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State Support Team, Region 16

Does Inclusive Education Really Work?

Heather Wolfe - 11/12/2018 2:09:00 PM

You know the old saying "If I had a dollar for every time . . . . I'd be a millionaire."  That's how I start to feel every time anyone, from an educator to a community member, asks me whether or not inclusion really works.  The shortest and the most correct answer is, "Yes," but I know that it's takes more than my saying so to encourage educators to be more intentional about implementing inclusionary practices.

In order to understand why inclusionary practices often struggle within the educational system, I'm going to delve into some of the possible reasons why both educators and community members might question whether or not inclusion works for all students: teachers, attitudes, and school structures. 

From my experience, one of the main reasons inclusionary practices are questioned concerns the lack of support, knowledge, and/or skills of the general education teacher.  Most general education teachers have training in meeting the needs of the "average" student; however, I've come to realize that no "average" student exists.  All students are unique and have unique learning needs.  Teachers need additional training before tackling inclusionary practices, and they also need continued support while implementing inclusionary practices. 

How can I say this politely?  Okay, old attitudes die hard.  Because students with disabilities have a history of being excluded instead of included, educators - general education teachers, intervention specialists, and administrators - sometimes need time to reflct upon past practices and see the successes in the new practices before their attitudes change.  All teachers need to have the self-efficacy that they can teach all students and that all students can learn.  Most importantly, the challenges of inclusion cannot be blamed on the challenge of providing the students’ instructional needs instead of the shortcomings of the educational system.

Another one of the most expressed difficulties with inclusion from discussions with teachers concerns school structure.  The daily school schedule may not provide general education and intervention specialists with scheduled times to collaborate.  Without time for planning, these teachers struggle to meet the diverse needs of all the students.  They struggle to implement co-plan to co-serve, often opting for the co-teaching "one teach and one take notes to use during tutoring time" model.  Teachers need time to plan together, to communicate with each other, to adapt instruction together, to address difficult behaviors together, and to include social justice - acceptance of others - in their curriculum.

Now that we've addressed a few of the barriers to inclusive practices, check out my favorite resource for a quick history of the laws and research surrounding the success of inclusion here.  As well, there are many resources on best practices for implementing inclusion.  Louisiana's State Personnel Development Grant focuses on special education practices and can be found here.  IRIS Center has a module series for administrators here.  And State Support Team 16'c consultants can help as well.  Please contact Rachel Wakefield, Nancy Ruth or Ally Trew to discuss support options.

Mallory on 12/17/2018 6:54:50 PM

Scheduling is definitely the hardest to work around. I fully believe that inclusion can be SO successful! Kids are capable of doing so much, but we have to be able to work collaboratively. I have zero time to plan with general education teachers, but we’re still managing to keep kids in their gen ed environment with success (2nd and 3rd grade). I can only imagine how much success we could see throughout the school if there was time for co-planning!

Jamie Taylor on 12/17/2018 6:54:45 PM

Self-efficacy is a double-edged sword. I love seeing the confidence but that leads to teachers thinking that they know best and don't need "help". Too many teachers still see co-teaching as administration addressing a problem with them by giving them "help". Co-teaching is not punishment or fixing a poor teacher. Co-teaching is not a challenge to your efficacy. Teachers need to get over that.

Devvon Dettra on 12/17/2018 6:51:55 PM

I agree, misconceptions and traditional views within the general education classroom are a huge roadblock to inclusion success. Somewhat at odds with this article, I believe both teachers in a co-teaching classroom are able to teach differentiated instruction at a variety of levels, but we have to get past the culture of "your kids"/"My Kids". We have to get past the culture of "change is bad" and approach these research findings as an opportunity to grow, but education progress moves very slow in many ways. That is what we are trying to overcome to achieve our instructional goals.

Julie on 12/17/2018 6:51:42 PM

I completely agree! Teachers definitely need common planning time to create the best co-teaching environment for all of the kids in the class.

Torie on 12/17/2018 6:50:27 PM

Scheduling time is huge...