Some of the classes have a disproportionately large number of special ed students. For example, in one freshman biology class, 17 of the 25 students have a disability. Special education teacher Peter Zimmerman says the school would like to bring that down to 5 to 10 special ed students in a regular class.
West Chicago takes a team approach. Regular education teachers are responsible for the education of their special ed students. However, they get help from special education facilitators, who modify curriculum and teaching methods to meet the goals of children’s individual education plans (IEPs), and from teacher’s assistants, who work individually with special ed students. If a child is having difficulty in a certain subject, the facilitator may work one-on-one with him in class. To make sure the team is in sync, all three meet weekly during school hours to review the child’s progress and plan for the next week.
“Mainstreaming was primarily for kids who cognitively were pretty much on target with the rest of the kids,” says Rhonda Best of Project Choices, an inclusion consultancy. Children with disabilities who demonstrated an ability to keep up earned the opportunity to be in a regular education class. They weren’t given any additional support or services and were held to the same criteria as the non-disabled students, Best says.