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Regular class or resource room for students with disabilities? A direct response to "Rich and Ross: A Mixed Message." (Point/Counterpoint)

Regular Class or Resource Room for Students with Disabilities? A Direct Response to "Rich and Ross: A Mixed Message"

* We appreciate the opportunity to clarify some of the issues raised in the analysis of our article "Students' Time on Learning Tasks in Special Education" (Rich & Ross, 1989), contained in "Rich and Ross: A Mixed Message." If other readers had similar questions regarding our data and conclusions, then this forum is an excellent one to shed additional light on the primary implications of our article. Central to the debate is the educational placement of students with disabilities, which continues to be a priority concern for both regular and special education.

Although several peripheral problems are alleged in the article, the major conflict in interpretation seems to be that our data support the resource room, but that we are recommending the regular class as the preferred placement for students with disabilities. This was not our conclusion. We did say that the resource room provided more allocated learning time and that students demonstrated more on-task time in that placement. We further stated (which was correctly identified) that the resource alternative seems "to be organizationally designed to maximize learning time" (p. 513). This does not represent a position in favor of placement of students with disabilities in the regular or resource alternative, but that there are conditions within the resource setting that are associated with greater student time on task. In consideration of this point, both regular education and segregated special classes should consider some instructional and organizational changes.

Further, we do not believe that our conclusions are in contradiction to Will (1986) regarding the regular education initiative. Will does question the effectiveness of "pull-out" programs, but her "concluding thoughts" are that success will depend on "acceptance of the general applicability of special education techniques beyond the confines of the special education class" (pp. 414-415).

As a final point on the issue of regular or resource placement, we believe that converting special education to a resource model is not the answer to a complex problem. Though it may be true that the resource alternative, in this study, was statistically "an island of learning opportunity" for many students, there were also some students who demonstrated equally high rates of on-task behavior in the regular class. Therefore, we believe that the reviewers are correct in their belief that we need to better understand the interaction between treatment factors and the characteristics of the students. This seems to be especially true with regard to some children with disabilities, who appear to have been automatically excluded from the regular class and resource room and were placed in segregated settings based on their categorical "label" (i.e., seriously emotionally disturbed and moderately mentally retarded). The willingness to establish a data base and implement the concept of Aptitude X Treatment interaction (Cronbach & Snow, 1977), or even curriculum-based assessment, is sadly lacking in special and regular education.

The review correctly identifies the absence of achievement data. The purpose of our research was to measure the use of time, not to measure achievement. Much of the discussion connecting time and achievement was based on the documented positive relationship between the two factors and how they relate to the placement alternatives (e.g., Calhoun & Elliott, 1977; Greenwood, Delquadri & Hall, 1984). Certainly, future research should more specifically address these variables, but should include a broader definition of achievement (e.g., academic, behavioral, and social). To this end, we felt that on-task time was a factor that was related to "student's educational progress."

Regarding "some problems" the reviewers "found" with the data, that is, "80 minutes to be 22.2% rather than 21.5% of 6 hours," we can only apologize. Apparently, the .7% difference was a result of a rounding error calculated from the raw data. It is unfortunate, however, that this was the only data problem identified, particularly since it was of minimal importance to the overall study. If there were data problems of more significance, it would be helpful to have that information.

We share the reviewers' concerns over the use of instructional time and hope that our findings regarding the more efficient use of class time can be translated into more effective procedures when students with disabilities are enrolled in any educational alternative. Again, we strongly believe that the value and main implication of our research is to suggest that the use of time in the regular class and especially in the segregated special class can and should be increased, not that the regular class should be replaced by more time in the resource setting.


Calhoun, G., & Elliott, R. (1977). Self-concept and academic achievement of educable retarded and emotionally disturbed pupils. Exceptional Children, 44, 379-380.

Cronbach, L. J., & Snow, R. E. (1977). Aptitudes and instructional methods. New York: Irvington.

Greenwood, C. R., Delquadri, J. C., & Hall, R. V. (1984). Opportunity to respond and academic achievement performance. In W. L. Heward, T. E. Heron, D. S. Hill, & J. Trapp-Porter (Eds.), Focus on behavior analysis in education. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Rich, H. L., & Ross, S. M. (1989). Students' time on learning tasks in special education. Exceptional Children, 55, 508-515.

Will, M. C. (1986). Educating children with learning problems: A shared responsibility. Exceptional Children, 52, 411-415.

H. LYNDALL RICH (CEC Chapter #206) is a Professor in the Department of Special Education and STEVEN M. ROSS is a Professor in Foundations of Education at Memphis State University, Memphis, Tennessee.

Exceptional Children, Vol. 57, No. 5, pp. 476-477. [C] 1991 The Council for Exceptional Children.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Rich, H. Lyndall; Ross, Steven M.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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