Creating and sustaining inclusive schools

1. Introduction Inclusive Schooling: What is it? Why do it? Inclusive schooling can be defined as welcoming, valuing, empowering, and supporting the diverse academic, social, and language learning of all students in shared environments and experiences to facilitate the attainment of the goals of education. The authors have asked hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers, administrators, students, university professors, and concerned citizens in countries across the globe the following questions: “What are the goals of education? What are the desired outcomes, attitudes, dispositions, and skills you want children and youth to acquire as a result of their schooling?” Regardless of the divergent perspectives, vested interests, or locales of the people queried, responses fall within four categories – belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. These four categories of holistic well-being borrowed from the 10,000-year-old educational philosophy of Native American cultures appear to be universally desired goals of education today (Villa & Thousand, 2005; in press). Inclusive schools are the most promising learning communities in which to achieve these goals. because they value the natural diversity of all students and are aimed at all students achieving academic and interpersonal development and success.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1075.2015-0103 Educational Sci., 2015, Vol. 60, No. 6BC, pp. 5-11 This paper is available online at CREATING AND SUSTAINING INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS 1Richard A. Villa and 2Jacqueline S. Thousand 1Bayridge Consortium, Inc, United States of America 2California State University San Marcos, College of Education, Health and Human Services, United States of America Abstract. This article shares what the authors have learned from over three decades of work supporting inclusive schooling practices. It defines inclusive education, examines the rationales for inclusive education, and presents what research and experience identify as critical variables for establishing and maintaining inclusive schools. Keywords: Collaboration, Inclusive Education, Inclusive Schooling, System Change. 1. Introduction Inclusive Schooling: What is it? Why do it? Inclusive schooling can be defined as welcoming, valuing, empowering, and supporting the diverse academic, social, and language learning of all students in shared environments and experiences to facilitate the attainment of the goals of education. The authors have asked hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers, administrators, students, university professors, and concerned citizens in countries across the globe the following questions: “What are the goals of education? What are the desired outcomes, attitudes, dispositions, and skills you want children and youth to acquire as a result of their schooling?” Regardless of the divergent perspectives, vested interests, or locales of the people queried, responses fall within four categories – belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. These four categories of holistic well-being borrowed from the 10,000-year-old educational philosophy of Native American cultures appear to be universally desired goals of education today (Villa & Thousand, 2005; in press). Inclusive schools are the most promising learning communities in which to achieve these goals. because they value the natural diversity of all students and are aimed at all students achieving academic and interpersonal development and success. Received May 20, 2015. Accepted August 10, 2015 Contact Richard A. Villa, e-mail address: ravillabayridge@cs.com 5 Richard A. Villa and Jacqueline S. Thousand 2. Content 2.1. Rationales for Inclusive Schooling There are multiple rationales for advocating for inclusive schooling. As the previous paragraph illustrates, a first rationale is that the goals of education appear to be universal and inclusive of all children and youth and that these goals are most achievable in inclusive rather than segregated settings. Second, contemporary international and national laws, policies, and organizational position statements support inclusive schooling (IDEIA, 2004; UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006). Ministers of Education and heads of delegation from 153 UNESCO Member States, meeting in Geneva at the 48th session of the International Conference on Education, noted that inclusive quality education is fundamental to achieving human, social, and economic development (UNESCO, November, 2008). Third, inclusive education is perceived as a social justice issue, a basic human right (Salamanca Statement, 1994). Fourth, inclusive schooling already exists in both developed and developing countries. In countries such as Norway, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Italy 80-90% of identified students are in inclusive environments (Ferguson, 2008). Finally, as described below, research documents the sweeping benefits of inclusive schooling. 2.2. Research Outcomes of Inclusive Schooling As early as the 1980s, research showed that separate schooling experiences had little to no positive effects for U.S. students with identified disabilities (Villa & Thousand, 2005). For example the 1994 meta-analysis of effective special education settings conducted by Backer, Wang, and Wahlberg concluded that “special-needs students educated in regular classes do better academically and socially than comparable students in non-inclusive settings” (p. 34). This outcome held true regardless of the type of disability or grade level of the student. The U.S. Department of Education (1995) also has found that “across a number of analyses of post-school results, the message was the same: those who spent more time in regular education experienced better results after high school” (p.87). Additionally, the inclusion of students with severe disabilities has been found not only to have had no adverse effects on classmates’ academic and behavioral success (as measured by standardized tests and report card grades), but, instead, has enhanced their own and classmates’ achievement, self-esteem, and school attendance (Sharpe, York, & Knight, 1994; Straub & Peck, 1994). In a more recent large-scale study of over 11,000 students with disabilities, Black or by and colleagues (2005) found that students with disabilities who spent more time in general education classrooms had fewer absences, performed closer to grade level, and had higher achievement test scores than peers in pullout settings. In summary, U.S. research findings to date overwhelmingly show that students with disabilities acquire greater mastery of academic and social content in inclusive settings. United States federal legislation acknowledges this in the findings of the most recent reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004), which state: Nearly 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations and ensuring students’ access in the general education curriculum to the maximum extent possible. . . [and] providing 6 Creating and sustaining inclusive schools appropriate special education and related services and aides and supports in the regular classroom to such children, whenever possible (Part B, Sec. 682 [c] Findings [5]). 2.3. Essential Characteristics of Inclusive Schools The Working Forum on Inclusive Schools (Council for Exceptional Children, 1994), convened by 10 of the leading U.S. education organizations, summarized 12 characteristics of schools identified as successfully implementing the least restrictive environment (LRE) principle of the U.S. IDEA legislation, with particular attention on inclusive education or schooling. These12 characteristics, described below, are as essential and relevant today as they were in 1994 and may be used as guidelines for educators, administrators, community members, and social activists interested in forwarding quality inclusive schooling opportunities not only for students with identified learning needs, but for all children. 1. A sense of community. Inclusive schools hold and act ona vision that all children belong and can learn in the mainstream of school and community life. Everyone is accepted and supported by peers and the adults in the school. 2. Visionary leadership. School administrators articulate the inclusive vision, building consensus for the vision, and actively involving and sharing responsibility with the entire school staff in planning and carrying out the strategies that make inclusive schooling successful. 3. High standards. All children are held to high standards of performance that are appropriate and adapted to their needs. 4. Collaborative partnerships. Students and teachers support one another with collaborative arrangements such as peer tutoring and buddy systems, cooperative group learning, and adult co-teaching. 5. Changing roles and responsibilities. Roles of teachers and school staff of inclusive schools change, so that teachers lecture less and assist more. Every person in the building is an active participant in the learning process. 6. Array of services. An array of services designed to meet the needs of students experiencing various cognitive, physical, or social/emotional challenges are offered and coordinated. 7. Partnership with parents. Parents are embraced as equal and essential partners in the education of their children. 8. Flexible learning environments. Students follow their individual paths to learning. Groupings are flexible, and material is presented in meaningful ways that emphasize participation. Although there is less reliance on supports that pull students out of classrooms, there are still opportunities for any student to receive personalized instruction if needed. 9. Strategies based on research. Inclusive schools strive to use research-based strategies such as differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, a balanced approached to literacy instruction, interdisciplinary curriculum, authentic assessment of student performance, peer tutoring, direct instruction, reciprocal teaching, learning styles, Multiple Intelligence Theory, social and study skills instruction, positive behavior supports, and use of technology (Thousand, Villa, & Nevin, 2015). 7 Richard A. Villa and Jacqueline S. Thousand 10. Forms of accountability. Inclusive schools rely less on standardized tests, using new [authentic] forms of accountability and assessment (e.g., portfolios, performance–based assessment) to monitor student progress toward goals. 11. Access. Students have access to and support to progress in the general education curriculum and participate in school life via adaptations to buildings, curriculum, and use of technology. 12. Continuing professional development. School staff obtains professional development on an ongoing basis to promote continuous improvement in knowledge and skills to educate diverse students in shared environments and experiences. 2.4. Administrative Support for Inclusive Education Administrative leadership and support is foundational to facilitating any change or initiative, of which inclusive schooling is one. Administrative support has five dimensions – vision, skills, incentives, resources, and action planning. For an inclusive ethic and inclusive practices to take hold in a school community, administrators of the school organization must orchestrate attention to all five dimensions (Villa and Thousand, 2005; in press) by doing the following: (1) building a vision for collaborative planning and problem solving to differentiate teaching; (2) developing educators’ skills and confidence to collaboratively plan, problem-solve, and differentiate instruction for diverse learners; (3) creating and delivering meaningful incentives for people to take the risk to embark on a journey to educate a diverse student body (e.g., building master schedules that provide common planning time); (4) reorganizing, scheduling, and coordinating human and other resources; and (5) developing and activating an action plan of specific activities and sequence of steps. Nine specific administrative actions seem to be essential for change toward inclusion to occur. Each is listed here along with the dimension or dimensions of change to which it attends. 1. Vision: Publicly articulate the rationale for inclusive education. 2. Resource: Redefine staff roles (i.e., in the job description of classroom teachers and support personnel) so that all are expected to participate in collaborative planning, problem solving, and differentiated instruction. 3. Resources and Incentives: Assess the staff’s need for collaboration (e.g., Who needs to collaborate with whom to successfully adapt instruction? Which school staff can provide modeling and coaching for other staff?). 4. Resources: Create a master schedule that allows for collaboration in planning and teaching (e.g., common preparation and lunch periods). 5. Resources and Incentives: Provide additional meeting time for personnel to collaboratively plan and teach (e.g., hire substitutes, use professional development time for collaborative planning, provide release time for planning). 6. Skills and Incentives: Establish professional support groups to help staff learn about and begin to practice problem solving, collaboration, and differentiation and to analyze data. 8 Creating and sustaining inclusive schools 7. Skills and Vision: Institute professional development in order to create a common conceptual language and framework, a common skill set, and shared dispositions toward inclusive practice. Provide training (e.g., courses and workshops, mentoring and peer coaching systems, professional learning communities, book studies, job shadowing, clinical supervision, and the pairing of new teachers with veteran collaborators in planning and teaching) in topics such as collaborative planning, problem-solving, high-yield instructional strategies, differentiated instruction, authentic assessment, legal rights and responsibilities, data-based decision-making, and the legal, philosophical, research, and data-based rationales for change in educational practices. 8. Incentives: Educate school and community members about the successes of students who have been included. 9. Incentives: Provide incentives for collaboration by publically recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of collaborators, offering additional training, providing release time to observe one another in action, supportingteams of teachers to attend conferences on inclusive practices, and arrange for teachers to deliver presentations about their accomplishments. 2.5. Collaboration For Students Collaboration is an essential ingredient to successful inclusion. Typically, we think of collaboration being among school personnel. Yet, there are many other available and needed collaborative partners, such as parents. The positive impact of collaborating with parents is acknowledged in the most recent reauthorization of the federal special education law, which acknowledges that “the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by strengthening the role of parents and making sure that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of such children. . . ” (Part B, Sec. 682 [c] Findings [5]). 2.6. Collaboration Among Students Educators often think they need more resources to be able to successfully meet the needs of the diverse students in their classrooms. We acknowledge that disparity in human and fiscal resources exist and will continue to exist among schools, school districts, and nations. Yet, there is an often-overlooked resource that always is available in every school on the planet - the children themselves (Villa, Thousand, & Nevin, 2010). Collaboration with students in decision-making and the design, delivery, and evaluation of instruction involves students working in cooperative learning groups, as tutors and partners in partner learning (e.g., reciprocal teaching), and as co-teachers with their teachers. Collaboration with students means involving students as decision makers and problem solvers, as designers of their own learning and being self-determined in planning for their own futures. Collaboration with students means engaging students as mediators of conflict and controversy and as advocates for themselves and others. Collaboration with students means teaching, expecting, and acknowledging self-discipline and student learning and use of responsible behavior. There are theoretical bases for student collaboration. Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theoretical perspective posits that what children can do with the assistance of 9 Richard A. Villa and Jacqueline S. Thousand others is more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone. Vygotsky defines ZPD as the distance between a child’s actual developmental level (as determined by independent problem solving) and the level of potential development (as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers). For example, one variation of student instructional collaboration, cooperative group learning, has been identified as one of the top nine educational practices associated with increasing student achievement (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollack, 2001). Many positive social, communication, and academic achievement outcomes have been reported in the research on cooperative group learning, peer tutoring and partner learning, and reciprocal teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984) - three variations of students serving as collaborators in instruction. For example, when students with disabilities have served as both tutors and tutees, they have shown higher achievement as compared to when they were only recipients of tutoring (Elbaum et al., 2001). When children serve in teaching roles, they are increasing their own mastery of the content as well as learning valuable communication skills. They also experience increased self-esteem as a result of being in the esteemed teacher role. Therefore, it is critical that all students (e.g., students with learning differences and special educational needs) learn to serve as tutors as well as receive tutoring. 3. Conclusion The authors are hopeful that inclusive educational opportunities for students with disabilities will continue to expand internationally. We are hopeful because numerous demonstrations currently exist worldwide. We are hopeful because much of what is necessary to facilitate inclusive education has been determined and documented. Those of us who have engaged in or been witness to the development of inclusive communities must continue to share learnings from our struggles in transforming ways in which schools change and progress. A number of these learnings and experiences have been shared in this article. REFERENCES [1] Baker, E., Wang, M. & Wahlberg, H., 1994. The effects of inclusion on learning. Educational Leadership. 52 (4), pp.33-35. [2] Blackorby, J., Wagner, M., Camero, R., Davies, E., Levine, P., Newman, L., Marder, C., & Sumi, C. (with Chorost, M., Garza, N., & Guzman, A.M.), 2005. Engagement, academics, social adjustments, and independence. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. [3] Council for Exceptional Children., 1994. Creating schools for all our students: What 12 schools have to say. Working Forum on Inclusive Schools. Reston, VA: Author. [4] Elbaum, B., Moody, S. W., Vaughn, S., Schumm, J. S., & Hughes, M., 2001. The effect of instructional grouping format on the reading outcomes of students with disabilities: A meta-analytic review. Retrieved from www.ncld.org/research/osep_reading.cfm. [5] Ferguson, D., 2008. International trends in inclusive education: the continuing challenge to teach each one and everyone. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 23 (2), pp.109-120. [6] IDEIA, 2004. P.L. 108-446, Part B. Sec. 682 [c] Findings [5]. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. 20 USC 1401. 10 Creating and sustaining inclusive schools [7] Marzano, R., Pickering, D., & Pollack, J., 2001. Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [8] Palinscar, A., & Brown, A., 1984. Reciprocal teaching of comprehension: Fostering and monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1 (2), pp.117–175. [9] Sharpe, M.N., York, J.L., & Knight, J., 1994. Effects of inclusion on the academic performance of classmates without disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 15 (5), pp.281-287. [10] Straub, D., & Peck, C., 1994. What are the outcomes for nondisabled students?. Educational Leadership, 52 (4), pp.36-40. [11] Thousand, J., Villa, R. & Nevin, A., 2015. Differentiating instruction: Planning for universal design and teaching for college and career readiness. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. [12] Unite
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