It seems to me that special education is a balancing act. All students, regardless of disability, deserve and are entitled to an appropriate education. That fact is not in contention. The part I question is the 'appropriate' part.
I have long been an advocate of inclusion. In "Inclusion Teaches Kids Who Struggle How to Succeed" , I closed with the line "Life does not sort people into those who struggle and those who find certain tasks easy; why do we in school then?"
I've been thinking a lot lately though about the sorting process. At what cost do we not sort? It seems to me in some situations, the inclusion of ALL students, lends itself to a watering down of the curriculum for ALL students. In an effort to make the learning accessible by even the lowest of students, we often find ourselves giving such an abbreviated version that we actually do a disservice to the majority of our students.
I still stand by my original argument that often, "When students are pulled out for a subject, special ed teachers tend to "dummy-down" the curriculum; they want students to work at a level at which they can experience total success."
If we can eliminate THAT from happening, perhaps we can solve some of the problem of pull-out versus inclusion. Special needs students come in all shapes and sizes, all different abilities. But each child should be pushed to meet their maximum potential, even if that means at times they will struggle, at times they may fail. Always experiencing total success is not realistic in school just as it is not realistic in life.
I don't know what the perfect education setting would look like. I just struggle with the current model of pushing all students through the same program at the same pace. It lessens the experience for even average students, and at the same time, often is still at such an advanced pace we are leaving behind the struggling students. In essence, we are leaving them ALL behind.
Education must be about more than test scores, more than getting through x amount of curriculum in y amount of time. It has to be about kids and their needs, and how we can best meet them all. Education without flexibility is not education, but cattle herding.