed.
The other elementary school in our district already moved to an inclusive language arts
program three years ago. I have discussed with special education staff at the other school and
asked how their transition was from a pull out model to in push in model. I have heard what went
well, as well as what areas could be improved. Obtaining this information from them was helpful
because it can help our school as we begin this transition.
I believe by designing an effective inclusive language arts model at our school, our students
will benefit from not only being with their peers for more of the day, but from being taught their
core language arts instruction from their mainstream teachers, who are the masters at teaching
that curriculum. I believe the parents would also be happy knowing their children are receiving
not only supplemental instruction in their area(s) of need, but by also receiving instruction at
their grade level, and being exposed to grade level expectations.
My final project for my capstone was to create a PowerPoint presentation regarding the
inclusion of students with mild to moderate disabilities in language arts classrooms at an
elementary school. I used this information to help the staff members transition from a pull out
model of service for language arts to an inclusive model our elementary school. I will have
presented my PowerPoint to the staff at our school at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school
In summary, I am grateful for my first experience of working with individuals with
disabilities the summer after my first year of college. It was then that I discovered my passion for
advocating for individuals that could not advocate for themselves. It was then that I chose my
major of special education. Upon graduation from college, I began my career in special
education. For the past 20 years, I have been working with students of varying ages in different
settings within several school districts. I have seen successful inclusive settings for my students
and am excited to begin the transition to an inclusive language arts program at my current school
where I work as a learning disabilities teacher. I am excited to share with my colleagues my
PowerPoint on the history and benefits of inclusion and help transition to an inclusion based
language arts model.
In the following chapter, I will conduct a literature review on the topic of inclusion. Included
subtopics will consist of the history of special education and inclusion, least restrictive
environment and how to determine it, both benefits and barriers to inclusion and finally,
strategies for creating an effective inclusive language arts setting for grades 1-6.
Literature Review
This literature review will research the topic Inclusion of students with mild to moderate
disabilities in grades 1-5 mainstream language arts classrooms. First, a history of special
education and inclusion will be reviewed. Specific legislation and case law will be addressed, as
well as a basic guide to the process of identification of a student with special needs. Second, a
review of least restrictive environment (LRE) will be conducted. Specific legislation will be
discussed as well as strategies to help teams determine the LRE for a child. The benefits and
barriers to inclusive education will then be researched. Finally, strategies for creating an
effective inclusive setting will be included.
Historical Background
In this section, the history of special education and inclusion will be reviewed. Since
1975, there have been key legislation decisions made regarding special education services, least
restrictive environment (LRE) and inclusion of students with disabilities in educational settings.
Some of the more recent and well known legislature are the Individuals with Disabilities Act
(IDEA) of 1975 and the No Child left Behind (NCLB) act of 2002. In addition, there have been
numerous court cases that have impacted inclusion and LRE, including Brown vs Board of
Education (1954), Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania (1972) and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia (1972), It is
important to learn from past and current legislature and legal hearings in order to better help us
understand how to service our students with disabilities in educational settings.
History of special education. The education of students with disabilities has drastically
changed in nature over the years. As Scalf (2014) stated, initially, school districts were able to
deny enrollment to students they felt they were unable to learn which meant students with
disabilities were often denied access to public education. Some students with disabilities were
given the opportunity to receive an education, but they were often educated in separate schools,
away from their peers. Slowly, parents and other advocacy groups for individuals with
disabilities began to push for students with disabilities to be educated in the same settings as their
non-disabled peers.
Special education is defined in the statutory language as “specially designed
instruction… meet the unique needs of a child with a disability” (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. Sec
1404[a][16]). Although this may seem like a clear definition, there has been much debate in
recent years regarding what constitutes “specially designed instruction”.
Each state has its own criteria for qualifying for special education and related services.
However, all states require an evaluation process in order to determine eligibility. The evaluation
process may include identification of a student who is not making adequate progress in the
general education setting, pre-referral interventions, standardized testing, student file reviews
and interviews with the parents, teachers and students (if they are able to participate). At the
conclusion of the evaluation process, the selected team members, usually consisting of the
parents, special education teacher, general education teacher, school psychologist and other
support personnel identified at the beginning of the evaluation (school social worker, speech and
language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, autism consultant, etc.), meet to
go over results and determine eligibility.
The state of Minnesota currently recognizes thirteen categorical disability areas for
special education and related services. This requires educators to have some basic knowledge
about these very diverse areas which some of their students may be receiving services.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education website (2016), there are thirteen
categorical disability areas in which a student may qualify for special education and related
services. The list of these thirteen areas, along with the number of students serviced in each area
in the state of Minnesota, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education website with data
collected from the 2015-2016 IDEA section 618 Part B Child Count and Educational
Environments is listed in appendix A.
History of inclusion. Inclusion is a term used in special education which brings up
mixed emotions among parents, students, as well as special and general education teachers alike.
Inclusion has several different interpretations, depending on the source. The Office of Special
Education Programs (OSEP) defines regular class placement (inclusion) as one in which students
with disabilities receive special education and related services outside the regular class for 0%20% of the school day (U.S. Department of Education). Others see inclusion as students with
disabilities spending their entire school day in the mainstream setting with their non-disabled
peers. Both definitions involve having students identified as having a disability educated in the
same environment as their non-disabled peers to some extent. However, when using the OSEP’s
definition of inclusion, inclusion can also entail some form of exclusion.
Inclusion of students with disabilities is a fairly recent concept. Education of students
with disabilities was first formally addressed in 1975 with the Education for All Handicapped
Children Act of 1975. This act, also referred to as EAHCA, EHA or Public Law (PL) 94-142,
“…required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and
one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities” (Wikipedia, 2016). This
law was passed to meet four main goals:
1. To ensure that special education services are available to those who need them
2. To guarantee that decisions about services to disabled students are fair and appropriate
3. To establish specific management and auditing requirements for special education
4. To provide federal funds to help states educate disabled students
EAHCA addressed the placing of children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment
(LRE) for the first time in history. This was the beginning of the pus …
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