The Benefits of Specials Needs Schools Over General Education Programs

When it comes to educating their children, parents will naturally seek their best options. For most parents, the choices will usually be between public and private schooling. However, for parents of children with disabilities, the choices will often be whether to enroll their child in special needs schools or in ones that offer general education. For children whose disabilities are not as severe and can potentially attend either, it is extremely important to weigh the benefits against the disadvantages of choosing specialized over mainstream schooling.

Luckily for parents of this day and age, there are resources that will allow students with disabilities the opportunity to learn in a variety of scholastic environments. However, this has not always been the case. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, the options for educating children with disabilities were extremely limited, and stories of children attending special needs schools and overcoming such obstacles were truly few and far between. However, some students still managed to exceed expectations. A great example of such a student was Helen Keller.

Keller was born deaf and blind in 1880. While her disabilities could have severely limited her, she was fortunate enough to meet an astounding teacher named Anne Sullivan. Like Keller, Anne Sullivan was blind. However, she did not let her disability keep her from becoming a teacher, and in 1887 she became Keller’s full-time instructor. Although not quite the same as found in contemporary special needs schools, Sullivan’s pedagogy was nonetheless specialized to suit Keller’s needs. Due to Sullivan’s instruction, Keller went on to be not only a source of inspiration but also one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Since Keller’s time, special educational curriculums and schools have greatly advanced.

Due to changes in how society perceives disabilities, particularly those that affect hearing and speech, children with such disabilities can choose between specials needs schools and general education environments. Recently, researchers discovered that some preschoolers with disabilities that affect their language skills showed greater improvement when placed in an environment with peers who excelled at language skills. What their study suggests is that mainstreaming a student gives them the opportunity to not only participate in a general education learning environment but also allows them to learn how to overcome their impairments. However, students with language disabilities that were not amidst excelling peers did not demonstrate an equal increase in progress, which illustrates some of the disadvantages of not providing adequate attention to special needs students.

The greatest advantage that special needs schools have over general education programs is that they are designed to provide individualized support. In such settings, teachers with training in assisting students with disabilities can adopt specialized education methods. This kind of instruction ensures that students learn in a way that is suitable to them. However, a disadvantage to this specialization is that students will not be among mainstream students, which could lead to feelings of exclusion from their general education peers.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both general education and special needs schools. By taking the time to think about each, parents can pick the best environments to help their children excel in school and grow into happy, contributing members of society.

Qualified Personnel in General Education

Because of the lack of specialized resources and the scarcity of qualified personnel in general education, it has been suggested that districts with significant ELL enrollment will likely place these students in special education; in fact, research conducted in California by Alfredo Artiles, Robert Rueda, Jesús Salazar, and Ignacio Higareda suggests that English language learners (ELLs) are disproportionately placed in disability programs.

Historically, the so-called subjective disabilities have been overpopulated at the national level by ethnic minority students, particularly African American and American Indian learners, as explained by Suzanne Donovan and Christopher Cross. These categories include learning disabilities (LD), mild mental retardation (MMR), and emotional/behavioral disorders (E/BD). ELL overrepresentation has been reported in the past two decades, as Alba Ortiz and James Yates report in their chapter in English Language Learners With Special Needs.

It is interesting that although general educators may be using disability diagnoses as a means to cope with the aforementioned contemporary reforms, special education is transforming its identity as a result of the inclusive education movement and preventive approaches. Indeed, more students with disabilities are being educated in general education classrooms, though it has been reported by Daniel Losen and Gary Orfield that ethnic minority students are placed in more segregated settings than are their White counterparts. In turn, preventive models such as “response to intervention” (RTI) promise to identify and treat early (i.e., while the student is still in a general education environment).

These new trends are creating unique and unprecedented conditions for the education of ELLs. This entry addresses the legal background of the special education programs geared toward culturally and linguistically diverse students designated as ELLs and the implications for assessment, curriculum planning, and the nature of inclusive education programs for those students.

General Education

What is general education? Usually it’s composed of different subjects like English, History, Social Sciences or other subjects required in your chosen program. If you don’t want to come up with a major yet, general education gets you into the picture. You are saved of making the mistake of choosing the wrong major. And you can still explore your strengths and the areas you want to get your expertise. You are given the chance to learn more about your interests and maybe acquire new interests as you go along with your studies. General education allows students to take different subjects such as English, Humanities, Theatre or Film, Computers, Psychology, History, Social Science and others, until they find what the best match for them is. You’re saved wasting time and efforts with courses you’re not sure of.

A degree in general education can be a 2 year program but can cover necessary credentials for you to take it to the bachelor or master degree level. It can also be a 4 year program, enough for you to get an average paying job in different sectors. A university’s take on general education may vary. Their curriculum and elective subjects can be different as it can be tailored per profession like educators or sales people. This degree is perfect for those aspiring to become teachers, counsellors, principals, administrative assistants or sales representative.

You can get a job even if you don’t possess a specialization in a certain field. After you graduate, there’s an assurance that you will secure a job. A graduate of general education can get a job as a counsellor and earn $60,000 or higher per annum. His job is to keep an eye on troubled students, perform one on one talks and assist students with their personal issues. He works closely with students and must keep their best interests at heart. You could also land a job as a secondary school teacher. Your job is to teach, guide, and evaluate students. High school teachers are required to have one or more specialization. How you implement discipline and cultivate their skills or talents will become their foundation as a better individual. Educators earn $50,000 or more per year. You can also work as a high school principal. You’ll be the top executive inside the school. A master’s or higher educational attainment under your belt is required. You’ll get the toughest job to manage your educators, how they implement your scribed values or policies. You must assure that they are all working as one unit to adhere to your said standard. You’ll receive $80,000 or higher per annum, still exclusive of allowances. You can still work outside the education industry; others work in sales.

General Education boasts of a well-balanced program that will aid you to become a well-rounded professional. Covering subjects you can implement on a daily basis which can serve as the foundation for major subjects you may want to cover later on. General education is an alternative way for you to earn your degree and flexibility to work in a variety of industries.

Teaching Tips For Effective Collaboration For ESL and General Education Teachers

ESL and general education teachers can collaborate to help plan curriculum and support the specific needs of their struggling English language learners.Teachers need collaborative resources for different areas of lesson planning, instructional settings, and curriculum design. General education teachers spend many hours in instructional planning, classroom management, and assessment usually without any input from ESL teachers. In their collaboration, ESL and general education teachers should consider a variety of instructional strategies and develop a system for checking and rechecking how students acquire knowledge. Teachers can use various resources to begin the collaboration process. There are other things teachers can do as well to facilitate the process of working together.

Implications and Conclusions for General Education and ESL Teachers

ESL and general education teachers benefit greatly from collaboration. The critical need to successfully teach struggling ELLs in primary grades makes collaboration not only beneficial, but necessary.

Before teachers can truly collaborate, they need to understand their ELLs and the areas in which they struggle. They will also want to consider how they have grouped their students. Teachers take this information as input when they meet with other teachers to work on practical solutions. Teachers face constraints of time, curriculum, and district procedures. They can suggest collaborative models to their administrators and colleagues as part of the solution. The ultimate goal is to create a supportive learning environment for teachers and students.

Teachers can develop a plan, use various resources to aid in collaboration, and follow guidelines that facilitate collaboration to experience positive results. They can ask questions along the way to guide their inquiry and collaborative efforts.

The support and input teachers receive in collaboration in turn gives them the ability to better support their lower performing readers. Collaboration gives ESL specialists and general education teachers ways in which they can work together to further ELLs’ progress to ensure success in general education classrooms. Teacher tips: These tips will help you maximize the benefits of collaboration for you and your students. A collaborative plan should reflect goals for supporting ELLs. In your plan include characteristics of your struggling ELLs, teaching strategies, and a modifications checklist for monitoring their work. Find common areas of learning and reading difficulties to facilitate your collaboration with ESL or general education teachers. Use collaboration to help you plan reading and oral instruction to meet your students’ critical needs.

The Real Deal of Successful Collaborative Teaching Between ESL and General Education Teachers

Nowadays, it makes so much more sense for teachers of ELLs working in faced paced classrooms to collaborate. Teachers need to learn from other teachers what works especially when it comes to supporting struggling ELLs. But this is not such a simple task. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” For supporting ELLs, this collaboration never had a more meaningful role in supporting struggling ELLs learn how to read. I think new teachers especially, become frustrated when they don’t use collaboration strategically, but when they get to build on their collaboration, their interest grows.

Teachers can learn from other teachers who work with ELLs in either a general education class or small ESL learning group. They can create supportive learning and working environments when they know the various ranges of activities that have worked successfully for ELLs. They get excited about adapting activities when it can help their ELLs become more proficient readers and decoders. They learn collaborative strategies by collaboration. The key is to put the teacher as the learner.

My first and second grade ELLs enjoy oral work that focuses on sound and meaning when it is combines in a variety of playful contexts such as rhymes, songs, jazz chants and poetry, but I have found that they sometimes they don’t get the deeper meaning and this frustrates me. What’s this word? What does it mean? Back to thinking different strategies on my own…not again.

During my first year of teaching struggling elementary ELLs, I worked closely with a mentor and ten other teachers. The focus of our workshop was learning what worked from other teachers, so we could bridge some of literacy gaps. The facilitator had us engage in learning journals using guided subjects for reflection. We began by writing our concerns and questions, and then we reflected on the lessons using guiding questions. Our facilitator then responded to our journals and extracted various entries, which were then categorized under various subjects. Some of the other reflections revealed a totally different approach to teaching ELLs. Some of the teachers had plenty of practical activities and thoughts while others raised more thoughtful questions and concerns. Reading their responses helped me get into the mind of a first grade ELL – what a great experience!

After this, I realized that there were plenty of issues I needed to be aware of before expecting ELLs to read. The challenge with using the teachers’ responses as a guide for planning lessons was being prepared in knowing that some activities wouldn’t work for my particular struggling ELLs. They couldn’t acquire meaning without doing lots of decoding exercises and so there was not much they were able to do without a lot of oral help and support. In addition, they needed a lot of support in other areas as well. The most important thing a teacher of ELLs can do is to is to take a pre-assessment of their abilities and interests and create a student profile. Then, a teacher can customize instruction by providing successful activities based on what is available to the teacher and what the ELL can do. If teachers want ELLs to succeed just like their native English speaking peers, they need to be prepared a wide variety of learning options.

With other general education and ESL teachers, I tried to recreate a productive collaboration mode whereby teachers were able to learn from each other. I encouraged general education teachers to reflect on how successful they were able to teach a balanced mode of reading using components of oral and reading instruction. Then I asked teachers to reflect on the challenges using a series of lead-in questions and subjects for reflection we could investigate. Then we categorized the responses and as a collaborative group, we came up with a wide range of possibilities for teaching struggling ELLs in both educational and ESL learning contexts. The ELLs from both groups were then challenged using the wide range of activities we were able to pool together.

Creating the need to collaborate between general education and ESL teachers is a lot harder than it looks. General education teachers need encouragement, guidance and support to see the benefits of collaborating with ESL teachers and vis-versa. But teachers are actually benefiting when teachers successfully collaborate, not simply for the sake of acquiring additional teaching ideas but how to use those ideas more strategically to support their struggling ELLs. Students continued to struggle, but at least, teachers felt that the dialogue experience gave them more confidence builder strategies and tips to fully cater to the needs of their ELLs and they created lessons with more thought and engagement than before.

Reflective thinking is one process that I have used successfully, but there are strategies for encouraging reflective thinking as well. Reflective practice and professional development encourages educators to incorporate reflecting thinking in their daily practice as a prerequisite for collaboration. In our book proposal on Collaborative Teaching between ESL and General Education Teachers, Grades K-2: What Educators Need to Know, we wrote: “The critical need to successfully teach struggling ELLs in primary grades makes collaboration not only beneficial, but necessary. But before teachers can truly collaborate, they need to understand their ELLs and the areas in which they struggle. They will also want to consider how they have grouped their students. Teachers take this information as input when they meet with other teachers to work on practical solutions. Teachers face constraints of time, curriculum, and district procedures. They can suggest collaborative models to their administrators and colleagues to be part of the solution. The ultimate goal is to create a supportive learning environment for teachers and students.”

Benefits of General Education and ESL Teacher Collaboration

Collaboration benefits ESL and ELL teachers by giving them ways to cope with the daily task of helping their struggling readers. While relationships take time to develop and grow, teachers can ultimately benefit from a working model of collaboration.

A dialogue between teachers allows them to identify and clarify areas in which they seek easy-to-implement solutions to meet the needs of their students. Some general education teachers have planning hours for collaboration to work closely together with ESL specialists to support struggling readers. Other ESL and ELL teachers realize they can greatly benefit from each other’s knowledge but just don’t have the support or the time.

The state provides basic guidelines for ELL placement with entrance and exit exams. Individual schools have to determine how much time they want to allow for teacher collaboration to ensure placement that best meets these students’ needs.

School and/or district policies do not always provide teachers with specific guidance and support on how to meet common ELL reading deficiencies. Teachers need to become familiar with the areas in which ELL students may struggle in reading.

The benefits of collaboration may not be evident for new teachers. They still seek reassurance that their classroom management and lesson planning techniques are effective. When students do not reach their potential, they remain bored and/or unchallenged thus causing potential discipline problems. Collaboration addresses these concerns. It allows teachers to learn effective classroom management techniques from one another. Collaboration can also be effective in designing joint lessons that cater to diverse student needs and interests. In their collaborative process, teachers will identify successful classroom activities, methods, and ideas. Classroom management and lesson planning benefit from collaboration. Each teacher brings strengths and weaknesses to the discussion, as illustrated in the following example.

5 Steps for Implementing a Collaborative Session for Struggling ELLs

1. Prior to the collaborative session, identify your own unique strengths and weaknesses

2. Complement other teachers’ efforts to help you acquire a comprehensive profile of your strengths not just associated with the grade and skills of your class. 3. Use the insights from identifying and addressing students’ needs for other areas such as classroom organization and classroom


4. Brainstorm and come up with something that would work for the other teacher’s situation.

5. Together, plan instruction that engage students and meet academic needs.

6. Engage in a dialogue on how to incorporate oral instruction by sharing ideas together – this exposes teachers to different types of activities related to oral instruction.

7. Show specific classroom situations in which collaborative techniques were used to support struggling ELLs.

Teachers are able to plan, conduct, and evaluate learning activities for a common group of students. Teachers might have ESLs in support groups or ELLs in general education classes sharing a common curriculum. Or ESL specialists and general education teachers might share students. Either way, ESL and ELL teachers can differentiate instructional activities using oral language.

Collaboration between ESL specialists and general education teachers can also meet the needs of diverse student populations. It helps teachers tailor the curriculum and instruction to meet a wide range of student learning needs. As teachers work together, they can address issues of oral proficiency connected with read-alouds and vocabulary acquisition as well as fluency and comprehension strategies for deeper understanding.

There are many possibilities for collaboration. Teachers can collaborate in many different areas. In addition to those discussed above, teachers can also collaborate in the following ways. They can work together to prepare lessons, either on the same content or in sequence. In situations where the ESL teacher comes into a general education classroom, teachers can plan and co-teach. Classroom observations and visits provide insight and input for teacher collaboration.

Making the Most of Your General Education Classes

Many college students wince when they think of their general education classes. Once you get beyond the basics of the required math, English, speech, and critical thinking offerings, then you have to plow through a bunch of boring stuff that has no applicability to real life until you can dig into the classes in your major. Right?

No. The idea that general education (GE) classes have to be dry and pointless is a mistaken one. In fact, at many colleges and universities, there is a quite of variety of subjects to fulfill each section of the general education requirements. Of course, the more courses your institution offers overall, the more likely you are to find a course that it is a good fit for you. There will be times where your choices are several classes that don’t thrill you, but at least then you can do some informed research into which one is most likely to work best for you.

Let’s look at the general education pattern for California State University, San Bernardino, a university of roughly 18,000 students in southern California. The broad GE categories are basic skills, natural science, humanities, social and behavioral science, and lifelong understanding. The titles will be different but the concepts are similar among most colleges and universities.

Basic skills are just that – math, English, speech, and critical thinking. There is not a large choice of classes for this category. These are meant to be the baseline skills that every college student must possess in order to proceed successfully with the rest of his or her education. It is a wise plan to take care of basic skills classes first.

Natural science contains areas like biology, astronomy, chemistry, geography, geology, physics, and higher math. At CSUSB [out], there are even specialized classes in genetics, sexually transmitted diseases, and earthquakes.

The area of humanities covers art, music, theatre, literature, and foreign languages. It also delves into the relationship of art, music, theatre, and literature with specific cultures.

Social and behavioral science spans fields such as history, world cultures, anthropology, human evolution, race and ethnicity, psychology, and sociology. There is a rich array of classes about what makes people tick in this section.

Lifelong understanding has to do with physical, psychological, and social wellness and encompasses classes about making positive life choices as well as a variety of physical education classes.

Colleges and universities provide a comprehensive list of GE classes in their paper catalogs or or online. It is also common for references to the GE pattern to appear in class schedules so you can see which requirement you will be fulfilling if you take a particular class.

Too often students will just pick a GE course simply based on whether it fits the rest of their schedule. It is also common for students to choose a GE course based on the name of the class in the schedule without reading the description of what the class is about in the catalog or bulletin. This can be a recipe for disaster. However, if you put some thought into it and plan ahead, you can find choices to satisfy your general education requirements that will satisfy you, too. Checking in with your academic advisor can be especially helpful, as he/she may have information on which classes will be offered in future semesters.