Inclusion in Schools

Why, what it is, how to make it work and methods of implementing it.  A reader requested this thread.

Two items to note.  Most of the searches on inclusion and education are around Sped students.  But yes, there is a whole subset of research on inclusion and gifted education.  I found a very good article about inclusion and gifted education that could be a the blueprint for going forward in SPS.  But SPS has not revealed what they are doing or why so it's hard to know if there is planned change for HC or just change.

Let's start the discussion .

On Special Education and Inclusion, from a Florida State report:

Inclusion is the full acceptance of all students and leads to a sense of belonging within the classroom community.

Inclusive education provides benefits for all students and school personnel and serves as an exemplar for an inclusive society.

While there is no legal definition of inclusion or inclusive education, many organizations and advocacy groups have developed their own definitions.

Inclusive education, according to its most basic definition, means that students with disabilities are supported in chronologically age-appropriate general education classes in their home schools and receive the specialized instruction delineated by their individualized education programs (IEP's) within the context of the core curriculum and general class activities.

Inclusion is not the same as mainstreaming or integration. Mainstreaming attempts to move students from special education classrooms to regular education classrooms only in situations where they are able to keep up with their typically developing peers without specially designed instruction or support. Integration provides only “part-time” inclusion, which prevents the students from becoming full members of the classroom community.

The National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion developed the following working definition of inclusive education:

“Providing to all students, including those with significant disabilities, equitable opportunities to receive effective educational services, with the needed supplementary aids and support services, in age appropriate classrooms in their neighborhood schools, in order to prepare students for productive lives as full members of society.”

From the ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
Despite the continued evolution toward inclusive education, however, tremendous disparities exist among schools, districts, and states. For example, the U.S. Department of Education (2003) found that the percentage of students with disabilities ages 6–21 who were taught for 80 percent or more of the school day in general education classrooms ranged from a low of 18 percent in Hawaii to a high of 82 percent in Vermont. Further, the nature of inclusion varies. 
In some schools, inclusion means the mere physical presence or social inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms; in other schools, it means active modification of content, instruction, and assessment practices so that students can successfully engage in core academic experiences and learning.
Successful promotion and implementation of inclusive education require the five following systems-level practices: connection with other organizational best practices; 
  • visionary leadership and administrative support; 
  • redefined roles and relationships among adults and students; 
  • collaboration; and 
  • additional adult support when needed.
Gifted Ed and Inclusion, from ASCD:
The following definition provides an initial answer to the compatibility of inclusive schools and segregated gifted programs. Stainback and Stainback (1990) define an inclusive school as one that
educates all students in the mainstream ... providing [them with] appropriate educational programs that are challenging yet geared to their capabilities and needs as well as any support and assistance they and/or their teachers may need to be successful in the mainstream. But an inclusive school also goes beyond this. An inclusive school is a place where everyone belongs, is accepted, supports, and is supported by his or her peers and other members of the school community in the course of having his or her educational needs met (p. 3).
One of the essential features of an inclusive school is a cohesive sense of community, accepting of differences and responsive to individual needs. And it is this sense of community that is disrupted by the practice of pulling out gifted children for special services. This disruption takes several forms.
  • The message that “if you're different, then you have to leave” may seriously challenge children's sense of a secure place in the classroom.
  • Removing children who are publicly identified as different makes it more difficult to promote multicultural education and a positive response to differences.
  • Cohesive communities require open communication about differences. Not discussing differences openly—for example, why only some children have been selected for the gifted program—can create a climate of distrust and alienation (Sapon-Shevin 1994).
  • Children's coming and going from gifted classes can disrupt the classroom flow and make it difficult for teachers to establish a cohesive group.
  • Taking children away from the regular classroom to meet their special needs challenges teachers' sense of themselves as responsible for or capable of teaching toward diversity (Sapon-Shevin 1994).
It is important to emphasize that moving toward and embracing inclusion is a process and not a singular act (Stainback and Stainback 1990). Districts that say “We did inclusion last year” will likely be districts that also say “We tried inclusion, and it didn't work!” The reality is that inclusion involves changes in philosophy, curriculum, teaching strategy, and structural organization. 
  • First, inclusion means establishing and maintaining warm, accepting classroom communities that embrace diversity and honor differences.
  • Second, inclusion means implementing a multilevel, multimodality curriculum.
  • Third, inclusion means preparing and supporting teachers to teach interactively.  Changes in the curriculum are closely linked to changes in pedagogy. 
  • Fourth, inclusion means providing ongoing support for teachers in their classrooms and breaking down the barriers of professional isolation.
  • Finally, inclusion means involving parents in the planning process in meaningful ways. Inclusive education programs have relied heavily on the input of parents into their child's education. For example, parental involvement in Individualized Educational Program meetings is mandated by law. Many gifted education programs have also benefited from high levels of parental participation (sometimes required for a child's acceptance in the program). Unfortunately, however, parents of students with disabilities and parents of students identified as gifted have often been positioned against one another to fight over the same small pot of funds. 


Anonymous said…
Not to be too pessimistic, but I don't see gifted ed inclusion as likely to work in Seattle.

Responsiveness to individual needs? Right. A multilevel, multimodality curriculum? Right. Meaningful parent engagement? Right.

And re: the idea that the "sense of community that is disrupted by the practice of pulling out gifted children for special services," the bullet points seem to focus on everything BUT the needs of those gifted kids. For example:

Removing children who are publicly identified as different makes it more difficult to promote multicultural education and a positive response to differences. So, what then? We just leave them there, where they've been "publicly identified as different"? Use them to create a teachable moment on diversity and hope they are then suddenly accepted and connect to their peers in a meaningful way? I don't think it's a "lack of acceptance" that causes these kids to feel out of place--it's a lack of interest in the same things as their age group peers. Big difference.

Or this: Cohesive communities require open communication about differences. Not discussing differences openly—for example, why only some children have been selected for the gifted program—can create a climate of distrust and alienation. Can you imagine the outrage from parents if such discussions occurred--publicly labeling kids as gifted, or explaining to some kids that others are more advanced and have different needs? Talk about fireworks!

Oh, and I got a kick out of this one: Taking children away from the regular classroom to meet their special needs challenges teachers' sense of themselves as responsible for or capable of teaching toward diversity. So it's about making the teachers feel like they're serving everybody well--when teachers are often the first to tell you they won't be able to meet your child's needs? If differentiation were really so easy and makes teachers feel so darn good about themselves, I imagine we'd see a lot more it.

Sorry, but that article seems to me to be grounded in fantasy. It's like "Differentiation PLUS"-- all-level differentiation (SpEd thru HCC), plus the added work of making sure everyone feels good and accepted. Does anyone really think this is possible in today's reality?

Good points, H.

I feel like a lot of what is said is something of a fantasy ONLY because our schools are not set-up financially to be totally inclusive.

Differentiated curriculum? Teaching? Class size?

I've said, over and over, that if SPS had smaller class sizes and teachers had the training and supports they need, all of this is possible and we don't need Spectrum (or even ALOs). But look at the variation of what we see on this blog.

I also know, from my own experience, that teachers view this differently. And some don't want to differentiate. (And, with the Common Core standards and just trying to jump over that hurdle, who can blame them?)
TheGoodFight said…
"because our schools are not set-up financially to be totally inclusive."

I agree they are not "set-up" financially, but for SPS it's not from a lack of funding. Over the last 10 years, there have been numerous KNOWN financial scandals and many more hidden ones costing taxpayers 10s of millions. The runaway administrative cost need to be reduced by cutting back at least 30% right away then continue to lower cost until the "pain point" is found. Just the salaries of the last 4 superintendents alone could have paid for 15 + more classroom teachers.

Can anyone articulate what any of the last 4 superintendents did to improve student outcomes or teachers careers?
Good Fight, good points.

JJ said…
First, I'm curious if the thread is about gifted ed...again, or is it about inclusive education practices?

I see some steps, not many steps, but compared to nothing, leaps, towards greater inclusion for previously excluded special education students in areas like music, sports and leadership classes. I see movement to serve Spectrum and HC students better as well, but the difference, and why I hope this thread isn't all AL, all the time, is that special education students have been not just under-served in many schools like has happened to advanced learning students, but some have been excluded from the classrooms and activities entirely or when present been provided with absolutely no support and literally zero attention and zero work.

If you read the first part of thread, that part is about Sped students. The second half is about gifted students. The overall theme is inclusive education.
Anonymous said…
@ JJ,

Many of the conversations we have here about inclusion in special ed seem to bring up the issue of advanced students (e.g., departures for HCC and/or segregated Spectrum classes result in too-high percentages of SpeEd kids in the remaining student population).

Similarly, many of the conversations around gifted ed seem to result in one camp calling for the elimination/reduction of HCC services, assuming that one of those unicorns of education--differentiation!--will surely take care of things. That's another version of inclusion.

While I don't think gen ed classrooms are likely to meet the needs of ALL types of students anytime soon, I can see why a discussion of "inclusive education practices" would benefit from an inclusive approach, with consideration of all types of students.

mirmac1 said…
The district is going the opposite direction - placing special education students in a "support facility" located at Old Van Asselt. No inclusion for YOU! Talk about third-class status.
Anonymous said…
If we can serve 2e students with HCC students, as we are legally required to do, then I don't know why we can't serve more diverse populations inclusively. Those 2e students are legally required to get differentiation. There were many examples of individualized instruction in the recent spectrum thread that interested me. I find it annoying to choose between HCC & Sped.

-2e parent
Ramond said…
The positive impact of inclusion on non-sped students cant be overstated; students are learning acceptance and how to see beyond the labels. My kids have learned invaluable lessons about themselves and others that would have been impossible without inclusion. Academically, its been better for them with inclusion. The teachers are able to teach at different levels, Im not exactly sure how, but one of my kids is Spectrum, the other HC, both in middle school, and challenged, absolutely. Prepared for high school? We'll see, but compared to when I was in school, very prepared.

The kids I know through mine are also very , very accepting of each others differences and of the diverse scool population. I would feel my children were being robbed without inclusion. It may be the most important thing they get out of school. It lets them relax and be who they want to be, not get pigeon-holed. As the oldest moves into high school, I feel a bit of dread that honors classes may lose the sense of community that has been so well fostered in middle school. I know sooner or later kids get more and more segregated by ability and motivation and interest. It may have to be outside of core academic classes but I feel that my kids will need that group cohesion that comes with diversity and that they will seek it out in other venues, like clubs and sports.

Which brings me to sports. Our school has no-cut sports with frisbee probably the most inclusive. It was interesting to see other schools playing so hard to win and our team playing to win, but not by only using the better players. We had extremely good athletes and weak ones and they all played the same amount, more or less. The wiz bangs got their time and would be played together sometimes but everybody knew and seemed to accept that the team came first, that it was OK to excel or to dog it, kids knew who was who and they just dealt with it. It was surprisingly like real life.

Thats my story of inclusion, from my POV. Im all for it.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Ramond. So refreshing to hear common sense on this blog. The usual fare is "my kid can only be challenged by excluding others. It's all about the cohort of wealthy, self-tested, monocultural performers". The reality is that difference itself, is a challenge, diversity is a challenge, and everyone brings a different understanding, and a different interest to the table. That's how we get creativity. Standardization is the opposite of creativity. SPS has many great inclusion programs, and ACCESS is on the rise. Despite the best efforts of SPS central office - inclusion could not be killed. Thanks to parents.

On to sports. There are SO many opportunities for students to do sports inclusively and without "cut" in high school. Track, swimming, (interestingly) football are all basically no cut sports in high school. Sports that are less "inclusive" and less accessible are those that require a high degree of interaction and quickness - soccer, basketball. Interestingly, Frisbee becomes very UNinclusive at the high school level, and that's a sad thing. Frisbee is trying to be a "real" varsity sport, and a professional sport beyond high school. That effort takes a lot away from the "spirit of the game". Notably, professional Frisbee teams have referees - a contradiction to the ethos of self-refreeing in previous generations.

Inclusion Everywhere
Anonymous said…
@ Ramond, can you tell us any more about where and/or how your HC student was successfully challenged in inclusion at the middle school level? It's so far off the experience of many of us that it's hard to see it as a model for success elsewhere, but maybe knowing more about it would help. It would be great if you could share anything else, such as which school or program this is, what the class sizes and mix of students are like, the teacher configuration, etc. Are classes by level? Are all teachers in the various subjects able to differentiate effectively? What do you think it is about the class that makes it so it's not boring for your HC child? What went into your decision when determining this would be the best fit for your child?

Positive experiences are great to hear. The question is to what extent are these anomalies vs. something that can reasonably be implemented everywhere. Details might help!

@ Inclusion Everywhere - I was going to respond to your disparaging comments, but I realized it's not worth the time and energy. You will no doubt see it as you like.

Ramond said…
We looked at Hamilton APP(it's name back then) and our HC student was not impressed and wanted to be with friends. We could always switch if things were truly bad, but they weren't.

I was not too impressed with the Hamilton scene at all. Touring the APP 6th grade science class was interesting, kids running around sort of just being sciency, not studying anything but looking excited. Looked good to me, obviously kids ready to go and learn stuff.

APP math class,looked pretty ordinary, just kids working.

But then, gened history or gened LA, can't remember, but it was kids sitting around chewing gum and texting! I could not believe my eyes!

Anyways, my student wasn't interested for social reasons.

Is our middle school perfect? Were the kids giving 100% all the time? Not even close,BUT, there were tough assignments and the way it works in an inclusion classroom is different standards for different kids. It's middle school, so an A for one kid can be a B for kid more able to do the work. I did once email a teacher and ask that one of my students be graded tough, but that was it.

In 8th grade, inclusion becomes more common and it was a challenge and frustrating at times, but it didn't hurt academics, it just taught new skills, life skills, understanding and patience and an ability for my kids to see their own shortcomings in a more healthy way; because face it, all our kids have some issues.

To be honest, it's hard to know exactly how it worked, I'm not ever in the classroom and my kids are aren't the best informants. I do feel that more individual attention is given to all kids in the inclusion classrooms. The IAs are the key, I've met a few at our school and they appear quite competent.

All I can say is, as a former gifted student, merit scholar, etc., I would have been happy at the school. My socioemotional development was light-years behind the kids I know nowadays. What with all the sex ed, the community service, the inclusion, the emphasis on respect, the PE and nutrition stuff, the field trips, camps- it's awesome.

Bottom line for me are kids who are confident yet compassionate. I want them to have options to go to colleges that will challenge them, and find work that satisfies them.
I'd also like them to feel they are contributing to our planet's health and the betterment of life here. I also want them to stay out of trouble.

I don't think the lack of inclusion in schools irreparably harms anyone, but if students never experience living with or studying with or working with a mix of different people, their lives are poorer for it.
BSLL said…
Sorry Raymond what is the name of your HC inclusive program? I am guessing it is private as you didn't got to HIMS.

I would say and have said several times before that the old Lowell program with a mix with the medically fragile SPed students was approaching ideal. Some of that magic remains with the Peace Academy and HC at Thurgood. But when you mix the have SES gen ed with the haven'ts it feels bad to me. I doubt that is just techie guilt.

A positive development was mentioned on the APP blog: more inclusion coming for single domain learners (those with 98% IQ but only 95% proficiency in math or reading) will be admitted into the HCC pathway middle schools starting in 2015-16. I always wondered why they never just used teacher recs and IQ, but alas they are working in the right direction.
Anonymous said…
Do schools with a high percentage of low SES have much in common with their opposites?

With NSAP we have a crop of middle schoolers going to high school for the first time none of whom were bused or had kids bused to their school.

Hopefully things will work.

Lynn said…
How many high schools (other than the option schools) have more than one middle school feeding into them? Whatever diversity kids will experience in high school, they'll have seen it already in middle school.
Inclusion Everywhere, when you use quote marks you need to indicate who said this:

"The usual fare is "my kid can only be challenged by excluding others. It's all about the cohort of wealthy, self-tested, monocultural performers".

I have never seen this statement here so you'll have to explain where you found that or if it's your take on others comments.

I don't know what high schools you have been at but I know that at some football is a cut sport at some and certainly swimming is. As well,for sports that aren't, what happens is only some kids get to play (so kids who don't eventually give up and leave).
BSLL said…

Sorry Raymond what is the name of your HC inclusive program? I am guessing it is private as you didn't got to HIMS. PLEASE it doesn't sound like anything I have heard of
BSLL said…
Okay Raymond. Sunshine blown up the yahoo. Thanks. Nothing is working as you said.

HC inclusion = HCC
Educator of Great Students said…
I am a special education teacher for students with autism. (I'm a Seattle native, but I teach in a large urban district on the east coast.) I believe that most students with IEPS benefit from inclusion during activities such as lunch, recess, and school-wide activities. However, it is not possible to meet every child's needs academically in the general education classroom with the core curriculum. For children with more significant needs, the IEP often will address areas of functioning that fall outside of the gen ed curriculum. For example, some students need IEP goals and objectives for toileting or vocational training. In my district, a child has to be potty trained in order to be in a gen ed class. Some students need a higher level or structure or a slower pace of activity than what the gen ed setting provides.

Ultimately, every child is unique and, therefore, it is a child's IEP team that best determines the extent of inclusion. But of course, every child benefits from more inclusive attitudes toward people with disabilities.

It is also important to note that promoting inclusion in the general education classroom for all students can have some drawbacks, particularly when involving students with emotional behavioral disorders. Some students have such severe trauma, mental illness, and/or dysfunction at home that inclusion in the gen ed classroom means constant disruption and safety issues for other students -- fighting, throwing furniture, elopement, to name a few. Some students have such violent behavior that school staff end up doing a lot of babysitting of these students.

So these are all details to consider when thinking about inclusion of students with disabilities.

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