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Are regular education classes equipped to accomodate students with learning disabilities?

Are Regular Education Classes Equipped to Accommodate Students with Learning Disabilities?

ABSTRACT: This study examined educational practices in regular education classes in grades

K-5 to determine changes required to facilitate a full-time mainstreaming program for students

with learning disabilities. Data collected during the planning year of a mainstreaming project

permitted a detailed analysis of the elementary school and the extent to which it accommodated

individual differences. Data from informal and structured observations, interviews, and surveys

of students, parents, and teachers suggested that fundamental changes in instruction are

necessary for the regular education initiative to work in this school. * The provision of special education services within the regular classroom is being promoted as an alternative to resource rooms or self-contained programs for students with learning disabilities, particularly at the elementary school level. A number of practitioners and policy makers have called for a halt to the current practice of removing students with learning disabilities from regular education classrooms (see Will, 1986) and have challenged school personnel to maintain these and other "marginal" students in regular classrooms and to offer special services in those settings (Reynolds, Wang, & Walberg, 1987).

Support for this regular education initiative (Hallahan, Keller, McKinney, Lloyd, and Bryan, 1988) appears to have derived from three sources. First, reformers have questioned the economic feasibility of operating several categorical programs simultaneously (Special Education Costs, 1988). Second, proponents of full-time mainstreaming have suggested that diagnostic criteria for placement of students into pull-out categorical programs are unclear (see Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1983) and that we would do well to eliminate these programs altogether. Finally, some researchers have raised questions about the adequacy of pull-out special education programs for students with mild disabilities because of the limited progress made by these students (Epps & Tindall, 1987; Idol-Maestas, 1983; Leinhardt, Bickel, & Pallay, 1982; Polloway, 1984).

Few advocates of the regular education initiative, however, have examined the basic assumption of full-time mainstreaming--that the regular education class can provide an environment that facilitates learning for a wide range of students. Although many believe that regular education classrooms can be made to work more effectively for all students, there have been no clear descriptions of the extent of the changes in regular education that will be required to support full-time mainstreaming.

The current research was undertaken as part of the planning year of a 3-year study of full-time mainstreaming for elementary-level students with learning disabilities (Zigmond & Baker, 1987). The data collected contribute to an understanding of day-to-day practices in traditional regular education classrooms and the inservice training, resources, and support personnel required for full-time mainstreaming.



This study was conducted in an urban school district with more than 42,000 students in Grades K-12 and approximately 3% of the population identified as learning disabled (LD). At the elementary level, the most common service delivery arrangement for LD students is the full-time self-contained class. In this setting, LD students receive instruction from a special education teacher for all the basic skills subjects (e.g., reading, math, and language arts), as well as for science and social studies; integration into the mainstream occurs only for art, music, physical education, and library.

The target elementary school, one of 53 elementary schools in the district, served 266 students in Grades K-5 during the 1987-88 school year. Located in a primarily Black neighborhood, the student body was 99.9% Black, although the racial balance of the district was approximately 54% Black at the elementary school level. At the time of the study, two self-contained classrooms; a majority of the students were bussed from neighboring communities.


To obtain information about the instructional environment and the day-to-day operations of this school, a case study design was used. Data were collected through informal and formal observations, interviews, and questionnaires; surveys of students, parents, and school personnel; and examination of school records. The data were collected by project staff, who spent an average of 3 days each week in the school over a 6-month period.

Observations. Three sets of observations provided qualitative and quantitative data about the instructional program of the school. During initial classroom observations in December and January, information was gathered on types of classroom activities, students' behavior during instruction, grouping arrangements for instruction, reinforcement techniques, the variety of materials available in each classroom, and a floor plan for each room. A protocol developed by the authors was completed by project staff in each homeroom during one 40-minute (min) class period. Data were collected in 12 regular education classes, 2 at each grade level, kindergarten through fifth grade. The responses to each item were transferred to a matrix to identify common responses, as well as responses that were unusual.

A second series of observations in January focused on instructional activities during reading and math classes. Observers took extensive notes on 3 successive days of instruction to obtain a sense of the rhythm of instructional activities. These observations were scheduled in one first-grade, one third-grade and one fifth-grade classroom. The observers made notes at least every 5 min about the instructional activities of the group, even if the activity did not change. After the observations, the notes were coded using the following categories: materials, grouping, student response, and teacher response. Patterns of codes were summarized to describe the routines in reading and math classes.

Finally, systematic behavioral (time-sample) observations were conducted in March during reading, math, and special subject classes to determine the frequency of various student and teacher behaviors. Ten homerooms were observed four times each during reading period and four times each during math period. One homeroom at each grade level was observed during art, physical education, and music classes during periods in which there were no LD students mainstreamed; the purpose of this observation was to describe the most typical regular education environment. Student behaviors were coded in four areas: type of materials being used, grouping arrangement for the current activity, monitoring by adults, and student response. Student activities were measured by sampling six 10-second (s) units during a 40-min class period for each of six students chosen randomly at the start of each observation in each classroom. The teacher behaviors were clustered into noninstructional activities, instructional activities, and general management. Observations of teacher behaviors alternated with student observations. The teacher was observed 20 times during each 40-min class period with each teacher observation lasting 10 s. During 20% of observations, two observers coded student and teacher behaviors. Overall interrater agreement for these sessions was 87%. The student observation data were aggregated by grade level for reading, math, and special subjects; the teacher observation data were aggregated for reading and math classes for primary teachers, reading and math classes for intermediate teachers, and special subject teachers.

Teacher Questionnaires and Interviews. All school personnel were asked to share their perspectives on the climate of the school and on adaptations made in curricula to accommodate individual students. Teachers and educational assistants completed a School Climate Survey to indicate the extent to which they agreed about the school's ability to accommodate individual students and generate student enthusiasm for learning. Teachers were asked to check whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with each item. The 25-item survey, developed by the authors, was administered to the teaching staff during a faculty meeting in June. The total number of positive responses for each teacher was tallied after the two "agree" and the two "disagree" categories were combined. The responses to negatively worded items were transposed so that all responses were on the same scale.

Small-group and individual-teacher interviews were conducted in April to determine the amount of curriculum coverage by grade and to probe adaptations made in curricula to provide for individual differences. Similar questions were asked about the reading and math curricula. Detailed notes were taken throughout the interviews. The field notes were coded to identify common practices and teacher concerns.

Parent and Student Questionnaires. All students in Grades 1-5 and all parents were asked to complete School Climate Surveys. The student version included 25 items about the difficulty of the academic work, the behavior of students in the school, the support of teachers and family, and feelings about attending school. Students were asked to circle "yes" if they agreed with the item or "no" if they disagreed. Two versions of the student survey were developed with identical items; they varied in that the format developed for age students used large type and was ruled to make it easier for students to keep their place. The student surveys were administered in each homeroom by three project staff in June. In Grades 1-3, the items were read aloud to the students by one person while the others provided assistance as needed. In Grades 4 and 5, students read the items silently while project staff circulated to provide help as needed. A total of 181 students completed the survey. The percentage of students responding positively to each item was determined.

The parent surveys were sent home with students in June, with a cover letter from the principal that explained their purpose. The 20-item parent form asked about student enthusiasm toward school, teachers' pride in teaching, administrative support in the school, and parent participation in school activities. Parents were asked to circle "yes" if they agreed with the item and "no" if they disagreed. Students who returned the completed form received a small eraser as a special reward. Fifty-eight percent of the parents (N = 189) returned the surveys. The percentage of parents responding positively on each item was calculated.

School Record Data. Data from school records were recorded on all students in the school. The data included grades, standardized achievement test scores, attendance information, disciplinary actions, and information on progress through the curriculum. All data were entered as they became available into a student information system maintained on a microcomputer housed at the school.


Data from observations, interviews, surveys, and school records have been integrated into two descriptions of this elementary school. First, the school itself is described, including school-level demographics and climate, viewed from a variety of perspectives. Next, the instructional program of the school is described: class structure, teacher instructional practices, and students' behaviors. Taken together, these descriptions offer a rich portrait of this urban elementary school and its readiness to accommodate hard-to-teach students in the mainstream.

The School

Demographics. A total of 266 students were enrolled at this school in June 1988, although that number varied from month to month because of numerous transfers in and out of the school. The population consisted of 139 boys and 127 girls in Grades K-5. Over 90% of the students qualified for the free lunch program based on the income of their parents.

Students in the mainstream were organized into two classes per grade level. Class sizes ranged from 15 to 26 students, although most classes had enrollments of fewer than 20 students. The composition of students for each class at each grade level was determined by the teachers. At all grade levels except second grade, the teachers opted for homogeneous homeroom groupings to facilitate reading instruction; the second-grade teachers deliberately divided their students into heterogeneous groups so that neither teacher would feel particularly "burdened." The school was organized into primary (K-2) and intermediate (3-5) units.

The school employed 23 teachers, 15 of whom taught full-time in this building. The teachers had experience in elementary education ranging from 4 to 27 years. There were also five educational assistants assigned to the school (two Chapter I aides, two aides assigned to the LD self-contained classes, and one general educational assistant).

By several standards, students in this school were relatively successful. During the 1987-88 school year, most students received passing grades in all subjects. Only 9% of students or fewer earned failing grades in reading or math, although in first-grade reading the failure rate was higher (17%). On the California Achievement Test administered in May 1988, however, only 43% of the students tested scored at or above the 50th percentile in reading. In math, 69% scored at or above the 50th percentile. Forty of the 244 mainstream students received services from the Chapter I specialists, 22 worked with the speech clinician, and I received services from a vision specialist. Three students qualified for the gifted program and 8 students (3%) were retained at the end of the year.

Overall attendance at the school was within the accepted level for the school district. Students were absent an average of 12 days per year (range from 0-59) and were tardy an average of 7 days per year (range from 0-65). Twenty students were given 1-, 2-, or 3-day out-of-school suspensions over the course of the year, several of them more than once. In-school suspensions resulted in 13 students missing classes on an irregular basis.

Climate. The hallways of the school were clean and quiet. Student work was often displayed on the walls, and special displays were exhibited outside the classrooms. During January, a display of Martin Luther King pictures served as a backdrop for student reports. When students moved through the halls, for example from their homeroom to the art room, they walked quietly in a line on the right side of the hallway. Teachers reinforced students often with food, for keeping their hands at their sides and walking in a way that did not disturb other students in the building. If individual students were not quiet, the teacher would send them to the end of the line. If an entire group was noisy, the students were required to practice walking appropriately instead of participating in their next activity.

The cafeteria was also clean and quiet. At lunchtime, students were expected to sit still and eat quietly at assigned tables in a large, bare room. The principal and one teacher monitored students while they ate lunch, prompting individuals to continue eating or to lower their voices. Social interactions were not encouraged during this period. The school personnel prided themselves on having an exemplary, quiet, organized lunch program. Students who did not follow the rules in the lunchroom were sent to the in-house suspension room during lunch.

Teachers, students, and parents were all generally positive about the school. All three groups reported on the School Climate Surveys that teachers helped students maintain enthusiasm about learning and that parents supported the efforts of the school personnel (Figure 1). Twelve of the 23 teacher respondents checked the positive response on more than 80% of the items. Teachers reported that the principal was supportive of faculty and students and that teachers had pride in the school. Teachers did indicate some concern about students missing school and students' ability to follow through on responsibilities; overall, however, teachers viewed the school administration, the students, and the community in a positive light.

Student responses to the climate survey were more varied. Many students believed that only smart students could complete the assigned work and that teachers made students feel bad when they did not know the correct answers. Students also reported that the halls were noisy and that there were many fights. However, over 95% of the student respondents described the faculty as caring about teaching and being knowledgeable. Students reported that parents encouraged them to follow the school rules and to participate in school activities.

Parents responded positively on 70-100% of items on the parent survey. On five items over 95% of the parents responded positively. The responses indicated good cooperation between parents and school personnel. On only three items were positive responses given by less than 80% of the parent respondents. These items related to parents' concerns about fighting in the school and the difficulty level of the homework assigned.

The Instructional Program

Order and Atmosphere. After the initial observation in each classroom in the school, observers came away with an overall impression that classrooms were orderly and under control, but lacked energy and intensity. The instructional programs were routine. In most classes, students could be seen working at their desks, completing independent assignments (e.g., workbook pages and coloring) or participating in a teacher-directed activity (reading or answering questions), interrupted only rarely by students coming and going (e.g., to speech or instrumental music; Chapter I services followed an in-class model). Teachers moved about the room to maintain order and sometimes to provide assistance while students worked independently.

Rules for appropriate behavior were posted in all classes. The feeling tone of the classes seemed positive; observers did not get the impression that teachers made negative or sarcastic comments to students. Teachers complimented students who behaved appropriately, and in one class teachers awarded stars to "good" students. In another class, names of misbehaving students were displayed on the board. In five classes, teachers used verbal reprimands to redirect students or to prompt more appropriate behavior; in two classes, teachers used isolation as a redirection technique.

Transitions from period to period, or from activity to activity within a period, were generally smooth, although in one or two classes transition times were noisy. In all classes, students had assigned seats and kept the materials they needed in their desks. Students used texts, workbooks, and dittos. Most classes operated with only one adult, the teacher, in the class; the primary mode of instruction was a single lesson taught to the whole group or the same seatwork activity assigned to the entire class. No students were observed working in pairs or in small groups. Students were generally quiet; they raised hands to be recognized or to get permission to move around. There was little talking among themselves. In general, the level of participation among students was not high.

Organization of Instruction. Interviews with the teachers and observations of reading and math classes on 3 consecutive days supplemented these initial impressions of how teachers at this elementary school organized and managed instruction in basic skills. In both reading and math classes, teachers intentionally taught single large groups and followed fairly established routines.

In first grade, the focus of reading instruction was on skill development. Each morning of reading (reading was taught four periods per day) consisted of a teacher-directed skill lesson followed by a teacher-directed text-related lesson and group completion of workbook pages. Students moved back and forth from their seats during the morning, but were engaged in teacher-directed large (whole) group activities for the entire 160 minutes. In third grade, reading instruction was slightly less predictable, because the teachers were less predictable, because the teachers were less experienced and less well organized. But lessons were always directed to a single whole group, and the teacher spent most of the three periods per day on a text-related lesson derived directly from the Teacher's Manual. The two periods per day of fifth-grade reading followed a rigid and predictable routine. Each reading day began with 20 min of free reading or independent seatwork in the reading workbook. Then, the teacher directed a whole-class reading lesson at the chalkboard for about 30 min, after which students did a follow-up set of activities in their workbooks. After a bathroom break, students finished the 80-min reading lesson by returning to free reading or independent seatwork.

Math was taught for one period per day through the third-grade level. In first grade each day, the teacher took about 5 min to settle the students down, then presented new material and guided students (with questions and answers) through a practice activity for about 20 min, and finally provided monitored practice on workbook pages for the remaining 15 min of the period. In third grade, more time was allocated to independent practice (25 min of each 40-min period) and slightly less time to presentations of new material and opportunities for student questions (about 15 min each day). In fifth grade, math was taught for six or seven periods per week. Each class period began with an oral review (5 min), then 35 min of either independent practice on a worksheet or at the chalkboard, or introduction of a new skill. If the teacher were presenting a new skill, he or she began with a brief demonstration at the board and then assigned independent practice for most students at their seats and guided practice for a few students at the board.

Accomodation to Individual Differences in Reading Instruction. Interviews with the primary team and the intermediate team focused on adaptations they made in the curricula to provide for individual differences. The assigned text for reading instruction in Grades 3-5 was the Harcourt-Brace-Jovanovich (HBJ) reading series. For Grades K-2, the district had adopted the Open Court reading series.

Teachers in Grades 3-5 were very comfortable with the HBJ series and made heavy use of the Teacher's Manual to guide their instruction. Teachers each taught one reading group per class and made no effort to differentiate assignments for students. For "before reading" activities, teachers used the vocabulary or skill guides called for in the manual, supplementing only when they felt that their students were particularly in need of additional words or skills. For "during reading" activities, teachers sometimes had students read page-by-page and answer teacher-directed questions and sometimes had students read the entire piece of text before responding to questions. Most teachers reported that the comprehension workbooks provided sufficient practice for students "after reading." Few teachers provided additional enrichment or extension activities for their students. Teachers felt that the text selections in HBJ were generally interesting; and although they wondered whether their students had sufficient prior knowledge to handle the stories and the expository selections, they did little beyond what was suggested in the Teacher's Manual when dealing with the text material. Teachers reported that they generally followed the sequence of lessons in the Teacher's Manual from the beginning of the book (regardless of where students had ended the previous year), ending wherever the students reached by the close of the school year.

Primary-grade teachers were slightly less enthusiastic about the adopted text, Open Court. Both the first- and second-grade teachers felt that there were many components of the program that they "simply didn't have time for." Three of the four teachers had eliminated the composition cycle from the reading instruction routine. One teacher "couldn't fit" the Response Card Drills into the phonics lesson sequence. None of the teachers was pleased with the way sound-symbols were introduced or really comfortable with multiple vowel spellings being introduced so early in the children's reading program. None of the teachers liked the vocabulary lessons in Open Court. One teacher believed that words needed to be explained in almost every sentence of Open Court text. Another teacher missed teaching students a sight vocabulary as part of early reading. Finally, the teachers thought the stories in the series were "dry, dull, and tedious." They believed that the students did not enjoy the fables, did not relate well to them, and did not learn reading comprehension skills through them. The comprehension workbooks provided with the series were judged to be too hard and to require too much teacher direction. Nevertheless, the teachers felt obligated to teach the Open Court lessons as directed in the Teacher's Manual and did not supplement or alter them substantially. Primary teachers also progressed through the curriculum, covering skills in the order presented in the teachers' guides, and used their judgment and experience to determine the rate of progress for the class. Teachers aimed to complete a year of instruction (as defined in the Teacher's Manual) in a year of schooling and believed that they had pared the curriculum down to its bare essential in order to accomplish that. In all K-2 classrooms, lessons were taught to the whole class; there was no grouping for instruction, and no differentiated pacing or assignments.

Accommodation to Individual Differences in Math Instruction. At the fourth and fifth grade level, a designated math specialist handled all of the math instruction. His interest was in covering the objectives of the math curriculum that would be tested on the annual standardized achievement test. As a result, he postponed until after the spring tests those units in the math book at each grade level that did not relate to tested objectives. There was no individualization of instruction or grouping based on math ability. Classroom groups were organized to facilitate reading instruction, and those students formed the math groups for large-group instruction, as well. There were two ways in which the intermediate math teacher believed he accommodated to individual differences in math ability. First, more advanced students were given additional, more advanced worksheets to complete while the remainder of the class worked on the routine assignments. Second, he sometimes asked particular students to come to the board for a directed practice activity while the remainder of the class completed independent seatwork.

Quantitative Summaries of Teacher and Student Classroom Behaviors. The time-sample, direct observation protocol permitted a quantitative summary of the behaviors of teachers during reading and math instruction and of the behaviors of art, music, and physical education teachers when they did not have LD students in their classes. Table 1 provides a summary of the distribution of teacher behaviors for primary and intermediate reading classes and math classes and for special subject classes.

In the primary grades, reading and math teachers were engaged in one of four instructional behaviors more then 70% of the time, although actual teaching to the group or to individual students took up only about half that time. In reading, primary teachers spent about nine times more time in large-group instruction than in one-to-one teaching or tutoring; in math the time spent in the two grouping arrangements was about equal. Teachers spent almost no time at all during reading or math socializing with the students, and they spent very small percentages of time in behavior management (9.05% of the time in reading and 12.18% of the time in math). Teachers provided positive and negative management comments to students at about equal rates, both rather rarely. Behavior management generally took the form of neutral redirects.

In the intermediate grades, the patterns of teacher behavior during reading and math instruction were slightly different. Teachers spent only about 60% of the time in instructional activities, only 22.5% to 25% of which was in active teaching. Teachers spent twice as much time teaching large groups as individual students. Approximately 18% of teacher time in both reading and math in the intermediate grades was taken up with behavior management; unlike the primary teachers, the intermediate teachers gave negative feedback to students about four to five times as often as they gave positive feedback.

Special subject teachers spent 67% of their time in instructional activities, directed to large-group instruction eight times more often than to individual contacts with students. Sixteen percent of teacher time was spent in behavior management, with equal amounts of time given to positive and negative comments to students and most comments being neutral redirects.

Data from direct observations of student behaviors in reading and math classes are summarized in Tables 2 and 3. Students' behavior in special subject classes in summarized in Table 4. Codes for monitoring by adults are not reported in the tables because it was found that the regular education teacher code was used almost 100% of the observation time. Students in reading classes at all grade levels were most likely to be seen working on workbook pages or worksheets, although in the primary grades, students seemed to have no materials in front of them for much of reading time (Table 2). In math classes in Grades 1-3, an observer was just as likely to see students using workbooks and worksheets as to find them with no materials whatsoever. In the fourth and fifth grades students spent almost all their time on workbook pages or other kinds of pencil-and-paper tasks.

Table 2 also verifies the impressions derived from the less formal observations: reading in Grades 1 and 2 was almost exclusively whole-group instruction. In math, more time was allocated to independent seatwork and less to whole-class, teacher-directed instruction. In the upper elementary grades, students split their time almost equally between whole-class instruction and independent seatwork in both reading and math classes, but in no setting was there any small group instruction.

Table 3 shows that students were on task as little as 82% of the time and as much as 94% of the time. However, students spent a significant portion of reading class in general management activities (e.g., getting ready to work, putting materials away, lining up, and going to the bathroom) and in Grades 1 and 3 only about 25% of the allocated reading time for actual reading. Students in second and fourth grades spent 35-36% of their reading period reading, whereas fifth graders were observed reading nearly half of the time. There was little time devoted to interactive learning during reading class, as evidenced by the small amount of time students were seen listening and talking.

Management activities took up a considerable portion of math class as well, especially in Grades 1 through 3, although overall, students spent more time doing math in math classes than they spent reading in reading classes. As in reading, there was little time spent by students in listening and talking, reflecting both that there was little interactive teaching going on in math classes and that teachers had students doing independent seatwork most of the time.

Special subject classes (art, music, and physical education) occasionally made use of manipulatives (15% of the time) or workbook pages (9% of the time) but were most often taught with no materials provided to the students (68% of the time) (see Table 4). As in reading and math classes, whole-group instruction was the predominant mode of instruction in special subject classes (77% of the time). Students were on-task nearly 87% of the time, although close to half that time was spent in general management activities. A teacher-directed lecture format was more common in the special subjects, as evidenced by the relatively large amount of student listening (21%) compared with student talking (less than 1%).


The current research was designed to provide a picture of one urban elementary school as it prepared to implement a full-time mainstreaming program for students with learning disabilities. Data collected during the planning year of a mainstreaming project permitted a detailed analysis of the life of that school--the attitudes of students, teachers, parents, and administration; the instructional and management practices of regular education teachers; and the extent to which the school accommodated individual differences. Data from informal and structured observations in hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms; interviews with school personnel; and surveys of teachers, students, and parents provided convergent evidence on the readiness of the school for the regular education initiative.

The consensus among observers, teachers, parents, and students was that this was a "nice" school. Most students seemed very comfortable in the school. On-task rates in classrooms were high. Few students failed courses or were required to repeat the school year, although nearly half the students scored below the 50th percentile in reading on spring achievement test scores. The school was neat and clean, and routines were well established. Teachers stressed orderliness and quiet behavior in the hallways and during instructional activities; and, for the most part, students complied. Students who did not comply were dealt with severely: 5% of the student body spent a total of 108 school days in the in-house suspension room, and 8% received out-of-school suspensions on one or more occasions.

The overriding impression of observers in these classrooms was of undifferentiated, large-group instruction, "taught by the book." Teachers did not make professional decisions about what to teach their students; for all subjects, they followed the sequence of lessons outlined in teachers' manuals, deviating only if required by district mandates. This meant that students often missed learning some important skills that were covered in units late in their books. The teachers did not seem insensitive to the needs of the slowest or the fastest student; but they were more committed to routine than to addressing individual differences. All instruction was directed to the whole class or large groups. There were no differentiated assignments within classroom groups. This was a school with uniform expectations and practices for all students. The impact of this approach was felt most keenly by first graders: 17% of first graders received a failing grade in reading at the end of the school year. In the other grades and in other subject areas, failure rates were not as high. At each grade level, however, at least two students earned failing grades in language arts; and in the intermediate grades, two to three students earned failing grades in social studies.

Furthermore, although a majority of teachers' time was devoted to instructional activities, very little time was spent teaching. Classes were quiet and controlled in large part because worksheets and workbooks were standard fare. Teachers spent a great deal of time on general management of classroom routines; and students spent at least one-third of instructional time on activities such as waiting for teacher directions, getting and putting away materials, and lining up and moving to new activities. Although students were attentive and seemed to be doing what they were told, there was no feeling of intensity or urgency in the learning that was taking place. There was almost no interactive instruction or student talk in reading and math classes. Observers came away from classrooms feeling that there was very little spontaneity or enthusiasm among either teachers or students in this school.

Teachers cared about children and were conscientious about their jobs--but their mind-set was conformity, not accommodation. In these regular education classes, any student who could not conform would likely be unsuccessful. It is not surprising that students who displayed persistent behavior problems or who were noisy or off task during the extended periods of independent seatwork were referred out for special education.

The results of the present study suggest that fundamental changes in mainstream instruction must occur if the regular education initiative is to work in this school. Teachers need to increase the percentage of time they devote to teaching and to use a wider range of techniques for teaching reading. Teaching activities will need to include more interactive tasks that involve students in the learning process and increase the time they spend reading. Teachers must be encouraged to vary the size and composition of instructional groups, perhaps having pairs of students work together to increase opportunities for more students to be actively engaged in instructional activities. Such changes in classroom practices will require that teachers reorganize their daily routines and integrate alternative instructional practices. Inservice training and ongoing technical assistance in effective instruction will be invaluable to facilitate the change process. [Figure 1 Omitted] [Tabular data 1 to 4 Omitted]

JANICE M. BAKER is Research Associate, and NAOMI ZIGMOND is Professor of Special Education, Special Education Program, Department of Instruction and Learning, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Author:Baker, Janice M.; Zigmond, Naomi
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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