Stories appear daily about the state of our schools and their failure to meet the educational needs of our children. While there is much to be done, we have made progress toward including more children into the nation’s academic agenda. Not that long ago, many of our children were excluded from our classrooms, with children left out due to race, language, economic status, or mental or physical challenges.
In the past 20 years, our schools have worked toward access for all to public education. Children who were once isolated and marginalized are now thriving, productive members of a larger school community. Children who were routinely denied educational opportunities are now discovering, exploring, and, most importantly, achieving. Schools that were once homogeneous are servicing a rich array of students, and while these inclusive practices have been, at times, difficult to implement, their positive impact is clearly demonstrated through each individual success.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Inclusive Schools Week. During this week, school districts across the country are working to educate their staff, students, and parents about what it means to be inclusive.
Inclusive is not about being politically correct. It is about making sure that our country’s educational system works for all students, including students with disabilities. Research has consistently demonstrated that inclusive teaching practices are not about teaching to the lowest common denominator but rather ensuring that the classroom offers opportunities for all children to succeed.
Inclusive teaching means presenting information in ways that are relevant and meaningful to each and every student. Discussion, hands-on learning experiences, and inquiry-based projects are all examples of inclusive teaching practices that have, again and again, been shown to improve academic achievement for all students.
While noting that there is so much more to be done, let’s applaud the progress being made every day toward building more inclusive schools and communities. Join me in celebrating Inclusive Schools Week this Dec. 7-11. Visit www.inclusiveschools.org or follow #InclusiveSchoolsWeek on Twitter for more information and resources.
As the diversity of learners within our classrooms continues to grow, the need to structure curricula, lessons, and activities that not only meet the needs of all students, but celebrate the diversity among those learners, becomes critical. Whether the children in your life are already sharing a common learning environment or you are just beginning to create an atmosphere of accessibility and acceptance for all, these resources will help to encourage and inspire movement toward a more inclusive community.
OPRF High School
special ed teacher, inclusion facilitator,
Special Olympics coordinator, CPI instructor