Inclusion of special education students a top concern of teachers, poll says

June 13, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Mainstreaming special education students into classrooms remains a top concern for many teachers, according to a recent Howard County Education Association poll.

The poll, taken of elementary, middle and high school teachers during this school year, also indicated that class size, curriculum overload, separate ninth-grade areas and four-period days worried teachers.

But the overwhelming concern was the inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms. Teachers feel they have not gotten the staffing, training or planning necessary to effectively mainstream special education students.

"It's very stressful for teachers," said Lisa Lightner, head of the teachers' union special education committee. "It's a crisis situation. Teachers are doing the best they can to educate the children."

Teachers union President James Swab noted that many classroom teachers have been dealing with inclusion "through trial and error, and that's not fair to the special education student or the general education student in the class," he said.

"The proper way to implement inclusion is for training to take place before the students arrive in class. That unfortunately was not done in the county, although there are attempts now to do that."

Teachers and administrators will address inclusion and other topics later in the summer to prepare for the 1994-1995 school year. Many also worry that elementary and middle school teachers are being overloaded with matters that don't pertain to educating students. They're now being asked to do far more than teach, which is eroding class time, teachers said.

For example, they must teach values, personal safety and family life and must also prepare students for an array of standardized tests.

"You can only add so much to the teacher or student day," Mr. Swab said.

In other matters, the teachers' union has come out with a list of endorsements for the fall election. Members endorsed Delroy Cornick, a retired Columbia professor, for the school board. Dr. Cornick was endorsed by the union two years ago when he ran for the school board.

"We still believe he is the strongest candidate in the field," Mr. Swab said. "He has a background related to finance, and, as you know, we have annual budget crises. He has a real knowledge of many of the educational issue that we are dealing with, as a school system."

For the state Senate, the union supports James Mundy, a Glenelg Democrat in the 14th District; and Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Columbia Democrat in the 13th District.

"Jim Mundy is a professional educator who has been awarded outstanding teacher awards by students of the school," Mr. Swab said. "He has been involved in state politics, not only in teaching but also in Annapolis. Jim has political insights into not only education, but also other areas that affect the state of Maryland."

Mr. Swab said the union picked Delegate Thomas because she "has been a leader in addressing educational and environmental issues, and in obtaining capital funds for school construction. Whenever her constituents have needed her, she's been there. Whenever educators have needed her, she's been there."

For the County Council positions, the union is backing incumbent C. Vernon Gray, a Columbia Democrat from the 3rd District; George Layman, an Ellicott City Democrat in the 2nd District; and Charles Acquard, a Columbia Democrat from the 1st District.

Mr. Gray's "doors have always been open to parents and educators," Mr. Swab said. "He's always there to ask what is needed in the education budget and has made some excellent decisions relating to funding the education budget."

A panel of teachers interviewed Mr. Layman and Mr. Acquard.

"We have analyzed their responses to a questionnaire," Mr. Swab said. "We feel both George and Charlie have public education as a very high priority and would do their best to maintain and improve the quality of education in Howard County."

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