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Total Inclusion/Zero Reject Models in General Education Implications for Deaf Children The growing impetus for placing all children in the same classrooms regardless of the extent or type of impairment, disability, or handicap has major implications for the education of deaf and hard of hearing children and should be understood in both social and educational contexts. Although some view this movement as the endpoint and culmination of Public Law 94-142 and the mainstreaming movement, I believe its roots can be traced to earlier developments in special education, especially reactions to racially biased procedures that led to inappropriately diagnosing African-American children as retarded and dumping them into segregated classes for Educable Mentally Retarded (EMR) children. During the middle half of the 20th century, the upper limit in the definition of mental retardation gradually increased from a measured IQ of around 70 to 85, tremendously broadening the potential population for assignment to special classes. With a measured IQ of 70 as the standard, perhaps 1 child in 50 might be classified as retarded; At 85, we are looking at 1 child in 6 or 7. As a result, special class enrollment for "retarded" children increased more than 600% from 1952 to 1968 (Kirk, 1975). Given the low validity of the measures used for children of racial and linguistic minority status, it was found that AfricanAmerican and Spanish surnamed children were assigned to classes for the retarded in disproportionate numbers. The placement policies were challenged 25 years ago in a classic paper by Lloyd Dunn (1968), "Special Education for the Mildly Retarded: Is Much of It Justified?" There was a dramatic turnaround from 1968 to 1975, the year PL 94-142 was enacted. In 1973 the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD) revised its definition of mental retardation from one standard deviation below the mean to two standard deviations below the mean. In essence, children with measured IQs of 70 to 85 no longer fell within the psychometric definition of mental retardation. During the same period of time, 1968 to 1975, several court cases dealing with educational placement and services for handicapped individuals were decided. Abuse of severely retarded and emotionally disturbed handicapped children and adults was documented, and the "deinstitutionalization" movement gathered steam. We have reached a point today where the pendulum has swung completely to the other side. Twenty years ago, minority children were unfairly labeled and denied access to education . Now, some educators are arguing that no child, no matter how severely handicapped, should be removed from the regular classroom. It is assumed that this concept of "total inclusion" will in fact work to the benefit of all children. From my perspective , it is one more variation of the equity/excellence dilemma that has concerned American education for two centuries . In short, how do we provide equal access to education for all children and at the same time cultivate excellence and allow each child to develop to the limits of his or her potential? With only a little stretching, we might argue that recent discussions related to ability tracking in programs for the deaf are an offshoot or at least a limited extension of the total inclusion concept. On the one hand is the argument that tracking has been discriminatory and harmful to deaf minority children and has served to block access to knowledge, thereby limiting opportunities for academic growth. On the other hand is the position that the core of education for deaf children is the individual education plan and that individualization, per se, calls for a variety of options, depending on the needs of individual children at particular points of development. If all children have the same academic experience, there obviously is no individualization of instruction, yet the history of ability tracking is intertwined with discrimination and prejudice. Children will never learn Algebra, for example, if they are never exposed to it. I do not have the expertise to speak for other areas of special education, but it seems to me that for many deaf children the concept of total inclusion, as currently promulgated, could in reality could be exclusionary in practice. Placing a deaf child in a classroom in physical contiguity to hearing children...


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