Inclusive Education - What we want, so what will it take?
Throughout conversations, both formal and informal, we talk about including students with disabilities to the furthest extent possible within our schools. Yet, we know for a variety of reasons and on a variety of levels, schools operating in a truly inclusive manner are yet to be the reality. What will it take to truly be inclusive?
Excellent grants and projects are coming out of the ADE to support school personnel in analyzing data, bringing a variety of stakeholders together to examine current practices, make changes based upon the data, and incorporate promising practices. Post school outcome data is collected for schools to look at their current programs and see what happens to students who have graduated a year later. Are these activities and grants changing anything for students and families? Perhaps on a small scale. But don’t we strive for more?
The ADE began, a few years ago, a workgroup to discuss this very thing. The IDEA requires IEP Teams to support students with disabilities so they have access to the general education to the furthest extent possible. Data clearly shows students continue to be in resource or self-contained programs. Data clearly shows students with disabilities continue to struggle with academic success and that we are not closing the achievement gap with regards to reading and math to the marked degree we all would like. Data continues to show people with disabilities are under and unemployed to a significant degree higher than the general population. Again, what will it take to have students demonstrating literacy, self advocacy, communicative competence, and technological skills to compete in the world of work, not only surviving but thriving in society?
It’s about Culture – shifting mindsets and creating a culture of Inclusion. The Inclusive Practices Coalition spent time working through a definition that all would understand. Inclusion is a culture when every individual is valued and has the right to full and lifelong participation along-side peers with and without disabilities in all aspects of society.
This was followed by a discussion of education, and what education would look like if it truly was inclusive. Inclusive Education is creating a culture of high expectations of accepting, respecting, and valuing every student while providing individualized supports and services needed to be successful in general education curriculum and development in all aspects of their learning community.
Lastly, in order to foster inclusive education, school personnel need to know, understand, and effectively implement practices that will change what we are currently doing. Inclusive Practices is the application of actions and strategies that promote the inclusion of every student in the skill areas of: academic, behavior, social/emotional, communication, physical and self-advocacy (determination).
As instructional leaders dedicated to improving systems change for all students, think about these definitions, your local school and institution, and challenge yourself to reflect on your current reality with discussing, fostering, implementing and evaluating inclusive practices. A taxonomy will be forthcoming from the Inclusive Practices Coalition to help us all move forward further in this area.
Take the risk. Take the plunge. Ask yourself your values, beliefs and ideas of inclusion. Ask your peers and colleagues, both internal within your organization as well as amongst your SEAA colleagues what it will take to improve practices which will lead to improved outcomes for all students.
Mark Wills said it well, so take a moment to stop, listen, and reflect with “Don’t Laugh at Me (link: https://youtu.be/FVjbo8dW9c8)”