Dr. Jennifer Katz

Dr. Jennifer Katz

November 7, 2011

WINNIPEG – Classrooms that include students of all levels of ability, including the physically disabled, boost the academic performance of all pupils, especially low achievers and the disabled, says an advocate of inclusive education.

"As soon as you segregate you are not including," said Dr. Jennifer Katz, an assistant professor in the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba.

Katz said research conducted in four Manitoba school divisions with more than 600 students shows typical and gifted students perform equally well in either inclusive or non-inclusive classrooms.

However, inclusive classrooms increase their prosocial behaviour, problem-solving skills and leadership skills, she said at a professional development day at Holy Ghost School last month.

Moreover, low-achieving students in inclusive classrooms demonstrated improved literacy, task completion, prosocial skills and attendance.

Katz said students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms showed improved literacy, language development and general knowledge.

Inclusion means a true sense of interdependence, of value and respect, she said. It involves "a recognition that everyone is worthy of respect, has something to contribute and deserves a good life."

"In schools, that means every child is a part of the social and academic life of the classroom. Every child has the chance to feel good about themselves, and to experience success and growth."

Katz said it's a "copout" to claim inclusion doesn't work. "What teachers lack is training. And we all have the right to retrain."

Too much emphasis is placed on a student's ability to match their grade level, she added.