Inclusive schools

Meg Grigal, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston where she Co-Directs Think College and serves as the Co-Principal Investigator for two national grants: the Administration on Developmental Disabilities funded Consortium for Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Postsecondary Education National Coordinating Center for the Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) Model Demonstration Programs. Dr. Grigal currently conducts research and provides evaluation and technical assistance on exemplary practices for supporting students with disabilities in the community, employment, and postsecondary settings.  She has co-authored two books on college options for students with intellectual disabilities and has conducted and published research in the areas of postsecondary education options, transition planning, families, self-determination, inclusion, and the use of person-centered planning techniques.


Debra Hart is the Director of Education and Transition at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has over 30 years of experience working with youth with disabilities, their families, faculty, and professionals that support youth in becoming valued members of their community via participation in inclusive secondary and postsecondary education and integrated competitive employment. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator for two national postsecondary education grants. The National Coordinating Center is conducting an evaluation of 27 model postsecondary education initiatives to better understand their policies and practices in different postsecondary education options and their impact on student outcomes. The National Consortium on Postsecondary Education provides training and technical assistance to enhance existing postsecondary education initiatives and to grow the choice of a higher education for youth with intellectual disability nationwide.


Recently, my mother mentioned that my grandmother and my great-grandmother never drove a car. “Really? Why not?” I asked. She replied, “Well it just wasn’t done.” In those days, no one expected a woman to drive a car.

This got me thinking about the reactions we received from people when we first started working on creating college options for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). The most common response was confusion and disbelief: “People with intellectual disabilities do not go to college. It just isn’t done.”

Why is this?

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Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Arcadia University.  Her work is centered on supporting educators and families in transforming schools into places where children and adults feel welcomed, valued, and included. Her teaching, writing, and advocacy is grounded in the recognition that the differences and gifts that each student, family, and educator offers enriches their school fabric, and that mindful, purposeful, and that intentional opportunities for celebration, reflection, and action could greatly strengthen the school culture and climate.  Dr. Slesaransky-Poe is the mom of two children, one of whom is a gender non-conforming boy.  Informed by her extensive national and international professional expertise in inclusive practices coupled with her personal experiences raising a culturally and linguistically diverse family, Dr. Slesaransky-Poe is becoming a prominent local, regional, and national expert on creating welcoming, inclusive, and safe schools, for gender non-conforming, transgender, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning/queer students, families, and educators.

Dr. Slesaransky-Poe is the recipient of several awards and recognitions including the 2011 Patricia C. Creegan award on Excellence on Inclusive Practices.

For more than two decades, I have been building partnerships with families and schools creating successful inclusion environments for students with a variety of disabilities and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In the past eight years, I have expanded the circle of inclusion to create welcoming schools for students who are gender nonconforming or transgender.

This area of inquiry and service felt like a natural extension of my work, and grew out of my experiences parenting my children.  When my now 11 year-old son was three, he displayed a strong interest in toys, clothes, and activities typically associated with girls. He used a “blankie” pretending to have long hair and enjoyed playing with the many princess costumes his sister had, though rarely played with. His sister was interested in building things and playing sports, and not so much in princess dress-up and Barbie dolls. She was what we call a “tomboy.”  I was a tomboy as a child, and so were my mother and my mother-in-law. My daughter’s interests and behaviors felt very familiar, comfortable, and natural to all of us. Read more

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Dr. Lisa Dieker is a Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar at the University of Central Florida. She received her undergraduate and master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Her primary area of research focuses on collaboration between general and special education at the secondary level with a specific interest in the unique opportunities that exist in urban schools in the areas of mathematics and science. She also has a passion for how technology and specifically virtual classrooms can be used to impact teacher preparation As the Lockheed MartinEminent Scholar, she works collaboratively with outstanding UCF faculty in mathematics and science to Direct the Lockheed Martin/UCF Mathematics and Science Academy. Dr. Dieker is also the coordinator of the Ph.D. program in special education.  This program, during her tenure and in collaboration with her colleagues in special education, has graduated 50 new scholars.  Twelve are students with disabilities and twenty come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She has published numerous articles focused on interdisciplinary collaboration. She is sought out regularly to provide national and international keynote addresses. She serves in numerous leadership roles including serving on the board of the Council for Exceptional Education Teacher Education Division where she was selected by the Council for Exceptional Children as the Child Advocate Network (CAN) coordinator of the year.  She also has been the editor and associate editor for two international journals and is currently the Associate Editor of Teaching Exceptional Children.

Selma Powell is a doctoral candidate at the University of Central Florida. She received her undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of South Florida. Her dissertation research focus is on developmentally appropriate use of mathematics applications for iPads in early childhood classrooms. Additionally, she is committed to advocacy for children with special needs and their families. In November of 2011, she was recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, Division of Early Childhood, as the recipient of the J. David Sexton Doctoral Student Award for her contributions to these children and families. Selma Powell has published three articles and has presented at numerous national and state conferences. Within the university, Selma Powell has held leadership positions with the Council for Exceptional Children student chapter, as well as the Association for Doctoral Students in Exceptional Education. For the past two and a half years, she has worked as the assistant to the associate editor of Teaching Exceptional Children.

To include or not to include? That is the question every parent has to struggle with as his or her child progresses through the school; issues related to placement options for students with disabilities are challenging. This question is a complex one for parents, teachers, administrators, and even students to answer, as grade point averages become more and more important for college admissions or future career options.  Therefore, what is the least restrictive environment for all students?  That is a question that becomes even more complex as students enter middle and high school.

As an educator and a parent of a student with a disability, I (Lisa Dieker) can share that our family has had these same struggles.  Compound the parent role with what both of us (Lisa and Selma) know about secondary schools and we will share some of the reasons the struggle at the secondary level exists.  Many parents struggle with the right balance between their child participating in inclusive settings and closing gaps that might still exist for students as they progress in grade level.  In addition, parents must consider a range of service delivery options when GPAs count and there are few instances of general and special educators teaching together.  Not only are students transforming intellectually, emotionally, sexually, and socially, but teachers’ identities seem to change from foregrounding children to foregrounding discipline knowledge. In this blog, we share what we have seen that works for secondary schools that develop successful inclusive education contexts. Read more

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Anne Hynds photoDr. Anne Hynds is a Pākeha Researcher / Senior Lecturer in the School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. She is also a Research Associate for the Jessie Herrington Research Centre at the Faculty of Education. As a teacher, Anne taught in primary, intermediate and secondary school settings, and in mainstream and Deaf education. Anne has a real interest in collaborative research / action research methodologies and has worked in a number of bi-cultural evaluation projects including the National Evaluation of Te Kotahitanga; the coordination of the Quality Teaching Research and Development in Practice Project (QTR&D) and the National Evaluation of Te Kauhua: Maori in the mainstream pilot project.

What is teacher collaboration really?

There are different terms associated with teacher collaboration, including collegiality, professional learning communities, and partnership work to name but a few. It is important to draw distinctions between teacher congeniality and collegiality. Congeniality refers to the comfortableness of teachers’ social relationships, while collegiality refers to the quality and impact of professional relationships and shared responsibility for change across classrooms through collaboration.

In culturally responsive schooling contexts, teacher collaboration must extend beyond the staff-room door, because the development of culturally responsive practices requires teachers to form reciprocal learning relationships with diverse groups of students and their parent/caregiver communities.  Friend and Cook (1992) state that “…collaboration is a style of direct interaction between at least two co-equal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal” (p. 5). Teacher collaboration implies collective responsibility for improving all student outcomes within culturally responsive and inclusive environments. This means challenging deficit thinking and low expectations within classrooms and schools that prevent all students from realizing their full potential. Read more

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Dr. Urso earned her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Arizona, her M.S. Ed. in Reading from the State University of New York at Oneonta and her B.S. in Special Education from the College of St. Rose. She has over 20 years’ experience teaching students in K-12 and adult populations in New York State. Dr. Urso has also worked extensively in the southwest training teachers and para-educators to work with students who have learning disabilities on Native American Indian Reservations. She has presented her research at national and international conferences. Dr. Urso believes we need to prepare teachers who are culturally competent and committed to social justice. She also believes our teachers must be highly skilled in effective, culturally responsive assessment, intervention and instructional techniques for children with disabilities. She is actively involved in supporting local school districts in their efforts to support students with learning differences. Currently, Dr. Urso is an Assistant Professor in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

The Road to Intolerance is Paved with Good Intentions

As a parent, a long-time teacher in K-12 schools, and now as a teacher educator, I have taught about diversity, acceptance, and tolerance. I have supported the messages of our civil rights leaders, and highlighted the laws that provide equal access to education and constitutional rights for all our citizens.  I have encouraged my children and students, through example and education, that we are all members of one human race entitled to respect and equal rights. I realize that I have fallen short in my responsibility because I have neglected to teach my children and students how to stand up against intolerance and bigotry when they see it.  I have neglected to provide the time and attention to fully respond to my pre-service teachers’ confrontations with institutional racism and bias in the schools they work in. I would suggest we all have fallen short in our responsibility to help shape an inclusive philosophy in our future generations.  Several recent events have brought this matter to my attention that I wish to share with you. Last fall over the course of one month, five young people took their lives after being cyber-bullied or harassed for issues of sexuality, ethnicity, or gender. Early this year, a student at a public Utah high school attended a pep rally in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe; subsequent investigation into this racist incident revealed it was not an isolated occurrence in the district. Last month, a high school in Birmingham, Alabama held meetings with parents after racist comments were found written on a bathroom wall, a racist note was found in the mailbox of a teacher, and another note was found in a student’s locker.

These are not isolated incidents. Read more

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scorgie picKate Scorgie is a professor in the Department of Advanced Studies in Education at Azusa Pacific University where she teaches courses in educational psychology, research for educators, and adult learning. Her research interests include families of children with disabilities, self-determination of persons with disabilities, participative case study pedagogy and transformative learning.

A father drops his child off at school. He lingers to watch as he crosses the playing field and enters a bungalow classroom at the back of the school ground. “Each step,” he confides, “is an ache in my heart. With each step my child is announcing to all who care to notice, ‘I’m special ed. I’m special ed.’”

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PJones photoPhyllis Jones is an associate professor in Special Education at the University of SouthFlorida. Her research interests include inclusion, insider perspectives, andthe education of teachers of students with low incidence disabilities. She iscurrently Principal Investigator of a project that supports meaningful accessto general education for students with low incidence disabilities.

When I was a young girl living in the North East of England, our main form of transport out of the small town was a public bus. My family and I would sit in the bus shelter waiting for the bus to arrive with a sense of positive anticipation of the trip we were going to take. However, on occasion we would wait and the bus would not arrive at the scheduled time; sometimes the bus was late and sometimes it did not come at all. On many of these occasions, we had to return home or change our plans for the day. We never knew if the bus that was late would actually come, and I remember vividly, the sense of worry I had about whether the bus would ever come at all. Read more

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sharma photoUmesh Sharma has been working as a Senior Lecturer in the area of Special Education and Psychology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia for the last 8 years. His research focuses on teacher training for inclusive education, attitude measurement, and positive behaviour support. He has been organizing and conducting training activities for trainers, teachers and researchers both nationally and internationally on inclusive education.

The topic of my blog is the role of school leaders in enhancing inclusion of children who display disruptive behaviours. I want to share a true case study that has led me to raise some questions in the hope of initiating substantive, honest dialogue about what it means when we call a school “inclusive.”

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