Preparing to Embark
We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people,
different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.
— Jimmy Carter, 39th U.S. President, 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner The quotation above eloquently conveys a genuine appreciation for the diversity that surrounds us. The nation’s public schools serve an extremely diverse student population. Educators who work in these schools need to understand how to reach and teach these young people.
A single approach does not work with each individual student. Truly, “ One size does not fit all. ” Teachers should know how to form positive relationships with students and create a learning environment that respects all students. They should be able to draw upon a repertoire of strategies that will enable them to design a variety of meaningful learning experiences, which will enable students to connect with the content and ideas delineated in the state’s curriculum.
Reaching and teaching all students is no easy task! Each child from every background deserves to be educated at the appropriate level and in a way that is tailored for him or her.
If you are taking this course and reading this textbook, you presumably are interested in becoming a teacher. Taking on that role requires you to be able to work with all kinds of “ different people .” The next destination on your journey of “ Discovering the Teacher Within You ” will allow you to explore the concept of diversity. By developing greater understanding, we hope you will also cultivate a deep appreciation for the differences that we see all around us.
Ahoy fellow sailors! Check your compass and set sail toward the next waypoint.
Ready yourselves to delve into the fascinating topic of diversity, with the aim of
increasing cultural understanding!
Treasuring the Diversity Around You
You are in the initial stages of your teacher preparation program, and you have a host of thought-provoking learning opportunities ahead. On this leg of your journey of “ Discovering the Teacher Within You ,” you will explore issues critical to the success of today’s teachers. As today’s world is growing ever more diverse, so are our schools and classrooms.
As a person who aspires to take on the role of a teacher, you will be expected to understand, value, and respect the cultural diversity that each student brings to the classroom. You must be committed to high levels of learning for ALL students.
Treasuring the Diversity
In this chapter, you will be introduced to the critical aspects of cultural identity. You will be asked to examine your own culture and the ways in which that background has shaped your experiences and your view of the world. You become aware of the key laws that define requirements for the education of students with identified needs. You will learn about some approaches that are being used with groups of students who have specific needs, such as English language learners, gifted learners, and students who live in poverty. You will be invited to think about how you can prepare to teach a diverse population of students.
Intrepid explorer, are you ready to step ashore and begin your adventures? Remember
to bring along an open mind and an inquisitive attitude! Off you go!
The uniqueness of each person is worthy of understanding and respect.
Essential Questions for Developing an Understanding
and Appreciation of Diversity
As you read this chapter about treasuring diversity, keep in mind the following “big idea” questions: • What is meant by the term diversity?
• What are some components of a person’s cultural identity?
• Why is it important to help students learn about their own cultural background and heritage? • How can teachers be responsive to the diversity of today’s students?
• What are some key laws that provide for equitable educational opportunities for diverse student populations?
• What is inclusion?
• What are some approaches that are being used with groups of students who have specific needs? • How can you prepare to teach diverse students?
Americans with Disabilities Act bilingual education
Bilingual Education Act of 1968 culture
cultural identity diversity
dual language immersion approach
Education for All Handicapped Children Act English as a Second Language approach English language learners (ELLs) English-only approach
Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 Fourteenth Amendment
free and appropriate public education free and reduced-price lunch program
gifted and talented inclusion
individualized education program (IEP) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act least restrictive environment
Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
Response to Intervention (RTI) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act subcultures
transitional bilingual approach Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Treasuring the Diversity Around You
Charting Your Course
The secret of education lies in respecting the student.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher, poet, and essayist (1803–1882) Contemplate this quote and ponder your interpretation of it. Is there a “secret” of education? What does “respect” mean to you? What is entailed in “respecting the student”?
Whatever your responses to these questions, you undoubtedly will agree that developing a positive relationship with another person involves showing consideration, admiration, esteem, or deference to that person. Everyone wants to be treated as a person worthy of attention and courteous treatment—to be respected as a human being.
Respect is built on a strong foundation of understanding, which includes understanding of the self as well as of others. Understanding one’s own cultural identity can facilitate the understanding of the culture and traditions of others from different backgrounds.
Are you ready to continue your mission of “Discovering the Teacher Within You”? Prepare to step ashore at this important stopover on your voyage. Pull out your shovel and make ready to uncover a true treasure—a deeper understanding and appreciation of the human variety that surrounds you. Continue reading to dig into the enthralling topic of student diversity!
Students in U.S. Schools are some of the Most Diverse in the World
What Is Meant by the Term “Diversity”?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of
differing elements, especially the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization; variety” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, n.d.). As the population of
America becomes ever more diverse, so does the population of the students served by our public schools (e.g., Holloway, 2003; Pryor, 2003; Stancil, 2018).
Students in U.S. schools are some of the most diverse in the world. At the beginning of the 21st century, approximately 40% of our nation’s public school students were children of color. By 2023, predictions indicate that they will make up approximately 55% of the total school population (NCES, 2016e). The percentage of enrolled students who are White is projected to continue to decline through at least fall 2026, whereas the enrollment of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander students is expected to increase (NCES, 2017a, 2017b). As racial and ethnic diversity grows, students from diverse religions and with a variety of identified exceptionalities make up a significant and increasingly larger percentage of the student population. The home languages of students surpass 100 in some school districts.
As you progress through your teacher preparation program, you will want to seek out and take full advantage of every opportunity to increase your knowledge base and develop skills so that you are well prepared to teach a truly diverse student population. Teachers in today’s schools are expected to educate ALL students to high and rigorous standards.
A Quotation to Ponder—A Mind-altering Learning Process
While you continue to read this chapter and explore the rich diversity around you, keep in mind the following quotation. Think about how it relates to the mind-altering learning process you are engaged in.
Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
—William James, American psychologist and philosopher (1842–1910)
Writing Activity—Deepening Your Understanding of Diversity
Pause for a moment to consider your understanding of the concept of diversity as it relates to our nation’s schools and classrooms. Think about the following questions and make notes in the space provided.
How would you define diversity? Make a list of the types of individual differences that you are aware of that contribute to the diversity found in populations of students and teachers. Why do you think it is necessary for students and grown-ups alike to be able to interact in a positive way with others who differ from them?
If you have an opportunity, discuss your responses to these questions with a group of your fellow students. How did your responses differ? What ideas about diversity seem to be most prevalent among you? What important issues emerged? Add to your notes any ideas from your classmates that you think are important to include.
What Does It Mean to Have a Cultural Identity?
Any discussion of diversity also introduces into the conversation a consideration of each person’s distinctive
cultural identity. Culture involves all of the things that a group shares as a way of life or living. People take certain aspects of the culture they belong to and use them to define and shape who they are. Each person has a cultural
identity drawn from a unique cultural background. Many people come from backgrounds that include a mix of different cultures, and they often identify with more than one (Common Ground, n.d.; Simmons, 2017).
In addition, there are many differences within the same broad cultural group. These intragroup differences might be termed subcultures or microcultures. As an example, females might belong to the same-gender microculture, but not to the same racial, language, or socioeconomic group. Membership in those additional subcultures may greatly influence a person’s behavior and way of life. Stereotypes often emerge from biased judgments that are based on a single observable microcultural membership.
Cultural identity encompasses having a sense of who you are and where you come from. It gives you a sense of belonging. It is dynamic and subject to change over time. As an individual’s circumstances change (e.g., being single, being married, being divorced, losing a job), that person may weigh differently the major determinants of his or her identity.
As you learn about the rich diversity of the students in today’s schools, you are encouraged to take time to examine your own cultural background and consider the influences that have blended and coalesced to make you a unique individual. The following activity is designed to inspire you to create a cultural identity shield to represent elements of your own cultural background that are most important to you.
Writing Activity—A Celebration of Diversity: Creating Your Cultural Identity Shield
Everyone participates in a variety of subcultures, or microcultural memberships, which influence one’s sense of who one is. Write down some factors that have influenced your cultural identity, such as
• Ethnicity and racial heritage;
• Family, ancestors, and national origin; • Gender and gender identification; • Sexual orientation;
• Socioeconomic class, income, and occupation; • Religious affiliation;
• Language (including dialects); • Exceptionalities;
• Geographic location (region of the country; state; urban, suburban, or rural areas); • Traditions, holidays, celebrations;
• Foods, music, dance, hobbies, sports, recreational activities; • Values, beliefs;
After you have completed your list, narrow it down to the five or six factors you consider most important to your overall sense of who you are. Note those key factors in the following chart .
Most Important Aspects of My Cultural Identity
Adapted from Simmons (2017a).
Next, you are invited to use the factors you listed here to create a cultural identity shield, or your personal coat-of-arms. Follow these steps:
1. On a large sheet of paper or a poster board, draw the outline of a shield or coat-of-arms.
2. Divide the shield into segments (sizes may vary), one area for each aspect of your identity you have identified as important to your overall sense of who you are.
3. In each segment, create a drawing or insert a graphic to represent/illustrate that aspect of your identity. 4. On the back of your poster or on a separate paper, write a brief explanation of the elements you included
in your shield. Indicate why your membership in these groups is especially important in the identifica-tion of who you are.
5. If possible, share your cultural identity shield with your classmates and give an informal presentation in which you explain each component of your shield.
How Can Teachers Be Responsive to the Diversity of Students?
Teachers must be aware of learner needs and learning differences and be able to nurture the growth of each of the unique individuals entrusted to their care. Effective teachers go well beyond just being familiar with federal and state laws and policies that govern special education programs. They genuinely treasure the diversity of their students and utilize strategies to understand and address each child’s individual needs.
In order to develop positive relationships with students and their families, teachers need to appreciate and respect people from different cultures. They need to be able to demonstrate that they value each student’s cultural background. They can do this by serving as role models who respect and learn from people from different cultural backgrounds and who value differences and reject stereotypes. They can strive to create a learning environment that honors students’ identities (e.g., ethnicity and race, gender, language, class, sexuality, religion) and supports a diversity of thoughts, viewpoints, and experiences. They can work with administrators, librarians, and other teachers to ensure that cultural differences are reflected in the curriculum and activities of the school. They can tap into the rich array of resources available in the school district, community, state, and beyond (e.g., Common Ground, n.d.; Willis, 2007; Wong, 2011).
As you prepare yourself to join the teaching profession, make it your goal to gain deeper knowledge of issues and opportunities related to the diverse student populations who attend today’s schools and classrooms. Embrace every occasion to learn from your professors, public school educators, experiences in the field, your peers, and your own reading and study. Continuously develop your ability to build a strong framework for success for all of your future students.
Effective Teachers Genuinely Treasure the Diversity of Their Students and Utilize Strategies to Understand and Address Each Child’s Individual Needs
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com
A Quotation to Ponder—Diversity Enriches Our Lives
Diversity is a given in our world and in the teaching profession. This fact offers us the opportunity to reap great benefits, both personally and professionally. Consider the following quotation.
What makes teachers true educators is their acknowledgment, appreciation, and respect of students’ differences. Students’ diverse intelligences, talents, skills, interests, and backgrounds enrich our schools and our lives as teachers.
—Judy Willis, Author of Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom, 2007
Writing Activity—Learning More About Different Cultural Groups
Observe a group of people that you would characterize as diverse. Possibilities of groups to observe include public school classrooms you visit for field experience activities, a class at your university, people attending an event or meeting, or people you see while shopping.
Make a list of the observable microcultural memberships represented in the group you observed, such as race, ethnicity, language, gender, class, or other aspects of cultural identity discussed previously. What intrigued you about the people you studied? Did you observe any interactions or behaviors that perplexed you? Outline a plan for learning more about cultural groups that are different from your own. Remember to include both formal and informal learning opportunities.
Use the space provided to capture your thoughts, and then share your responses with classmates, if possible.
How Do Schools Educate English Language Learners?
In recent decades, the increase in racial and ethnic diversity in America has been accompanied by an associated increase in language diversity. The number of nonnative English speakers continues to grow in the United States, and the number of students in today’s schools and classrooms who are not yet proficient in English also is steadily increasing (National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], 2008; Sargrad, 2016; TESOL International Association [TESOL], n.d.; United States Census Bureau [Census Bureau], n.d.a, n.d.c). As an aspiring teacher, you will need to learn how to best provide opportunities for success for students who are English Language Learners (ELLs).
With the passage of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, the federal government began its involvement in the education of students whose first language was not English. This law required that special language services for ELLs be provided in public schools, but since it did not specify a program or methodology, this decision was left to local schools. In 2002, this law was replaced with the English Language Acquisition Act (Enz, Bergeron, & Wolfe, 2007).
More recently, the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed by Congress in 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, significantly strengthened accountability requirements and authorized substantial increases in funding for services for ELLs . Under ESSA, each state’s accountability system must include an indicator
for improving English-language proficiency, which should help to ensure that ELL students receive the support they need. Increased funding under Title III of the law authorizes more money than ever before for programs for ELLs. These additional dollars will be needed to address the widespread shortages of teachers of English as a second language (ESL), as well as challenges these teachers face related to preparation, compensation, and high-quality professional development (Sargrad, 2016).
In 1990, approximately 1 in 20 students was an ELL. As of 2017, almost 1 out of every 10 students in U.S. public schools is learning to speak English. Among the nearly 5 million ELLs, the vast majority— approximately 3.8 million students—speak Spanish, although many other languages are spoken, too. Among them are Chinese, Arabic, and Vietnamese. Most ELL students were born in this country and are U.S. citizens. California has more ELL students than any other state (29%), followed by Florida (5%) and New York (4%). North Carolina was among the top five states in the growth of the ELL population from 2000 to 2014 (NCTE, 2008; Sanchez, 2017; Sargrad, 2016).
The majority of the funding for ELL programs comes from local and state sources. Although 90% of these students are enrolled in designated ELL programs, as many as half-a-million do not receive any special instruction to help them to learn English (Sanchez, 2017).
Federal law requires states to have a system to determine the languages spoken in the homes of each student and identify students in need of language support services due to their limited proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English. Although the screening process for the identification of ELLs differs from state to state, it generally involves two steps: (1) a take-home survey to identify students who may need English development services based on degree of English language exposure and (2) an English language assessment, which evaluates the student’s language proficiency and confirms the student’s language status (Education Commission of the States [ECS], 2014).
In North Carolina, the method of screening includes administering a home language survey when students enroll in school. School districts are responsible for identifying and assessing every student who lacks proficiency in English. To determine a student’s current level of English proficiency, districts may use a combination of methods, such as the following: review of student records, parent information, interviews of teachers, teacher observations, student grades and achievement test scores, criterion-referenced tests of English proficiency, and informal assessments and screenings (ECS, 2014; North Carolina Department of Public Instruction [NCDPI], 2016).
How to best provide opportunities for success for students who are ELLs continues to be the subject of debate. As generally implemented, bilingual education programs utilize the students’ native language to deliver instruction while they become proficient in English. Several approaches—or a combination of approaches—may be found in schools (e.g., Enz, Bergeron, & Wolfe, 2007; NCTE, 2008; Sanchez, 2017), and some of the most common are described in the following paragraphs.
In a transitional bilingual model, English learners are taught by a teacher who is fluent in both English and the students’ native language, most commonly Spanish. All subjects are taught in the students’ native language, but the emphasis is on English proficiency in reading and writing. This instruction continues over a period of 2–3 years, with the goal of having the students become fluent in English while retaining knowledge of their native language. Heterogeneous grouping is an important element of this approach, allowing students with stronger vocabulary and English-language skills to serve as models for others.
In an English as a second language approach, students are placed with peers in an age-appropriate grade, but they receive intense English instruction for part of the day in a separate setting. This model is often called “sheltered instruction.” The aim is to get the students to function in English as quickly as possible, with little time spent on their native language.
Another approach is an English-only model such as Structured English Immersion (SEI). Students are taught primarily in English and then transferred to a regular, English-language classroom. The goal of SEI is to encourage the students to become proficient in English only, which often means that they abandon their first language.
In a dual-language immersion model, the classroom includes both native English speakers and ELLs. During the school day, all academic subjects are taught in two languages. For ELLs, literacy development is emphasized in both the child’s native language and in English. In this approach, English speakers learn a second language and ELLs learn English. The demand for this approach has increased in recent years (Sanchez, 2017).
The TESOL International Association is the largest organization focused exclusively on English-language teaching for speakers of other languages. It annually hosts more than 10,000 professionals who work with ELLs from across the United States and around the world at its international convention. In March 2018, TESOL published a set of guidelines for ELL instruction. The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners was the result of decades of research in language pedagogy and theory of language acquisition. The principles are intended as a foundation for any program of English-language instruction, and they are applicable regardless of the content being taught or the context in which instruction takes place. The six principles are listed. Detailed descriptions of each principle are available on the TESOL website.
1. Know your learners.
2. Create conditions for language learning.
3. Design high-quality lessons for language development. 4. Adapt lesson delivery as needed.
5. Monitor and assess student language development. 6. Engage and collaborate within a community of practice.
The principles encourage teachers to celebrate multilingualism by respecting and promoting students’ home languages and their cultural backgrounds and experiences, and purposefully utilizing these as resources for classroom learning. Educators are urged to collaborate with others in the profession with regard to programming, instruction, and advocacy for ELLs (TESOL, n.d., 2018).
North Carolina’s State Board of Education approved English Language Proficiency Standards in 2008 for grades K-12. These are the Essential Standards for ESL and are a component of the state’s Standard Course of Study. The NCDPI website has links to the standards and support tools (NCDPI, n.d.c). There also is an ESL Wiki to assist educators in understanding federal law and state policy regarding the education of English learners (NCDPI, n.d.b). Another Wiki provides information about the Dual-Language/Immersion (DL/I) Programs in the state. According to that site, North Carolina launched its first DL/I program in the fall of 1990. Currently, there are over 140 programs across the state. Seven different languages—Cherokee, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, and Spanish—are represented in these programs (NCDPI, n.d.a). You will read more about the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.
All educators, not just bilingual education teachers, must know how to address the needs of ELLs, since they will be among the students in their schools. It is important for practitioners to understand that ELLs are a diverse, heterogeneous group. They come from varied backgrounds, speak different languages, and bring a range of experiences to the classroom. To meet their educational goals and needs, teachers must be able to draw upon an array of effective instructional approaches and strategies. High-quality preparation programs, as well as ongoing professional development and support, are needed by today’s educators to ensure that this growing population of ELL students is well served.
Writing Activity—Approaches to Teaching ELLs
In the previous section, you read about several common approaches used in bilingual education programs. Reread that section and consider the possible pros and cons of each approach. Record your
thoughts in the following table, or in a similar table that you create. Chat about your ideas with your classmates, if possible.
Approach Advantages Disadvantages
Transitional Bilingual •
• • English as a Second Language •
• • • English-only • • • • Dual-Language Immersion • • • •
Adapted from Simmons (2017b).
What Are “Special Needs”?
As a classroom teacher, you will need to know how to respond effectively when working with students who have special needs. In other courses you take as part of your teacher preparation program, you will dig more deeply into the topic of special education and learn more about the federal laws that require school districts to provide appropriate education programs for students who have been identified as having special needs. The following sections will provide general information about these issues. Over time, you will want to continuously add to your knowledge base and learn strategies that you can incorporate into your teaching practice for addressing the needs of all of your students.
Federal Laws Require School Districts to Provide Appropriate Education Programs for Students who have been Identified as Having Special Needs wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com
What Are Some Key Laws That Govern Special Education Programs?
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law” (Library of Congress, n.d., p. 358). That protection encompasses the promise of equal educational opportunity for citizens, including qualified persons with a disability. Beginning in the 1970s, Congress passed several special education laws with which educators should be familiar.
Education for All Handicapped Children Act
During the 1950s and 1960s, parents of children with disabilities began to band together and advocate for access to public schools as an issue of civil rights. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142), passed in 1975, requires that students with disabilities have access to public education and provides funding for special education and related services to states that comply with the law. More recently reauthorized in 2004 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA (PL 108-446), it is the main law that governs educational services for students with disabilities (U.S. Department of Education [ED], 2004). Prior to the passage of this legislation, few districts served students with disabilities in their schools; after its passage, all students became eligible for public education. As a result of this law, fewer students identified with special needs received services in settings outside the regular school setting, such as separate schools, residential facilities, homebound instruction, or a hospital. Public schools began to offer more self-contained classrooms tailored for students with disabilities and resource room settings where they could be pulled out of the regular classroom for periods of the school day (Bateman & Cline, 2016; Southwest Educational Development Laboratory [SEDL], 1995).
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The IDEA has had a major impact on school policies and procedures. Under IDEA, states are responsible for meeting the special needs of eligible children with disabilities. State laws can mandate more protection than IDEA, but not less. Criteria to determine programs and guidelines for qualifying students for special education may vary from state to state. Federal law supersedes state law (ED, 2004; Understanding Special Education, n.d.a).
Students who qualify for special education services are to receive a free and appropriate public education, often referred to by its acronym, FAPE. The law includes requirements pertaining to educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards. To meet the criteria of FAPE, the needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. A child does not need to be failing in school to receive special education and related services. The IDEA requires that states must make free and appropriate public education available to “any individual child with a
disability who needs special education and related services, even if the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade” (ED, 2004 [section 300.101(c)(1)]).
The necessary services (e.g., assessment, instruction, special transportation if needed, other specialized services) are to be provided at no cost to the student’s family. School districts are required to identify and, with parental permission, provide every eligible student with an education based on his or her individual needs.
The IDEA lists categories of disabilities under which individuals from ages 3 through 21 may be eligible for services. These categories are
• Emotional disturbance;
• Hearing impairment (including deafness);
• Intellectual disability (mental retardation); • Orthopedic impairment;
• Other health impairments; • Specific learning disability; • Speech or language impairment; • Traumatic brain injury;
• Visual impairment (including blindness).
Some individuals may fit into more than one category of disabilities (multiple disabilities). The IDEA provides definitions for each disability category, and these federal definitions guide how states identify who is eligible for free and appropriate public education under IDEA (ED, 2004; National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 2012; Understanding Special Education, n.d.c).
All students identified as having a disability and requiring special education are to receive an
individualized education program, or IEP, which essentially is a contract between the district and the child’s parents. The IEP must be written at least annually for all children with disabilities. The IEP outlines the types of educational and intervention services to be provided for the student and generally includes the following components: personalized, measurable goals; assessment measures for each goal; and guidance for teachers regarding instruction (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development [ASCD], n.d.; ED, 2004).
The student is to receive education services in the least restrictive environment, which means that they will be educated with peers of their own age to the fullest extent possible, typically in the general education classroom with appropriate developmental, corrective, or other support services (e.g., psychological, counseling, and medical diagnostic services, and transportation). A more restrictive environment is considered only if the needs of the student are not being met in the general education classroom (Bateman & Cline, 2016; ED, 2004, 2015; Willis, 2007).
The statute also contains detailed due-process provisions to ensure that no changes can be made in a student’s program without prior notice to the parents. These provisions also include mechanisms for the resolution of disagreements (ED, 2004, 2015; Understanding Special Education, n.d.a).
The IDEA is a grant statute and attaches many specific conditions to the receipt of federal IDEA funds. In contrast, Section 504 and the ADA, which are discussed now, are antidiscrimination laws and do not provide any type of funding (ED, 2015).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 504, included in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal civil rights law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. As publicly funded agencies, schools must comply with this legislation. Section 504 provides: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the
United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. . .” (ED, 2015).
Under Section 504, fewer procedural safeguards are available than under IDEA. Section 504 ensures that a child with a disability has equal access to an education. Under Section 504, a child may receive accommodations and modifications (e.g., building accessibility, classroom accommodations, curriculum modifications). However, unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not require a public school to provide an IEP, which is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of a child who qualifies for special education. An IEP provides more rights and protections than 504 plans provide (Howey, 2012; Jung, 2017b; Understanding Special Education, n.d.b; Wrightslaw, n.d.).
A 504 plan is an educational plan for a child who needs accommodations or modifications within the regular classroom environment. Section 504 requires that the school develop a plan, but it does not require a written document (Howey, 2012). A 504 plan generally should include the following:
• Statement of the child’s disability and the resulting problem;
• Accommodation/modification to address the problem (e.g., extended time, different test format, altera-tions to the classroom);
• Person responsible for implementing the accommodation/modification;
• Contact person at the school who serves as case manager (Understanding Special Education, n.d.b).
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and was updated with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The ADA was originally enacted in public law format and later rearranged and published in the U.S. Code. It is not specifically related to schools, but it serves to further define the rights of individuals with disabilities, especially those with physical limitations, to have access to public buildings, private businesses, and public transportation. Although the ADA has been controversial in some ways that it has been implemented, it has had a broad impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and their ability to fully participate in society. Many improvements to the design of modern buildings and services were undertaken as a response to this legislation (ED, 2015; Federal Register, 2016; O’Brien & Beattie, 2015; U.S. Department of Justice, n.d.).
North Carolina Laws Related to Education of Children With Disabilities
North Carolina statutes address issues related to the implementation of IDEA in the state in Article 9, sections 115C-106 through 115C-148. Within those sections, the statutes address such topics as the duties of the State Board of Education, the duties of state agencies, the duties of local education agencies, teacher qualifications, monitoring and enforcement, and reporting requirements (North Carolina General Assembly [NCGA], n.d.).
What Is Inclusion?
As a teacher, you set the tone for your classroom. If you model respect for who your students are as individuals and celebrate their unique traits and abilities, you will take the first steps toward providing a classroom space that is an inviting learning community.
As discussed in the preceding section, under federal and state laws governing special education programs, students with disabilities are entitled to receive accommodations or modifications appropriate to their individual needs. These educational and intervention services are spelled out in the child’s IEP or Section 504 plan.
In the decades since these laws were enacted, separate pullout classes for students with disabilities have become less prevalent. Students, who previously were sent to separate, “special” schools, now attend classes with other children their age. For a while, schools used a mainstreaming approach, in which the disabled child joined a general education class for nonacademic work and then was removed for the academic components of his or her special education program. Now a full inclusion approach is more common, in which special education support programs are coordinated and integrated within the general education program (Jung, 2017a; Pryor, 2003; SEDL, 1995; Willis, 2007).
As an approach to special education, inclusion provides opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their nondisabled peers in general education classrooms instead of being placed in pullout classes for significant periods of time during the school day. The goal of an inclusive classroom is to provide all students with appropriately challenging, yet supported, learning experiences (Savich, 2008; SEDL, 1995; Willis, 2007). To successfully manage a fully inclusive classroom, teachers need specific training as well as ongoing support from a team of knowledgeable professionals (Goley, 2013; Pryor, 2003).
Supporters and Opponents of Inclusion Identify a Mix of Advantages and Disadvantages
What Are the Pros and Cons of Inclusion?
Over the years, there has been much discussion of the benefits and negatives of inclusion. While inclusion is widely practiced in today’s schools (Goley, 2013; Mastropieri, Scruggs, Graetz, Norland, Gardizi, & McDuffie, 2005; NCES, 2016a, 2016b), debate still continues, and consensus has yet to be reached.
According to a study by Savich (2008), among the benefits are reduced costs, the development for students with disabilities of greater self-esteem and social skills, a greater integration of students with diverse needs, and the fostering of equity and equality for all students. Some of the disadvantages were that regular and advanced students received less time and attention from teachers and standards were lowered. He concluded that the benefits outweighed the costs because inclusion fosters desirable goals of education, which include tolerance for diversity, equity, equality, community integration, and achievement for all students.
Some of the salient points in the literature on the pros and cons of inclusion are listedin the following table. Inclusion—Advantages and Disadvantages
• Providing more equitable education for all students
• Requiring a fundamental change in the way a school supports and addresses the individual needs of each child • Fostering a supportive environment
where students of all abilities are valued and appreciated
• Intensifying the need for ongoing communication and collaboration among regular education teachers, special education teachers, specialists, and parents
• Providing a wider variety of educational resources
• Limiting the range of services available for children with special needs
• Increasing the academic success of students with special needs
• Increasing the demands on teachers to address the needs of diverse learners
Inclusion—Advantages and Disadvantages
• Having more teachers in the classroom to provide assistance
• Lack of appropriate professional development, resources, and support for teachers in inclusive classrooms
• Increasing student engagement through differentiated instruction
• Lowering academic expectations, especially for the more advanced students and students with disabilities
• Providing role models for academic and social skills
• Reducing opportunities for one-on-one attention for nondisabled students
• Raising self-esteem and sense of belonging of students with disabilities
• Increasing distractions and behavioral disruptions in the classroom
Representative Sources: Foust (2012), Goley (2013), Inclusive Schools Network (2015), Jussim and Harber (2005), National Association of State Boards of Education (2016), SEDL (1995), Shanker (1994/1995).
What Is the Current Status of the Educational Placements
of Students With Disabilities?
The U.S. Department of Education publishes an annual report to Congress on the implementation of IDEA (ED, 2017). The collection of these data began in 1976, shortly after the passage of federal laws (Goley, 2013). The percentage of students aged 6-21 served under IDEA, who were placed in the general education classroom in regular schools, has increased steadily over the intervening years. One section of the report addresses the question, “To what extent were students served under IDEA . . . educated with
their peers without disabilities?” The percentage of students who spent 80% or more of their time inside
the general education classroom increased from 31.7 in 1989 to 62.2 in 2014 (NCES, 2016a, 2016b). The 2017 IDEA report to Congress included data from the 2014–2015 school year, which showed that
94.8% of students, aged 6 through 21, were educated in regular classrooms for at least some portion of the school day. More than 60% (62.7%) of those students were educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day. A total of 18.7% of students were educated inside the regular class for no more than 79% of the day and no less than 40% of the day, and 13.5% were educated inside the regular class for less than 40% of the day. A little over 5% (5.2%) were educated outside of the regular classroom in “other environments.” “Other environments” consist of separate school (2.8%), residential facilities (0.3%), homebound/hospital environments (0.4%), correctional facilities (0.2%), and placements by parents in private schools (1.5%; ED, 2017).
The Condition of Education 2017 report also presented the data disaggregated by the type of disability of the students being served. In fall 2014, the percentage of students who spent most of the school day in general classes was highest for students with speech or language impairments (87%). By comparison, about two thirds of students with specific learning disabilities (69%), visual impairments (66%), other health impairments (65%), and developmental delays (64%) spent most of their time in regular classrooms. For other groups, 16% of students with intellectual disabilities and 13% of students with multiple disabilities spent most of the day in general classes (NCES, 2016a).
These data confirmed that most school districts were implementing a more inclusive approach to providing services to students with disabilities in recent years. However, as discussed previously, the approach remains controversial, with supporters and opponents of inclusion identifying a mix of advantages and disadvantages.
What About Gifted Learners?
Although there is no universal definition of what it means to be a student who is gifted or talented, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the chief advocacy group for gifted education, explains that children are gifted when their ability is significantly above the norm for their age and that giftedness can be exhibited in one or more domains, including intellectual, creative, leadership, or academic fields (National Association for Gifted Children [NAGC], n.d.a).
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities or gifts. The CEC uses the following definition of gifted and talented, which was taken from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capacity in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities. (Council for Exceptional Children [CEC], n.d.c)
The number of gifted students and the types of services they receive vary widely across the United States because the federal government has not established requirements for serving these children, and it does not provide funding directly to districts specifically for gifted education. In addition, states and districts are not required to use a common definition of giftedness. Therefore, education for the gifted is a responsibility of the state and local school districts, and the definition of giftedness varies from state to state (CEC, n.d.a; NAGC, 2015a, 2015b). On NAGC’s website, an interactive map links to definitions of giftedness by state (NAGC, n.d.a).
In the 2011–2012 school year (the most recent year for which data were available), the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics showed that approximately 3.2 million (6.4%) of public school students attended gifted and talented programs. There was wide variation by state and demographic subgroup (CEC, n.d.a; NAGC, n.d.a, 2015b; NCES, 2016d).
Educational and licensure requirements for teachers who work with gifted students are determined at the state and local levels. The NAGC’s two latest reports, 2014–2015 State of the Nation in Gifted Education
and 2014–2015 State of the States in Gifted Education, indicated that state requirements for training for gifted education teachers varied widely, with most general education teachers receiving no training in working with gifted students. However, research indicates that teachers who work with advanced learners are more effective if they receive high-quality training and professional development in gifted education, along with time, materials, and ongoing support (NAGC, n.d.a, 2015a, 2015b).
The NAGC, in collaboration with the Council for Exceptional Children, has developed several sets of national standards in gifted and talented children’s education. These include standards for programming and services, knowledge and skills standards for all teachers, teacher preparation standards, standards for faculty in teacher preparation programs, and standards for advanced professional practice (CEC, n.d.b; NAGC, n.d.b).
The NAGC recognizes that there is no one perfect program for teaching gifted students and, instead, suggests that a range of services be provided for gifted learners at every level. These services may include pullout programs, advanced classes, part-time assignment to both regular and special classes, acceleration or grade advancement, accommodations in the regular classroom (e.g., differentiation of curriculum and instruction, flexible grouping with students of similar abilities), magnet schools, dual enrollment in high school and college, and special, self-contained schools (NAGC, n.d.a, 2015a, 2015b).
Recent federal legislation brought positive news for advocates of gifted education. The Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA) wasrevised and reauthorized in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). For the first time, this federal law contains provisions that support gifted and talented students. Numerous federal K-12 education initiatives fall under the ESSA/ESEA, including Title I schools, accountability for student achievement, programs for ELLs, and Title II professional development. This
legislation funnels over $20 billion each year to states and school districts through complex formulas and individual grant programs. The new provisions require data collection and reporting disaggregated by student subgroup (e.g., race, gender, English learners, students with disabilities, low income) at each achievement level. Previously, data were reported for students at the proficient level and below, but now information on students achieving at the advanced level also is mandated. Another new provision requires states, when they apply for Title II professional development funds, to include information about how they plan to improve the skills of educators that will enable them to identify gifted and talented students and provide instruction based on those students’ needs (NAGC, n.d.a, n.d.c).
North Carolina law also addresses education for gifted learners. In the state’s General Statutes, the education of “academically or intellectually gifted students” is included in Chapter 115C, Article 9B, section 115C-150.5, which states:
The General Assembly believes the public schools should challenge all students to aim for academic excellence and that academically or intellectually gifted students perform or show the potential to perform at substan-tially high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment. Academically or intellectually gifted students exhibit high performance capability in intellectual areas, specific academic fields, or in both intellectual areas and specific academic fields. Academically or intel-lectually gifted students require differentiated educational services beyond those ordinarily provided by the regular educational program. Outstanding abilities are present in students from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor. (NCGA, n.d.)
North Carolina’s State Board of Education has been given the responsibility for implementation of this law. The board is required to develop and disseminate guidelines for developing local plans, which should include identification procedures, differentiated curriculum, integrated services, staff development, and program evaluation methods. The statute also mandates that the board provide ongoing technical assistance to LEAs in the development, implementation, and evaluation of their plans (NCGA, n.d.).
What About Children Who Live in Poverty?
Teachers who work in today’s diverse schools and classrooms need to know how to address the needs of children who live in poverty. Beegle (2007), who grew up in a migrant family, describes poverty as “the unspoken diversity issue” (p. 145). Many researchers agree that poverty is largely unrecognized in American society (Budge & Parrett, 2018; Lindsey, Karns, & Myatt, 2010; Ullucci & Howard, 2015) and has a significant impact on children’s overall performance in school (Anyon, 2005; Duncan & Murnane, 2014; Rothstein, 2004).
The U.S. Government defines poverty in terms of level of income relative to family size. The formula still used today is based on 3 times the cost of food for a family of three in 1963, although much has changed in American society in the past 50 years. According to the 2016 U.S. Census, the official poverty rate was 12.7%, nearly one in eight people. At that time, there were 40.6 million people in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015 and 6.0 million fewer than in 2014. About 18% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, numbering more than 13.3 million. In addition, about 17 million children, or about 24%, live in families considered as low income (Semega, Fontenot, & Kollar, 2017; Census Bureau, n.d.b).
In the context of schools, poverty is defined in relation to the federally subsidized free and reduced-price lunch program. Under the National School Lunch Program policy, as established in the 2015–2016 school year, students whose household income is less than 130% of the poverty line qualify for free lunch and students whose household income is between 130% and 185% of the poverty line qualify for reduced-price lunch (Budge & Parrett, 2018; Semega, Fontenot, & Kollar, 2017; Census Bureau, n.d.b). When school-aged children in the United States are disaggregated by race, the intersection between race and poverty is evident. Blacks (36%),
American Indians (36%), Hispanics (31%), and children of two or more races (21%) disproportionately live in poverty (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2017). In the 2014–2015 school year, 51.8% of U.S. students were eligible for free/reduced-price lunch. In North Carolina, 57.2% of students were eligible that same year (NCES, 2016c).
Educators can and do take actions to improve the life chances of children, including children and youth who live in poverty. Various researchers have examined schools to determine what made a difference in working with children of poverty (e.g., Budge & Parrett, 2018; Chenoweth, 2007, 2009; Gorski, 2013; Hall & Simeral, 2015; Singer, 2014; Wong, 2011). When educators purposefully reflected on their practice, enhanced their knowledge base, learned effective strategies, and incorporated them into their practice, they developed a sense of self-efficacy, the feeling that they could have a positive effect on children’s lives. As an example, Budge and Parrett proposed several “poverty-disrupting” actions that educators could integrate into their professional practice: creating caring relationships, building advocacy; holding high expectations, providing needed support; committing to equity; assuming professional accountability for learning; and marshaling the courage and will to take action (Chapters 3–7).
Writing Activity—Helping Students to Recognize and Appreciate Diversity
Teachers play an important role in helping students learn about their own cultural background and heritage. In addition, students need guidance in learning behaviors for getting along with others who may be different from themselves in noticeable ways. As you progress through your teacher preparation program, you will have many opportunities to observe and practice strategies for helping students to recognize and appreciate diversity. The following questions will encourage you to begin to identify some of those practices so that you can be prepared to incorporate them into your own teaching.
When you become a teacher, how will you help your students to develop an understanding of the differences they observe among their classmates and others with whom they associate? How can you help them to acquire an appreciation for those rich variations found in the world around them? What behaviors can you model to encourage students to treat others with respect?
Use the space provided to capture your thoughts, and, if possible, share your responses with your classmates. What resources are available to help you to gather more ideas? As you take additional courses and complete field experience assignments, continue to add to your list of strategies you can use to help your future students to understand and appreciate the cultural diversity around them.
What Can You Do Now to Prepare to Teach Diverse Students?
Students in today’s schools and classrooms exhibit an incredible array of individual differences that run the gamut from cultural and linguistic diversity to variations in talents, skills, and interests. Included in these diverse student populations are individuals who have learning disabilities, those who preform above grade level, those for whom English is a new language, and those who live in poverty.
All teachers, especially those who work with students in inclusion classes, need to be able to draw upon a variety of strategies for relationship building, instruction, assessment, and behavioral management that are
appropriate for students who have a wide range of abilities, learning styles, and intelligences. While taking course work in your teacher education program and as you participate in field experiences in the schools, you are encouraged to learn all that you can about inclusive teaching practices. Seek out every possible opportunity to learn about the special education programs of area LEAs. Talk with your professors and with local teachers about specific approaches that are effective for students with special learning needs and continue to read widely in these topic areas. Perhaps you can take additional special education courses or you may consider doing a research project that is focused on an issue related to teaching diverse learners. When you create unit and lesson plans, pay particular attention to incorporating activities and materials appropriate for students who have been identified with various disabilities or impairments, as well as those who are gifted, those who are ELLs, or those who are affected by poverty.
Countless resources—ones that have proven to be effective in real schools and actual classrooms—are available to assist you in learning about how to address the needs of diverse students. Several that you may want to check out are described in the following paragraphs.
The CAST is a nonprofit organization that provides resources on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The UDL is a research-based set of principles that educators can use to guide the establishment of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all learners (CAST, n.d.). The National Center on Universal Design for Learning was founded in 2009 and is a program of CAST. It has its own website that serves as a way to connect and to disseminate information to stakeholders in the field (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, n.d.). The CAST has developed UDL Guidelines that provide a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that can be customized to address individual needs (CAST, 2011).
The National Center for Learning Disabilities was founded in 1977 under the name Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities. Its mission is to advocate for the one in five children and adults in the United States who have learning and attention issues, such as dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (National Center for Learning Disabilities [NCLD], n.d.a). Its family of websites provide links to an array of resources for parents, educators, and policymakers. Three are of particular interest to teachers. The webpage, Personalized Learning and Students with Disabilities, explains the personalized learning movement that is getting increased attention in schools across the nation as a way to align learning with the interests, needs, and skills of students in an engaging and supportive environment (NCLD, n.d.c, 2015). Other related terms used in the field include “competency-based education,” “project-based learning,” and “flexible learning environments.” The Get Ready to READ website makes available resources that support the development of early literacy skills (NCLD, n.d.b). The Response to Intervention (RTI) Action Network website provides information about a school transformation model that includes a Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS), Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and RTI (NCLD, n.d.d). The premise of the RTI and MTSS is that schools should provide timely, targeted, and systematic interventions to all students who demonstrate the need for academic and/or behavioral intervention. You will read more about PBIS in Chapter 3.
These and a wide range of other worthwhile resources can provide you with a rich source of reading and study that you can incorporate into a self-directed plan for professional learning. You are encouraged to be proactive and take the initiative to locate appropriate people and resources to assist you in your efforts to learn all that you can about working with diverse learners. There is no better time than the present to pursue these goals. The steps you take now can lay a firm foundation for a successful first year of teaching. When you become a teacher, you will want to take advantage of professional development activities that will enhance your knowledge and practice so that you can effectively teach students with a diverse array of needs, strengths, talents, and interests and ensure that every learner achieves at high levels.
A Quotation to Ponder—An UNESCO Official Defines Diversity
When we talk about diversity we are not referring to students with special educational needs, or pupils with problems, or immigrants or highly gifted children; we are referring not just to support teachers but to a support system, not so much to a special programme for schools but to a flexible curriculum that is suited to diversity. . . . We can conclude that diversity is consubstantial with human beings; it is positive; it is a support for learning and development, since people grow by appreciating the differences and the need to generate empathy in order to work in a fairer school system and thus build a more equitable society, since diversity emphasizes the role of the school as a factor of social change.
—H.E. Mr. Raúl Vallejo Corral, Minister of Education of the Republic of Ecuador and President of the Council of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International Bureau of Education (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2009).
The Big Idea—Understanding and Appreciating Diversity
The uniqueness of each person is worthy of understanding and respect.
This Stop on your Continuing Voyage of Discovery was Intended to Broaden the Porthole Through Which you View Both Yourself and Others in the Outside World
Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.com
Chapter Wrap-up and a Look Forward
Break your mirrors! Yes, shatter the glass. In our society that is so
self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other.
Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about yourself.
—Sargent Shriver, American diplomat, founder, and first director of the Peace Corps (1915–2011) As indicated in its title, this chapter’s aim was to help you to develop a deeper understanding of the rich diversity that is present in today’s society—and similarly reflected in our schools and classrooms—with the hope that with understanding will come respect, which, in turn, will lead to Treasuring the Diversity around You. The quotation above was chosen to highlight two main ideas that you will want to retain as “takeaways” from this chapter.
The first idea is that, as an aspiring teacher, you need to be engaged in learning all that you can about the diversity that is prevalent in our society. Shriver is telling us to look beyond ourselves in order to shatter our preconceived notions and break out of the self-imposed confines of our insular lives. He encourages us to be less self-absorbed and become more captivated and charmed by the diversity that surrounds us.
The second idea is that it also is important for each of us first to understand ourselves so that we then can better understand others. Gazing into your mirror with that objective in mind can be a worthwhile exercise. The “Cultural Identity Shield” activity discussed earlier in this chapter was designed for that purpose. When you recognize the varied components of your own distinctive cultural identity, you likely will be better prepared to appreciate and celebrate the richness of the family backgrounds that your students will bring to the classroom, the school, and the surrounding community. Recognizing the varied influences that shaped the unique person that you are today undoubtedly will enable you to be more open to and accepting of the nuances that “make others tick.”
In short, this stop on your continuing voyage of discovery was intended to broaden the porthole through which you view both yourself and others in the outside world.
Deeper Understanding = Greater Appreciation
Now it is time to travel on. The next waypoint on your journey of “Discovering the Teacher Within
You” will provide you with an opportunity to explore ideas for establishing a positive environment for learning. Climb aboard and pull out your nautical maps. Prepare to sail forth and follow your plotted compass course to that crucial destination.
Off you go to your next port of call!
Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2017). 2017 kids count data book. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Anyon, J. (2005). What ‘counts’ as educational policy? Notes toward a new paradigm. Harvard Educa-tional Review, 75(1), 65–88.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). (n.d.). ASCD Student growth center. Retrieved April 28, 2018 from https://www.studentgrowth.org