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A futuristic view of the REI: a response to Jenkins, Pious, and Jewell.

A Futuristic View of the REI: A Response to Jenkins, Pious, and Jewell

In the April 1990 issue of Exceptional Children, Jenkins, Pious, and Jewell identified five assumptions underlying the regular education initiative (REI) and argue for the need for a consensus on a definition of the REI. They invited others to continue the dialogue regarding the REI by responding to their article and their perceptions. We commend Jenkins, Pious, and Jewell on their thoughtful analysis of the issues, sensitivity to the needs of the students and teachers, and recognition of the potential abuse of the spirit and intention of the REI. Our objectives in this responses are to challenge the assumption that the role of the teacher is to deliver a "normal developmental curriculum." We offer alternative assumptions to the author's four assumptions, which place the classroom teacher in the Herculean position of being the one person primarily responsible for educating, making instructional decisions, managing instruction, and coordinating support services for a heterogeneous group of students. Further, we take exception to the conclusion that there justification for drawing an imaginary dividing line that excludes from the regular classroom students with severe disabilities. In this article, we focus the REI debate on the future--how education might meet the diverse needs of all children.




Jenkins, Pious and Jewell (1990) infer that the REI, as currently conceptualized, charges the classroom teacher with delivering (and adapting for individual learners) "normal developmental curricula in the basic skills areas [that] are designed to bring students to a level of adult competence" (p.482). This statement implies that the sequences, materials, and tasks that publishers have prepared in reading, mathematics, writing, science, social studies and other curriculum areas do, in fact, prepare our children for their future life in the 21st century.

The Curriculum for the 21st Century

Professional futurists concerned with school improvement have made recommendations regarding the curriculum for schools to prepare students for 21st century life. Benjamin (1989), in an analysis of futurist literature, and Wiggins (1989), in a prescription for a "modern" curriculum have forecasted an adult life and an accompanying set of adult competencies for our graduates who will be entering 21st century society. These authors have described interdependent, international societal trends, which will make it difficult for the traditional normal developmental curriculum to keep pace with the exponential growth of information and new technological discoveries. "The world's store of knowledge has doubled and doubled again during the 20th century" (Cornish, 1986, p.14); and the amount of knowledge will continue to increase geometrically in the next century, so that no one will be able to keep pace with it (Kirschenbaum & Simon, 1974, p. 267).

Because of the short "half-life" (Alley, 1985) of knowledge, the conventional wisdom of what is considered a "developmental" curriculum must also change. In the futurist's eye, a "modern" curriculum would include the development of "habits of mind" (Wiggins, 1989, p. 48), such as the ability to suspend disbelief, knowing how to listen to someone who knows something "new," questioning to clarify an idea's meaning or value, openness to new and strange ideas as worthy of attention, and the inclination to question confusing or "pat" statements (Wiggins). The modern curriculum would focus on students' developing a community service ethic through real-life service experiences (e.g., serving as a peer advocate, peer buddy, or peer tutor for a student with intensive challenges). Students will need the skills to cope and communicate with the diverse people of their global community (Benjamin, 1989). Finally, given the projected information explosion of the next century, futurists advise that school curricula concentrate on learning how to learn--how to be lifeling learners--rather than learning momentarily correct facts.

Each community preparing for the 21st century will need to regularly reexamine the knowledge and learning competencies that it considers "core" curriculum. Whatever 20th century publishers determined as the curriculum for adult functioning likely will no longer satisfy emerging community expectations or the demands of 21st century life. Communities will want to examine and select from the wealth of curricula, materials, and instructional approaches currently labeled "regular" or "special." They will want to consider instructional practices (e.g., community-based instruction, work experience) and curriculum areas (e.g., domestic and life skills, community use), which are commonplace in the education of students with severe disabilities, that have the potential of greatly enhancing the preparedness of other students for the complex adult life of the future.

The Teacher for the 21st Century

Given this context, we propose a new conceptualization of "teacher" for the 21st century. The teachers charged with preparing children for the future will be personalizers of curriculum and instruction through actual practice with students who, by nature, are unique and changing in their needs. Teachers will go beyond the delivery of standard sequences of developmental, domain-referenced content to deliver the "modern" curriculum. They will be eclectic--knowledgeable in instructional methods and curricula with origins in general and special education. They will be experimenters and inventors (Thousand, 1990)--picking, choosing, combining, and recombining methods to actively engage students in their own and others' acquisitioin of (a) humanistic, public service ethics; (b) communication, information-seeking, and problem-solving skills; and (c) core curricula deemed essential by the community. Given this conceptualization of the teacher as an inventor who routinely goes beyond standard curricula for individual learners, the arguments made by Jenkins, Pious, and Jewell for the exclusion of students requiring instruction in other than normal developmental curricula loses power.




Jenkins and colleagues also presented four assumptions that place the classroom teacher in the position of being the one person primarily responsible for educating, making instructional decisions, managing instruction, and coordinating support services for a heterogeneous group of students. Based on these assumptions, it is concluded that to hold regular class teachers accountable for students with severe disabilities--students with extremely different curricular needs--is unfair because it places unrealistic demands upon the teacher. Second, although an equal partnership among classroom teachers and specialists is recognized as the ideal, it is considered an unrealistic outcome of the REI. Jenkins and colleagues posited that "if one system is supposed to support another, is it not fair to assume that the system being supported takes precedence over others?" (Jenkins et al., 1990, p.485). They identified two partnership models--consultation models, and direct service models in which classroom teachers "are still in charge" (p. 488)--as the only models consistent with the REI, because they maintain primary responsibility for all the students in the classroom with the regular classroom teacher.

School-Based Adhocracies and

Teaching Teams

We propose that the discussion of who is primarily responsible for "mainstreamed" students is unnecessary, if we "let go" of the division between school personnel now labeled "regular" or "special." We contend that it is much too limiting to base REI implementation on past practices and known support models (i.e., consultation and direct service models that maintain regular class teacher control). These models developed out of the current dual-system (general and special) configuration of education.

Skrtic (1987) has well articulated the need for a fundamentally different organization of educational services, if schools are to successfully accommodate a heterogeneous student body. He calls for the development of an adhocracy among educators of all specialties and labels. In this adhocracy, "multidisciplinary teams of professionals mutually adjust their collective skills and knowledge to invent unique, personalized programs for each student" (Thousand, 1990, p. 32). In this professional, collaborative consultation partnership, no one person need be superior to another in making decisions, teaching, or evaluating students' needs and progress (Nevin, Thousand, Paolucci-Whitcomb, & Villa, 1990; Thousand, Villa, Paolucci-Whitcomb, & Nevin, in press).

Thousand and Villa (1990a) have offered an operational definition of an adhocracy along with elementary and secondary examples of Skrtic's conception. They describe the adhocratic configuration of the teaching team.

A teaching team is an organizational and instructiional arrangement of two or more members of the school and greater community who distribute among themselves planning, instructional, and evaluation responsibilities for the same students on a regular basis for an extended period of time. Teams can vary in size from two to six or seven people. They can vary in composition as well, involving any possible combination of classroom teachers, specialized personnel (e.g., special educators, speech and language pathologists, guidance counselors, health professionals, employment specialists), instructional assistants, student teachers, community volunteers (e.g., parents, members of the local "foster grandparent" program), and students, themselves. (Thousand & Villa, 1990a, pp. 152-153)

Such a reorganization of existing human resources allows any student to receive intensive instructional support within the classroom, thereby eliminating the need for a special educational "second system" (Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1988, p. 248) and a referral process for gaining access to that system. This structure takes advantage of the diverse knowledge and instructional approaches of the team members (Bauwens, Hourcade, & Friend, 1989), so that complex problem solving is more likely to be accomplished and novel services invented to meet unique student needs (Skrtic, 1989). The higher instructor/learner ratio also allows for more immediate and accurate diagnosis of student needs and more active student learning.

Students can be and now are partners in various teaching team arrangements (Villa & Thousand, in press). They function as instructors (e.g., peer tutors, cooperative group learning team members, co-instructors in teacher-student teaching teams); advocates for peers (e.g., serving as a support or a peer's "voice" in a peer's educational program and transition planning meeting, developing social support networks for peers); and members of school governance committees that determine school curricula, inservice training content, discipline policies, and school organizational restructuring objectives. Through such arrangements, teachers give students practice for life in the 21st century. Teachers change their own role from a deliverer of instruction to a manager of the learning environment (Glasser, 1986) and facilitator and supervisor of student learning, teaching, and decision making.

Jenkins and colleagues claimed that it is unfair to hold a classroom teacher accountable for some students (i.e., students with severe disabilities) because it places unrealistic demands on the teacher. We would agree that no single person should have sole or primary responsibility for any group of diverse learners. We propose that it is a necessary practice for teams of educators, students, and community members to join forces in the challenge of educating the heterogeneous student population within a community. Jenkins and colleagues concluded that equal partnership among classroom teachers and specialists is an unrealistic outcome of the REI. But we point to examples of the various "equal" teaming structures--special/general cooperative teaching arrangements (Bauwens et al., 1989), collaborative consultation arrangements (Nevin et al., 1990; Thousand et al., in press), and teaching teams (Thousand & Villa, 1990a)--which are emerging and evolving in schools attempting inclusive educational practices.

In summary, the issue of who is in charge becomes a nonissue when teams of people join forces to jointly plan, teach, and evaluate the learning of a shared group of learners. The issue of who is in charge also becomes of less concern when we acknowledge (a) that there now are schools that educate students with severe disabilities in the general students education environments of their local schools (Berrigan, 1988; Biklen, 1988; Blackman & Peterson, 1989; Ford & Davern, 1989; Forest, 1988; Giangreco & Meyer, 1988; Gianreco & Putnam, 1991; Lipsky & Gartner, 1989; Nevin et al., 1990; Porter, 1988; Schattman, 1988; Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989; Thousand & Vill, 1990b; York & Vandercook, 1989) and (b) that the partnerships among educators in each of these schools are unique, as are the curricula and instructional techniques employed to respond to individual students. As Jenkins and colleagues have pointed out, those who have called for the REI have been vague in defining the desired partnership among adults; and, in our opinion, that is as it should be. If teachers are to act out of a feeling of empowerment, they need to have the professional discretion to unite their diverse expertise and divide responsibilities as they see fit.

In an idyllic view of an adhoratic 21st century school, members of the school and greater community would be given this discretion. They would serve on various flexible, ad hoc teaching and problem-solving teams (Paterson, Purkey, & Parker, 1986) "charged with exploring the problem-solutions which the traditional bureaucratic school structure, to date, has failed to conceptualize or adequately address" (Thousand et al., in press, p. 10). The authors acknowledge that movement toward this view of a school will not occur overnight. The change process surely will create cognitive dissonance and emotional turmoil for many who are not accustomed to working with others or sharing responsibility for students. Asking people to team in no way guarantees that they will behave in a collaborative fashion. Some will need training and guided practice in collaborative and consultation processes; some will have to be convinced of the potential power of the classroom teacher being one member of an interdependent teaching and problem solving team, rather than the one professonal responsible for the learning of two down youngsters. Thousand et al. (in press) have provided a composite example of a school undergoing a transformation to an adhocratic structure and strategies for promoting this transformation.

Building the Structure

We join Jenkins, Pious, and Jewel in their recognition that "the REI offers a provocative way to focus our thinking about better ways to organize and provide services" (Jenkins et al., 1990, pp. 480-481) and agree that the REI "is not a carefully detailed plan that specifies the bricks and mortar, the building schedule, the use of resources, and the personnel needed to build a structure" (Jenkins et al., 1990, p. 481). We differ, however, with their contention that the foundation for the REI has not been laid. We also would argue that a carefully detailed plan--a prescriptive, standard approach to restructuring--is not at all what we are looking for. Instead, we want professional educators and community members to have the flexibility and discretion to invent unique approaches and solutions to achieving the same end of quality heterogeneous schooling.

As for the construction of inclusionary schools, we believe that the bricks and mortar of the REI do exist. The bricks are the "peer power" strategies (e.g., peer tutoring/partner learning, cooperative group learning, peers on individualized education program and transition planning teams, collaborative planning teams, teaching teams, mentoring relationships, professional support groups) designed to meet the diverse needs of a heterogeneous student body (Villa & Thousand, 1988, p. 145). The mortar is the creation of a climate of shared ownership for all of the community's children through the emphasis on adult and student collaboration.

The resources necessary for the REI to succeed are the available methods for adapting and individualizing instruction and curriculum (e.g., cooperative group learning, partner learning, outcome-based instruction, computer assisted instruction, curriculum-based assessment, creative problem solving techniques, social skills training) (Glatthorn, 1987; Thousand & Villa, 1990b); emerging promising practices of general and special education (Fox & Williams, 1990; Thousand & Villa, 1990b; Williams, Fox, Thousand, & Fox, 1990); and administrative strategies for overcoming organizational barriers to school restructuring and improvement (e.g., promoting an inclusionary school philosophy, consolidating curriculum, redefining staff roles, providing opportunities for collaboration) (Villa & Thousand, 1990; Villa, Thousand, Stainback, & Stainback, in press). Giangreco and Putnam (1991) and Thousand and Villa (1990b) have provided detailed descriptions of strategies for supporting students with severe disabilities in regular education.

The personnel may be anyone in the community, "not just a small select group of administrators and instructional personnel, but members of the broader school and general community (e.g., students, parents, paraprofessionals or teaching assistants, school nurses, guidance counselors, lunch room staff, community members, community employers, generic human service agency personnel)" (Villa & Thousand, 1988, p. 144). New personnel roles may be needed when children are educated in heterogenous environments. The School-Based Employment Specialist (Cobb, Hasazi, Collins, & Salembier, 1988) and the Integration/Support Facilitator (Stainback & Stainback, 1990; Thousand & Fox, 1989) are two job roles that have emerged in the past few years to respond to the employment training and educational adaptation needs of learners.

Numerous REI foundations have been laid. School across North-America now serve as models or "architectural blueprints" (Jenkins et al., 1990, p. 480) for achieving the spirit of the REI (see "About the Authors"). These schools are attempting to remediate the shortcomings of the dual system of education, wrestle with "the seemingly incompatible goals of equity and excellence" (Thousand, 1990, p. 34), and prepare students for life in the complex 21st century. There also is much to be learned from the national attention on school improvement and the many school reform recommendations that have been generated as a consequence (Friend & Cook, 1990).

As for the building schedule for achieving heterogeneous schooling, Benjamin has forecasted that "the future will arrive ahead of schedule" (1989, p. 12). We, therefore, propose that we unite to achieve the promulgation of national policy that prohibits segregated education for any youngster entering school in the 21st century. This timeline would give us the last decade of this century to further research and refine models for full inclusion.


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JACQUELINE S. THOUSAND (CEC Chapter #167) is Visiting Assistant Professor at the Center for Development and Disabilities and the Department of Special Education of the University of Vermont, Burlington. RICHARD A. VILLA (CEC Chapter # 167) is Director of Instructional Services and Staff Development of the Winooski School District, Winooski, Vermont.

We acknowledge the following school communities, with which we are familiar, for providing "architectural blueprints" of what the REI can achieve and for approximating the reality of heterogenous schooling as of this writing: Waterloo Regional Catholic Schools (Kitchener, Canada), School Districts #28 and #29 (New Brunswick, Canada), Hansen Elementary School (Cedar Falls, IA), Johnson City Public Schools (Johnson City, NY), Edward Smith School (Syracuse, NY), Key School (Indianapolis, IN), Winooski School District (Winooski, VT), South Burlington School District (South Burlington, VT), Milton School District (Milton, VT), Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union (Swanton, VT), Washington West Supervisory Union (Waterbury, VT), and Cambridge Elementary School (Jeffersonville, VT). We also acknowledge the many other schools that are well on their way to creating heterogeneous schooling opportunities, including Saline Area Schools (Saline, MI) and Parsons Public Schools (Parsons, KS).

Manuscript received April 1990; revision accepted November 1990.
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Title Annotation:Point/Counterpoint; authors Joseph R. Jenkins, Constance G. Pious, and M. Jewell on the regular education initiative
Author:Thousand, Jacqueline S.; Villa, Richard A.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:May 1, 1991
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