Monroe Schools intergrating special education students
MONROE — In his 15 years at Monroe High, Matt Chalfant has seen both ends of the inclusion spectrum.
He used to spend five periods a day in resource rooms teaching students pulled from class for individual instruction.
But the resource rooms have been repurposed, as Chalfant — along with his former “pull-outs” — settle into mainstream classrooms.
“Now we’re ‘push out’,” he said. “I’m seeing kids getting opportunities they’ve never had before.”
Students such as junior Kyle Cook.
Kyle, autistic since infanthood, is mostly nonverbal. He has spent most of his school time learning in resource rooms.
This year he is one of Chalfant’s top algebra students.
“It’s a very big success story,” said Kyle’s mother Renee, a Monroe School District paraeducator. “If you’d told me in elementary that he’d be in inclusion in high school, I’d have looked at you and said, ‘No.’”
The district began moving toward full inclusion about eight years ago. Monroe is one of three state high schools that has adopted a model which places students with the most severe learning challenges in general education classrooms.
“We really went in with a blank slate,” Chalfant said. “The challenge was to go in without any pre-judgement, to treat (pupils with severe learning challenges) like any other student.”
Kyle needs minimal accommodation. He raises his hand with questions, listens to Chalfant’s explanations, and writes his answers. A paraeducator accompanies him to class to help with other needs.
Doug Ramsay photo
Student Kyle Cook gives his usual peace sign in front of Monroe High School on Friday, Oct. 20 while dressed for the homecoming game.
Teachers had always recognized Kyle was bright, Renee said, but they had trouble unlocking that intelligence.
She thinks inclusion has been the key.
When Kyle began general education classes, “we saw great improvement in his happiness. We saw him open up,” she said. “He really wants to be in school, so he started following the rules. He really wanted to be there and be part of it.”
Each student with severe learning challenges, though, presents unique needs and challenges. The Monroe High staff is still figuring it out.
“I’m proud of them. They really believe in what we’re trying to do,” Principal Brett Wille said. “You’ll never get there if you don’t make an effort.”
Kyle “blew us away” by his performance in Chalfant’s class, said Wille.
“We never would have known what he was capable of unless we let him do algebra,” he said. “Don’t place limits on what’s possible.”
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