Mainstreaming: A promise fulfilled or a dream denied

Anne Massey Gargan, Fordham University


This study evaluated a staff development program which sought to increase the mainstreaming of handicapped students into general education settings, by cross-training regular and special education teams of teachers in curriculum content and adaptations. Additionally, this study sought to evaluate the effect of the principal's support on the efforts of the trained teacher teams in increasing mainstreaming. The intent of P.L. 94-142 was to place handicapped students in the least restrictive (educational) environment. For many students, this was the regular classroom. However, this intent has not been realized. Statistics indicate increased referrals of students to special education with an exit rate of less that 4% from special education. This evaluative case study sought to ascertain whether or not regular and special education teachers, as a result of this research based staff development, could serve as change agents in their schools to increase mainstreaming. This study was undertaken with a New York City college and 14 schools in a city school district, as part of a Teacher Opportunity Corps grant. Data were gathered over 2 years and were examined for teacher growth in curriculum content, adaptations, and collaboration using a content analysis, a series of t tests, and the participant observations of the researcher. A survey of principals and principal interviews provided another aspect of the effect of the staff development on mainstreaming in individual schools. Significant positive change was found in participants' growth in content knowledge and in use of adaptations. Collaboration among participants also increased, as did mainstreaming in the 14 schools. However, the effect of the principal as a support or inhibitor of increased mainstreaming was far greater than had been anticipated. This last result points to the need for specific in-service training for principals, based upon the principles of adult learning and change theory. This staff development should be shared by the university and the school district to ensure an optimum education for all students in the mainstream of the 21st century.

Subject Area

School administration|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Gargan, Anne Massey, "Mainstreaming: A promise fulfilled or a dream denied" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530949.