The value of efficiency has long been an ideal of educational policy in the United States (Guthrie, 1980). Where the education-and especially the art education-of students who are experiencing disabilities is concerned, traditional notions of efficiency (which are primarily rooted in economic standards of measure) may prove inflexible and inadequate in assessing educational outcomes. Guthrie (1980) equates efficiency in the schools with productivity. He explains that a number of factors may affect productivity, including availability of resources and students' environment and social background; likewise, students' varying (dis)abilities can be added to these factors. Indeed, traditional educational efficiency emphasizes autonomy and uniform delivery of services over responsiveness to diversity of needs and the individualized education mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) for (pre)K-12 students who are experiencing disabilities. Semmel, Gerber, and Macmillian (1995) question whether the actual practice of special education is aligned with the intentions of the system of education. They imply that school districts may actually resist the inclusion of students experiencing disabilities into the general classroom setting because the segregationist form of special education was designed for reasons of economy and efficiency. What, then, are these roots of educational efficiency, and what role can/should the value of efficiency play in specialized education under the IDEA? Is there an approach to efficiency in the art education of students experiencing disabilities that may still address a diversity of needs? Here, I examine the background of the value of efficiency in education and how the IDEA apparently defines this value in serving the special educational needs of students experiencing disabilities. I also investigate this value through case study findings of a high school art class as an inclusive educational setting.
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