System change that creates a pathway for inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, is purposeful and planful. 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 educational system, 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 to implement and sustain inclusive, equitable practices. Districts achieve 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.
The resources in this section focus on inclusive leadership and systems change. They can be used in multiple ways, including:
For individual personal and professional growth,
As part of professional development series for leadership teams to collectively build effective inclusive education systems, and
By institutions of higher education to support the development of inclusive educational leaders.
This study investigated districts that are positive outliers, that is, districts that have implemented inclusive education in a particularly robust and effective way. Two questions guided the research: (1) What are the experiences and viewpoints of district personnel and community members in exemplary districts? (2) How do district personnel and community members in exemplar districts perceive the community’s influence on inclusive education for students with significant cognitive disabilities? Interviews in two exemplar districts revealed that implementing an inclusive model of education for students with significant cognitive disabilities is not only feasible but results in positive outcomes for all students. Further, strong system-level practices and policies made an inclusive approach successful, but the specific policies and practices differed somewhat across districts as these were grounded in the particular district context. The particularity of context points to another key finding: that attentiveness to the community–in particular, enacting an inclusive model with community buy-in–proved essential in each district’s experience.
This study involved efforts to elicit the perspectives of paraeducators who were enrolled in an online professional development course at one university. Using the Council for Exceptional Children standards for paraeducators, this study sought to identify the extent to which CEC-defined practices were in use. The study administered a researcher-designed survey to gather data, followed by interviews with selected survey respondent. This study appears to demonstrate the value of training and experience as ways to promote paraeducators’s development of practices that align with CEC standard. The training received by these paraeducators, judging from the interview data, however, was not systematic. Additional research into the effectiveness of training in cultivating mastery of the practices specified in the CEC standards seems needed. In fact, given the relatively small body of related studies and the large numbers of practicing paraeducators, the need for such research seems urgent.
MTSS has been implemented in school districts across the United States to counteract entrenched policies that resulted in the exclusion of students with disabilities and other learning challenges from general education curricula and classrooms. The MTSS framework, in theory, offers individualized support to all students. This needs-based approach makes MTSS potentially useful for all students, including students with complex needs or with moderate or severe disabilities. Almost no evidence speaks to the extent to which (or ways in which) SEAs are encouraging the use of MTSS to address the needs of students with moderate-to-severe disabilities or to increase the extent to which these students are included in general education classrooms. This study attempted to fill this gap.
This study addresses the incorporation high-leverage practices or HLPs into higher education programs for preservice and practicing teachers who receive preparation in inclusive education at Ohio colleges and universities. Data were collected through four types of research activities: (1) a survey of Ohio faculty members from educator preparation programs, (2) focus-group interviews with Ohio in-service special education teachers, (3) an analysis of syllabi from Ohio educator preparation programs, (4) and focus-group interviews with Ohio parents. Findings suggest, overall, that responding faculty and institutions of higher education are inconsistently teaching HLPs. Those faculty and instructors who incorporated HLPs more consistently tended to include the easier-to-teach HLPs. Because the ability to use HLPs may be an important prerequisite to competence and comfort with inclusion, this inconsistency represents a serious setback for Ohio students with significant cognitive disabilities. Based on the findings, the report makes recommendation for both practice and research.
The Inclusive Education Roadmap (IER) is a series of tools, guidance, and processes to be used by state, district, and school teams to build an inclusive system of education. The IER unpacks the complexities of how to create, expand, and sustain inclusive education systems.
The purpose of this report is to examine the trends across the country over the past decade related to the placement of students with extensive support needs (ESN) in separate schools. For this report, state-level data from federally reported sources for students with ESN were analyzed, specifically, students identified with the disabilities of autism, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and deaf-blindness, to determine changes over time in the number of students served in separate settings as well as any variances that may have occurred by age and location (state). The current study confirmed that there has not been a significant change in the overall placement for students with ESN since 2012 even though academic expectations have become more rigorous over time.
This report serves as a guide for local school districts and state education agencies to consider whether the present level of educational inclusion of their students with the most significant disabilities is fully consistent with what the law requires, and most importantly, is ultimately in the best interest of the students they serve.
School psychologists are expected to serve school-age children and youth with a wide range of needs. However, their preparation in graduate school tends to focus on supporting students experiencing the learning and behavioral concerns that are most prevalent in schools (e.g., learning disability, attention concerns, behavioral challenges). This report explores how graduate preparation in school psychology can be expanded to better equip school psychologists with the competencies and experiences needed to be strong advocates for the quality inclusion of students with significant cognitive disabilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opens an external site or resourceOpens an external site or resource -- We are committed to digital accessibility for all. Please be aware you are navigating to an external site that may not adhere to our accessibility standards.