System change that creates a pathway for inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, is purposeful and planful. It supports district-wide leadership and organizational practices that research shows promote high-quality education for all students. Leadership at all levels of the system (e.g., state, district, and school) creates a strong driver for moving and sustaining inclusive and equitable schools for all students.
Within the larger system of schooling, the district plays a key role in creating an inclusive vision that is implemented across its multiple schools and classrooms. A unifying message from the central office along with supportive policies and practices provides direction and support to schools, helping them implement and sustain inclusive, equitable practices. Districts achieve these improvements in performance by promoting system-wide learning, prioritizing teaching and learning, using support and accountability structures to build system-wide capacity, and fostering open and collaborative cultures to improve opportunities and outcomes for all students.
Systems Change Videos
TIES Center created a series of videos to support districts in implementing and sustaining inclusive education. The videos describe the key components of system change that lead to powerful inclusive systems for all students. They are designed to be used by individual leaders for their own professional growth as well as for professional development with district teams. More information and resources that supplement the video series will be provided in the near future.
Video #1: Inclusive Instructional and Organizational Leadership
Sustainable, inclusive education systems for students with significant cognitive disabilities do not stand alone. Districts must focus on building inclusive education systems for all students…systems that embrace all students for the benefit of all. Based on the research, there are four key strategies for guiding LEA actions: (1) Promote System-Wide Learning, (2) Prioritize the Improvement of Teaching and Learning, (3) Build Capacity Through Support and Accountability, and (4) Sustain an Open and Collaborative Culture
Inclusive Instructional and Organizational Leadership with captions
Inclusive Instructional and Organizational Leadership with captions and audio descriptions
Video #2: System Wide Learning
For a district to build an effective and inclusive system, it must adopt and sustain system-wide learning practices grounded in effective data use. Not all educators are familiar with how to build data systems or comfortable with using data systems to answer important questions. Assisting districts in focusing their work, identifying needs, and developing data systems, as well as accessing and using their data for continual improvement are value added services that SEAs can provide to districts. Gathering meaningful data and using those data well are necessary practices to support systems change; they are necessary for building inclusive systems for all students.
System-wide Learning with captions
System-wide Learning with captions and audio descriptions
Video #3: Prioritizing Teaching and Learning
The central mission of schools and districts is teaching and learning. In effective systems, all participants are learners--both the students and the adults. For sustainable change to occur, districts need to prioritize teaching and learning by focusing their goals and strategies in this area, employing administrators who serve as lead learners, providing staff with multiple opportunities to learn to use evidence-based practices, and providing the resources that support professional learning.
Prioritizing Teaching and Learning video with captions
Prioritizing Teaching and Learning video with captions and audio descriptions
Video #4: Building Capacity through Support and Accountability
Effective and inclusive districts build capacity for high-quality instruction, equitable community engagement, professional teaming, and productive decision-making. Districts build the capacity of all personnel and hold all personnel accountable for the education of all students. This type of accountability--high expectations coupled with appropriate supports--is sometimes called “reciprocal accountability.”
Building Capacity through Support and Accountability with captions
Building Capacity through Support and Accountability with captions and audio
Video #5: Sustaining a Culture of Openness and Inquiry
Districts need to shape their organizational cultures in ways that make those cultures collaborative, caring, ethical, equitable, and amendale to positive change. Building a collaborative culture that values the contributions of all members and is open to self-reflection and learning is key to the development of sustainable, inclusive systems.
Sustaining a Culture of Openness and Inquiry with captions
Sustaining a Culture of Openness and Inquiry with captions and audio descriptions
Resources on Systemic Change
Systems change is always a challenge. During a pandemic it is a huge and unexpected change for everyone, including districts, teachers and families. None of us are experts in this area...yet. That will come, but in the meantime we need to allow the space and patience for each of us and ourselves to grow.
The purpose of this report is to update previous literature reviews on pedagogical practices for students with the most significant disabilities in inclusive settings.
This Parent Brief focuses on developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that support inclusive education for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
The purpose of this Brief is to provide suggestions for ways in which the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) can include students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
This report presents the findings from a literature review that examined how systems change efforts can guide initiatives to increase and sustain the placement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive general education settings, as well as increase and sustain opportunities for these students to learn core academic standards-based curriculum through the implementation of inclusive education practices. The report concludes with the identification of several components associated with effective and sustainable systemic change efforts related to the implementation of inclusive practices.
This brief discusses the characteristics of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, least restrictive environment, legal provisions, and next steps for parents.
A parent describes how her son was included in his private school setting, how the school and family worked together, and the impact it’s had on her son and the school-wide community. In a companion piece, “I Have Great Friends,” her son describes his experiences.
The principal of Henderson K-12 Inclusion School explains how Henderson’s school culture, specialized and individualized instruction, and collaboration and problem solving contribute to an inclusive environment that benefits students with and without disabilities.
The former Director of Student Support Services for Cottonwood-Oak Creek District (Arizona) shares seven lessons learned in making inclusive practices work with a focus on the school district level.
Review of the research on inclusion, presenting the essential practices that create inclusive schools as well the benefits of inclusive education.
Briefly defines inclusive education, before sharing six important strategies for making inclusive service delivery successful.
Shows how a school can restructure the usage of existing school personnel in ways that better support students learning in an inclusive setting. (See the companion piece “Vermont Educators Share Guiding Principles.”)
Shares how student Jaimar Fish’s communication network was expanded through participation in a peer network, how students formed lasting friendships, and how the Kentucky Peer Support Network Project has benefited students with and without disabilities.
Describes how the state of Arizona, a member of the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) consortium, has worked to raise academic expectations for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. A key to this work has been monitoring and sharing relevant data with Arizona educators. The data include information on the characteristics of students with significant cognitive disabilities and their instructional placement, as well as post-school outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities. The article describes professional development efforts to help educators understand, and act on, the data.
Presents ten lessons learned through working toward inclusive education systems, focusing on the systems-level changes that are needed to make inclusion work for students.
Soldovieri describes some of her own schooling experience, and how she came to understand that inclusion is a whole life process. (See “We Expect Them to Teach All Students” for a companion piece.)
After opening with vignettes showing how two boys with similar disabilities experience very different school days, this article details how collaborative teaming is used to provide an inclusive setting and experience for a student with significant disabilities. (See “Unfiltered Truths of Co-Teaching” for a companion piece.)
Presents information about the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) data for students with disabilities. It demonstrates a significant difference in LRE for those students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. (See “The Hope of Lessons Learned: Supporting the Inclusion of Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities Into General Education Classrooms” for more information.)
Beth Foraker, Founder and Director of The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, asks “who’s missing?” in Catholic schools. (See companion pieces “A Family’s Journey of Inclusion and “I Have Great Friends.”)
The Coordinator of the Inclusive Elementary and Special Education Program at Syracuse University (SU) discusses the strategies, principles, and history behind SU’s inclusive education program. (See “To Truly Be Inclusive is a Whole Life Process: Reflections of a SU Graduate” for a companion piece.)
This brief is an electronic interactive Brief which can be used by educators and family members to talk with one another and others about the importance of creating and supporting inclusive school communities.
This briefing by Sherly Lazarus urges educators to commit to sustainable inclusion for all students, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The briefing outlines several critical components that support sustainable inclusion for students with the most significant disabilities, which include: raising expectations, increasing educator capacity, access to the content, and systems change. Here you can find the written Congressional briefing and opening statements as well as the video footage.
The BPIE Assessment is a school self-assessment process designed to identify priority needs, develop goals, plan improvement strategies, and organize resources to support the implementation of inclusive practices for students with disabilities. More information on the School BPIE Assessment and how it can be used can be found here.
More information on how SISEP provides content and technical assistance toward establishing large-scale, sustainable, high-fidelity implementation of effective educational practices can be found on this website.
TASH, an international leader in disability advocacy, outlines research recommendations for at different capacity levels including at the system-, school-, classroom-, and student-level.