Let’s Talk Inclusion
What Is Inclusion?
[ in-kloo-zhuhn ] Inclusion is the practice of educating all students together – students with disabilities and students without disabilities – side-by-side in the general education setting in their neighborhood school. It is based on the premise that students with disabilities can be full participants in their classrooms and in the local school community. Students with disabilities can receive specially designed instruction and supports in the general education setting and across the school environment with their same-age peers.
- A civil right
- All students learning together regardless of labels
- An atmosphere that promotes a sense of belonging, equality, acceptance, and individual worth
- Collaborative, integrated services by education teams
- Supports and adaptations within the general education curriculum and settings
- Highly effective, research-based instruction and assessment
In other words … it’s good teaching!
Inclusion Is Not:
- Educators working in isolation
- Grouping students by ability
- Scheduling students into general education classrooms without supports for students and teachers
- Watering down curricula
- Expecting all students to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way
We can’t afford to lower our expectations and standards for students with disabilities!
Who Benefits from Inclusion?
Students with Disabilities will:
- Improve social and communication skills
- Increase academic achievement and positive behavior
- Foster the development of relationships with peers without disabilities at school and in the community
Students without disabilities will:
- Engage in academic tasks at a higher and deeper level
- Benefit from the strategies used to support students with disabilities
- Increase awareness and sensitivity to human needs, differences and diversity,
and social justice
- Become more skilled in teaching all students
- Learn to share responsibilities for educating all students
- Develop more satisfying and collegial professional relationships
Inclusion, Integration, Segregation, Exclusion
The Importance of Collaboration
Inclusion requires collaboration between general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, and families. Teachers must work together and share responsibilities for ongoing assessment, instruction, and achievement of all students. Effective teams regularly consult, plan, and problem-solve to analyze the needs of their students. In inclusive schools, family members are viewed as partners in decision-making.
Figuring out how, when, and where to provide the right type and amount of support involves planning by teams that include general and special education teachers, administrators, and other key staff. Together, they must develop a school-wide schedule based on analysis of student needs rather than labels. By using a student-centered approach to scheduling, teams ensure that existing school staff and resources are aligned to meet the needs of all students and provide teachers with opportunities for collaboration.
What Does the Law Say?
Both Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) provide guidance on how to educate students with disabilities. Neither law specifically mentions inclusion. Instead, the laws say students with disabilities should be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and should have access to general education curriculum and settings. Additionally, a recent Supreme Court ruling [Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, 580 U.S.__(2017)] has raised the standard for receiving a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to say that an individual educational plan (IEP) should be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” This means that every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2022 Magazine