Posted: January 13, 2020

You may have heard that Washington is focused on improving outcomes for students served through IEPs.  The legislature appropriated $25M through the Inclusionary Practices Professional Development Project. Through an application process,  Camas was recently selected to be a part of the project.  We’re excited about the opportunity to learn more with others from across the state.

I’ve included a few project excerpts highlighting goals and rationale below.

Inclusion is the belief and practice that all students have the right to meaningfully access academic and social opportunities in general education settings. According to the National Council on Disability 2018 report, The Segregation of Students with Disabilities3 , Washington State “falls in the most restrictive quartile” with respect to placement in general education settings

Extensive research on the efficacy of inclusion shows that inclusive instruction yields significant improvements in the academic performance of students receiving special education services–in all subjects–and improvements in social and emotional outcomes as compared to teaching in separate settings. 

Students who do not have an identified disability or an individual education program (IEP) also see improved academic outcomes as the high-leverage teaching techniques used in inclusive classrooms help all students learn in ways that work best for their individual styles and needs. These students also see improved social outcomes as they learn to see beyond people’s disabilities and develop a greater appreciation for diversity.

Project Theory of Action:

If we provide statewide support to target audiences that is consistent in the areas of:  

  • Coaching/mentoring
  • State and local capacity to demonstrate positive peer relationships 
  • State and local capacity to utilize the expertise of WA public education faculty, staff and leaders
  • Strengthen and align existing professional development and support activities
  • Engaging parents and families 
  • Building student independence 

Educators will be able to increase access to grade level core instruction through the inclusion of students eligible for special education services in general education classrooms.   

Resulting in improved LRE data, graduation rates, English Language Arts and math proficiency growth, and schools quality or student success indicators for students statewide.

If you’ve followed along on these HOPE & JOY emails you know that inclusion is a big part of Marci’s world.  Helping to create conditions for all students to be successful can be challenging, especially when working with students who have some very specific needs.  Sometimes the barrier for access is obviously visible such as a wheelchair.  Sometimes the barrier manifests in behavior which can take us by surprise and leave us without a clear path forward.

Marci reflected on her journey with inclusion.

“Honestly, I was not a fan of inclusion initially.  It is not that I didn’t think my students were capable, I was just worried they wouldn’t be accepted. When I came to Camas and was given the SCORE program, I wasn’t sure what to do exactly.  I had students that needed many different modifications/ accommodations and it  took many hours on my computer, working on different visuals and modifying work so they could participate in the classroom.  After 4 years of building a program with my amazing team of paras, teachers and administration, I started to see the benefits of my students being in the classroom.  I started to see their classmates embrace them and support them, and I knew then, when appropriate, students should be given the opportunity to participate with their peers.  Inclusion works, but it takes a LOT of work by all involved.  You have to be willing to really look at each student as an individual and understand how they learn, in order to create a program that works for them in a general education setting.  You have to be willing to take risks, give yourself grace and think out of the box.  Inclusion is not scary, it is just “different”.  We need to be ready to take on “different”.  

A recent article I read captured a new trend across Clark County – increasingly challenging behaviors from some of our youngest students — and the related challenge of creating inclusive settings for all learners.

“Some of the most pressing issues we face at the moment involve supporting the mental health and behavioral needs of students.  These concerns are not unique to students receiving special education.  The next frontier will be to create a stronger alignment between general and special education to address emotional and behavioral challenges.”  Mancini Rufo, J. (2020, January). Attitudes and beliefs about disabilities. School Administrator, number 1 volume 77, pp. 21.

This is difficult work that requires the expertise and persistence of each of us. We are confident that we can do this work together and in the process, increase learning for all.  We’re excited to be a part of the state project.  Stay tuned!

Framework Links:

3.1 Effective scaffolding of information within lessons

3.2 Planning and preparing for the needs of all students

Interview Sample Questions – Plot

  • What have been your experiences with inclusion?
  • Have you ever felt excluded as a learner?