Function — a particularly tricky word

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Many districts that are short of funds end up placing their lower students, including their special education students, in all-inclusive regular classes. Teachers are a big expense for districts and if a district can eliminate a few special education positions, a gifted-track position, and/or a lower-level math position, then a district that lacks resources may embrace a philosophy of widespread inclusion simply because it’s cheaper. It’s also easy to justify with court decisions supporting the idea that students should be in the least restrictive environment where they are able to “function.”

What exactly does “function” mean in this context? In education today, the word function does not necessarily mean perform at grade level. When classes have such broad differences in academic understanding and mastery, function must take on another meaning to allow inclusion of all students placed in a classroom. Does function mean to make progress? How do we define progress? How much progress is enough? How do we weigh the costs to students whose needs go unmet while other students receive remedial instruction? What do we do when inclusion results in confusion?

This may be another reason why Stan’s $540 book has not been purchased. What if the district realizes that many students cannot read this prospective textbook that teachers are employing? What if the district cannot find a readable book, due to the as yet limited supply of new, Common Core materials? If that $540 book is appropriate for only a subset of students, purchases may be postponed until another, better, Common Core-aligned book appears.

Eduhonesty: In the big picture, any program that forces the whole nation to retool it’s math work chest ought to have had much more scrutiny by teachers, parents and STEM professionals than the Common Core curriculum received before it was rolled out. In the small picture, when a parent cannot get inexpensive, comprehensible resources to help tutor his children as a result of that program, we have a problem with frightening implications. Parents are our first line of defense when children start to fall behind in school. They should never lack the resources necessary to help their kids.