QUEBEC CITY - Only one in four special needs students in quebec ever graduates from high school.

The education minister says that's proof the practice of integrating those children with difficulties isn't working.

Currently, children with special needs are placed in classes along with everyone else, but Annie Desjardins is old enough to have gone through school isolated from many of her peers.

"In special ed classes, we felt very lonely," said Desjardins.

Years later she found an adult literacy group which ended her isolation.

That group was among dozens of people meeting with the Education Minister Monday to plead with the government not to bring back separate classes.

On the flip side of the coin, teachers like Katy Magorka say attending to special needs children in her integrated classroom consumes the bulk of her day.

"It takes a lot of my time to make sure that they are well in the classroom. Otherwise I cannot teach," said the first-grade teacher from Greenfield Park.

Unions say the current system is not working.

"It's not good for the kids with problems, it's not good for the kids without problems," said Jean Laporte of the Federation of Teachers' Unions (FSE).

He says integration only works to a certain threshold.

"If you have 8% of integration in the classroom it's workable. More than 10%, it's difficult. 20% it's surely not workable at all," said Laporte.

David Birnbaum of the Quebec English School Boards Association says integration can be successful, but it takes work and resources.

"In the real world, there are people with differing levels of potential that need to work together," Birnbaum said.

Minister Line Beauchamp says she is listening to the debate, but that she still hasn't come across a magic solution.

She may ask the health ministry for help with diagnosis and treatment of disorders so teachers can get back to teaching, and she will ask private schools to take on more

students with difficulties.