TIES Center works with states, districts, and schools to support the movement of students with disabilities from less inclusive to more inclusive environments.
Inclusion is an ongoing commitment to working for the valued membership, active participation, and learning of each student with their age-grade peers, utilizing a wide array of school community structures, practices, and supports. Specific outcomes and values underlying each area of focus are:
- Include students in their grade level general education classrooms at least 80% of the school day, providing an age-appropriate home base for each student
- A limited amount of instruction outside of the general education classroom might be provided to any student if the classroom-level team thinks it is needed to meet individual student needs
- General and special educators, specialized instructional support personnel, and paraprofessionals work together to provide curriculum and instruction in grade-level general education classrooms that increase involvement and progress in the general education curriculum as well as supporting the individual needs of any student. This allows all students to benefit by having access to educators with varying expertise, including expertise in grade-level content.
- Implement the Universal Design for Learning framework in classrooms
- Integrate specially designed instruction and other evidence-based strategies into inclusive settings
- Engagement in the general education curriculum, as well as
- Engagement with age-grade peers. Each child is supported to establish relationships and friendships with grade-level classmates with and without disabilities who have a wide range of strengths and needs.
- A key component of both engagement with the general education curriculum and with peers is supporting each child to have a means of communicating with others.
- Support needs to occur at both the state and district levels to increase the time, instructional effectiveness, and engagement of students as delineated above via their strategic plans, mission, and vision statements, and provision of joint professional learning opportunities for all members of the collaborative instructional classroom teams.
- A shared ethic of thinking inclusion first and expecting that all students belong in general education classrooms and schools together, on the part of families, educators, and administrators will have a large impact on successfully realizing these outcomes.
Increasing the time, instructional effectiveness, engagement, and state and district support for inclusive practices is the goal to eliminate the research to practice gap for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Realizing this goal requires high expectations and a presumption of competence for each student, which then leads to the provision of equitable opportunities and collaborative support. These expectations, opportunities, and support are critical in the realization of meaningful outcomes: each child experiencing a sense of belonging, of learning, of relationships, and the opportunity to make contributions during their school years and beyond. Inclusive school communities benefit all students during their school careers and after they graduate by contributing to the development of more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant communities.