The Superintendent has program placement in his arena but I would expect that the Board would receive early notification ofANY change in programming.
This is a long-term program that has been highly successful and any dismantling of it should raise an alarm. I see this as coming from Deputy Superintendent Michael Tolley's area of control.
Friends, I'm asking for your help...
My colleagues at the Haring Center for Research and Training in Inclusive Education just learned that Seattle Public Schools has made the very poor, very short-sighted decision to pull all funding for the Experimental Education Unit's inclusive kindergarten program. This is a blow to our community, and a blow to everyone who values inclusion and believes that all kids have the right to full, equal access to their neighborhood schools.
Video about this program.
This decision will have a devastating impact, on many levels. First and foremost, the 36 students the kindergarten program would have served next year (and the next, etc.) will not have the opportunity to benefit from the outstanding guidance and teaching of the EEU's incredibly gifted staff. The EEU kindergarten gives kids the skills they need to navigate, participate in, and learn from a general education classroom - skills that virtually set the stage for all future school success. For many of our students, the skills they learn in the EEU kindergarten potentially allow them to avoid being placed in completely segregated, separate programs when they move into 1st grade and beyond. All children, especially those with developmental disabilities, deserve to have the best possible start to their educational careers.
This decision also impacts the field of special education on a more broad level. The classrooms at the EEU not only provide high-quality, inclusive education to young kids, they also serve as a living laboratory where the biggest challenges facing the field of education (like, "How do you provide high quality education to kids of a range of different ability levels in the same classroom?".....) are researched, and new educational practices are developed to address these challenges head on. There's a reason why what we do at the EEU works - we consistently challenge ourselves to do more, to look ahead, and to make sure that what we're doing has the evidence to tell us it's working. Countless curricula, teaching strategies, assessment practices, and so much more, have come out of this place. It's changed the field of special education. It's where special education as we know it got its start.
The student teachers and trainees who receive hands-on practice, coaching, and mentorship in the EEU kindergarten classrooms will not have the opportunity to learn in a program where inclusion works. They will not be able to take these strategies and methods and put them into practice in the classrooms where their future careers take them, outside of the walls of the EEU. The effects of this decision will impact children and families for generations to come, in schools and communities all across the country.
The EEU kindergarten program should serve as an example of what is possible. The administrators at Seattle Public Schools, who are legally obligated to ensure that children with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment (i.e. the least segregated, most inclusive classroom) possible, should be planning how this model can be implemented district-wide - how teachers can receive the training and mentorship they need, how school leadership can provide the support and resources necessary to ensure that kids with developmental disabilities aren't relegated to separate, secluded, inferior classrooms, just because they learn differently.
This is a really big deal. Not just to my colleagues, the families I admire and love, or the EEU teachers who have sacrificed their quality of life to work in a place where they can truly make an impact each day. This is about diversity, equity, and access. This is a social justice issue. Inclusion matters.
In the next couple of days we'll be sharing (widely!!) information on how you can help - letters to send, where to send them, who to talk to. Please consider writing, calling, emailing, sharing this post and others, hash-tagging - whatever you feel moved to do. We're taking this to the streets. We won't be silent about this. Please help us.
Thank you for reading, thank you for caring. #inclusionmatters