Education has been a dichotomous system consisting of two distinct programs, general education and special education. Each system consisting of its own programs, teachers, funding sources, classrooms, curriculum, and students. These systems have guided our educational practices, including how and where students are educated. Regardless of these distinct systems, today’s classrooms represent a broadly diverse population (Hanson et al., 1998). Due to the diverse student makeup in classrooms today, student needs have become so varied and the profile of a general and special education student have become less distinct. This variability forces educators to look beyond a system in an effort to support all students in the classroom. Teachers have been challenged in educating and being responsive to the needs of a diverse group of students (Muthukrishna & Schluter, 2011).
The Report of California’s Statewide Task Force on Special Education (2015) recognized that all teachers must “enter the profession able to effectively use needs-based interventions” to support all students with a variety of educational need. The Statewide Task Force recommended that all teachers are thoroughly prepared in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), utilizing data to monitor progress to inform instruction, and providing evidence-based reading instruction to adequately support all students (e.g., English Language Learners, students with disabilities). The recommendations outlined in the Statewide Task Force report demonstrate the need for all teachers to be prepared in supporting the needs of all students. As all teachers become prepared in teaching a variety of students with a range of academic needs, we can begin to instrumentally create an integrated system where all teachers support all students, regardless of diverse characteristics.
Hanson, M.J., Wolfberg, P., Zercher, C., Morgan, M., Gutierrez, S., Barnwell, D., & Beckman, P. (1998). The culture of inclusion: Recognizing diversity at multiple levels. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13(1), 185-209.
Muthukrishna, N., & Schluter, H. (2011). Towards socially just, inclusive school cultures. International Studies in Educational Administration, 39(1), 19-32.
Report on California’s Statewide Task Force on Special Education. (2015). One System: Reforming education to serve all students.