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Innovating Inclusion

District 49 is expanding its inclusion opportunities for children with disabilities. When students with disabilities receive special education services in the general education classroom this is known as inclusive education. Students learn the general education curriculum with supplementary aids and services as well as work on their Individualized Education Programs goals, in addition to having access to the general education curriculum and highly qualified teachers. The pillars of inclusive education include: differentiated instruction, engaged learning, co-teaching and belonging to the greater school community. All students benefit from inclusive education.

Inclusive Education

What is inclusive education?


There is not a single, agreed-upon definition of inclusive education. Inclusive education refers to a set of values and practices which exists when the following elements occurs on an ongoing, and daily basis:
  • All students are welcomed in general education. The first placement options considered are the general education classes in the school the students would attend if they did not have a disability.
  • Disability is recognized as a form of human diversity. As such, students with disabilities are accepted as individuals and not denied access based on disability.
  • Appropriate supports are available, regardless of disability label or severity. Given their portability, supports are provided in typical environments, rather than sending students to specialized settings to receive needed supports. Strategies that support successful inclusive education include: Effective co-teaching models, use of differentiated instruction, and engaged learning strategies. 
  • Students, irrespective of their developmental or performance levels, are educated with peers in the same age group. Students with disabilities need not function at or near the same academic level as their classmates (though some do) to benefit from a chronologically age-appropriate, inclusive placement.
What inclusive education is not: When schools work to improve the quality of their supports within inclusive classrooms, they are not eliminating special education programs, therefore, a student may still receive some instruction outside the general education setting. In an inclusion model, school districts often work to improve the quality of all of the services they provide to students.

Will the staff’s positions be cut with inclusion?


When working to provide quality practices in schools, school districts do not universally eliminate personnel such as para-professionals and teachers.

Who benefits from inclusion?


Research currently shows that all students benefit from placement in the general education classroom. This includes students with and without disabilities, English language learners, and gifted and talented students.

What does research say about inclusion?


The National Longitudinal Transition Study, the largest, longitudinal study of education outcomes of 11,000 students with disabilities, showed that more time spent in a general education classroom was positively correlated with:
  • Higher scores on standardized tests of reading and math
  • Fewer absences from school
  • Fewer referrals for disruptive behavior
  • Download a research article about inclusive education.

How will it affect my student?


Students will benefit from an increase of strategies designed to help all students learn. Teachers will be utilizing principles of universal design that recognize that all students need multiple modes of taking in information, processing information, and showing what they know.

Students will also benefit from the collaboration between special and general education. When special and general education teachers co-teach they both work to meet the needs of all students in the general education classroom. Students therefore are able to receive more support in their learning with the presence of two teachers.

How will it affect me if I am a teacher?


Teachers will be asked to consider how they present their content recognizing the multiple ways students learn. Teachers will be learning about universal design, differentiated instruction, engaged learning strategies, co-teaching and visual support strategies.

General education teachers and special education teachers will be working together to meet the needs of all students.

How will I know when inclusion has been implemented effectively? What are some “look-fors”?

  • High Expectations: All aspects of a student’s educational programming reflect high expectations. To do otherwise results in harm such as fewer educational opportunities, inferior literacy instruction, a segregated education, and fewer choices as an adult.
  • Social Relationships and Natural Supports: Students are in an environment that fosters friendships and encourages full participation in all activities.
  • Full Participation and Membership in Age- Appropriate General Education Classrooms
  • Quality Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Students who are unable to communicate using spoken or sign language have access to accurate and reliable AAC supports and services.
  • Ongoing Performance-Based Assessments: Assessments identify students’ learning and communication styles, preferences and interests, academic strengths and weaknesses, and needs for support.
  • Differentiated Instruction: The curriculum and instruction are designed to accommodate the full range of student diversity. Individualized supports are provided to students with significant disabilities to enable them to fully participate and make progress within the general education curriculum.
  • Family-School Partnerships: Families are equipped to be full participants in their child’s education and are connected to accessible, meaningful resources.
  • Team Collaboration: General and special education teachers and related service providers work together in the design, implementation, and evaluation of students’ educational programs and their IEPs.
  • Self-determination: Schools encourage students to identify their own strengths, advocate for the supports they need, and set and pursue meaningful and self-identified goals.
  • Futures Planning: High school students develop four-year plans of study with their guidance counselors and actively participate in the design and pursuit of plans for the transition from school to post-secondary and adult lives.
  • Ongoing Professional Development for General and Special Education Staff
  • Special and General Education Reform
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