Every child deserves the best possible education. Of course, not every child learns the same way, which is why it’s not unusual schools separate their students — from gifted to special needs — into different groups. However, one school in San Francisco is testing out a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s bringing surprisingly positive results.
As NPR reports, for the last two years, Presidio Middle School (where 10 percent of the students have some kind of learning disability) has been experimenting with a somewhat controversial model of integrating their special education students with some of their general education classrooms.
Here’s how they do it: To cater to every child’s needs, these classes are team-taught by two teachers, with one that specializes in learning disabilities. And because each of these students have their own school-issued laptops, customized learning software allows teachers to tailor their lessons using technology. Students are also encouraged to turn to their more gifted peers for help. The idea is to make these special needs students feel more included as opposed to creating feelings of separation or difference by sending him or her off to a special ed class for instruction.
While integrated classrooms aren’t working for every single special needs students at Presidio, this method is definitely bringing positive results to others. “I had one kid last year, one of my favorites, very high on the autistic spectrum, doesn’t talk, and that kid is one of the top performing students academically in the whole school,” Presidio teacher Grey Todd told NPR. “And yet he probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity had he been sent to a special day class because he has difficulty communicating with other people, and when he’s able to be accepted for that and not ostracized or sent to a separate room, I think it makes him more viable to himself and to the community.”
Integrated classrooms also allow children to have an increased familiarity and better attitudes about those with disabilities.
However, not everyone is in favor of mixed classrooms. Critics say that they put gifted or talented students at a disadvantage since teachers need to cater more towards the special needs students. The results from Presidio Middle School demonstrate that inclusive classrooms can work well when they’re done correctly.
To learn more about integrated classrooms, you can listen to the full broadcast here.