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Satisfied parents, students, and teachers know that with the Team Approach to Mastery, inclusion isn't a dream or a fad. This system has nearly 20 years of research and development behind it.
For nearly 20 years now, the Christina School District of Newark, Delaware, has been building and evaluating an inclusive classroom model, Team Approach to Mastery (TAM). Before the advent of TAM in 1975, students with disabilities were periodically taken from their regular classroom and placed in a resource room--where, along with other children with disabilities, they received individualized instruction for a part of the school day. In TAM classrooms, students with disabilities are educated alongside their nondisabled peers throughout the entire school day; there is an average ratio of two nondisabled children to each child with a disability. Back when labeling children was a common practice, our department of special services stressed two crucial points. "Labels are not to be used to identify students, but solely for administrative purposes outside of the classroom; and nondisabled students are to be randomly assigned in order to prevent the development of nonheterogeneous classes."
Initially, this bold departure from traditional special education classroom models faced skepticism. The parents of disabled students worried about acceptance. Some parents of high-achieving students doubted that their children would receive adequate instruction. TAM now has the support of parents of both disabled and nondisabled students. "I feel this program is responsible for my child's improvement in self-esteem and her attitude toward her studies," as one parent of a disabled student put it. A parent of a nondisabled student said that "the individual attention given my son by the teachers in the TAM program has allowed him to better understand the subjects he is being taught."
Today, our district, with more than 20,000 …