04 SES 03 A, Inclusive Classrooms, Inclusive Pedagogy and Transition
The aim of this study is the description of the opinions of pupils with cognitive disabilities and their parents about their experiences in the transition period from lower to upper secondary school in the Italian school system.
Inclusive Education represents a crucial step of a society that moves towards social justice and participating citizenship. For more than 20 years, several international documents such as the Salamanca Statement (1994) and the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (2006) have been stating the importance of Education For All within inclusive school systems (UNESCO, 2000).
In this study, Inclusive Education is defined as full participation and high quality learning for all learners. This definition is based on the one proposed by Booth and Ainscow in the Index for Inclusion (2011). It is a broad definition that focuses on diversity and inclusion of all learners and not on specific groups, and this definition overcomes the idea of inclusion as the simple placement in a mainstream setting: co-existence is only the starting point, but then involvement, sharing and quality of learning processes are explicitly addressed. Finally, inclusion is considered as the process to increase learning and participation for all within education systems and their social contexts (Armstrong et al., 2011).
The Italian school system experiences the dilemma of being inclusive in the sense that almost all students have the opportunity of attending mainstream schools, within a society that asks at the same time for social equity, but also for high students’ performances. There seems to be a contradiction between the idea of an inclusive school system and a society that stresses the importance of reaching high results in standardized tests, as PISA-OCSE tests, especially in secondary school and tends to link ranking with funding, as happening in different European countries (Rix and Parry, 2014). Students with disabilities, who were included during their school career in earlier years, are at risk to be marginalised in inclusive educational settings when they enter adolescence.
Several studies focus on the transition period between school and work for people with a disability (Kraemer and Blacher, 2001), but school transition periods in inclusive settings have not been fully investigated. Simeonsson et al. (2001) have examined the type and extent of participation experienced by students with disabilities, considering physical, social and psychological features of the school environment in each school grade, although differences between them have not been explicitly compared. They have realized a national survey with 1,180 teachers of students with disabilities in the US describing student participation in school activities. An important study was conducted in 2004 to examine changes in the school experiences of students with disabilities from middle to high school. This National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) included a nationally representative sample of 14,000 youth receiving special education, aged between 15 and 23 in the school year 1985-86. The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) included a nationally representative sample of 11,276 youth who were aged between 13 and 16 and receiving special education services in seventh grade or above in the 2000-2001 school year. By 2002 there were significant changes in the curricula for pupils with disabilities. After 2002 high school students with disabilities were more likely to be taking core academic classes, more likely to be taking those courses in general education classes, less likely to be taking any special education classes, and less likely to be taking vocational courses. There was an increase in the average number of days of absence for students with disabilities and an increase in the rate of suspensions (Wagner, Newman and Cameto, 2004).
Armstrong D., Armstrong A.C. and Spandagou I. (2011) Inclusion: By Choice or by Chance? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15/1, 29-39 Booth T. and Ainscow M. (2011) Index for Inclusion. Bristol: CSIE Kraemer B.R. and Blacher J. (2001) Transition for Young Adults With Severe Mental Retardation: School Preparation, Parent Expectations, and Family Involvement. Mental Retardation, 39/06, pp. 423-435 Kuckartz U. (2012) Qualitative Content Analysis. Methods, Practice, Computer Assistance. Weinheim and Basel: Beltz Juventa Mayring P. (2004) Qualitative Content Analysis. In: Flick U., von Cardoff E. and Steinke I. (Eds.), A Companion to qualitative Research. London: Sage Rix J. and Parry J. (2014) Ongoing Exclusion within Universal Education: Why Education for All is not Inclusive. Presented paper, NERA 42 Congress, Lillehammer, 05.03.2014 Simeonsson R.J., Carlson D., Huntington G.S., Sturtz McMillen J. and Lytle Brent J. (2001) Students with Disabilities: A National Survey of Participation in School Activities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 23/02 , pp. 49-63 UN (2006) Convention on the Right of Persons with disability. http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml UNESCO (1994) Salamanca Statement. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0009/000984/098427eo.pdf UNESCO (2000) Education for All. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/ Wagner M., Newman L. and Cameto R. (2004) Changes Over Time in the Secondary School Programs of Students with Disabilities. A Report of Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
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