Guide Outlines Ways To Create 'Inclusive' Classrooms

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School officials who want to know how to go about the controversial business of including students with disabilities in regular classrooms may find some answers in a report to be released this week.

"Winning Ways: Creating Inclusive Schools, Classrooms and Communities" is a follow-up to a 1992 report from the National Association of State Boards of Education. That widely distributed report outlined the policy and philosophical foundations for the "full inclusion" of students with disabilities--educating them to the maximum extent possible in regular classrooms with the needed supports and services. (See Education Week, 11/4/92.)

The new report is intended to be a how-to manual for schools that have bought into the inclusion philosophy but need to know how to make it happen in the classroom, said Virginia Roach, the deputy executive director of NASBE who oversaw both reports.

After the 1992 report, "it became very clear that people needed to know how to get inclusion started at the district and building level and how to sustain it," Ms. Roach said.

Proponents of inclusion argue that it provides children--both disabled and nondisabled--a more realistic picture of what life will be like when they leave school.

Opponents say inclusion can overwhelm general-education teachers and mean a loss of special services that traditionally have been provided in separate classrooms or schools.

Getting Everyone on Board

The report is based on interviews, focus groups, and surveys of educators, parents, students, and advocates for disabled students from roughly 20 school districts across the country. The interviews were conducted from late 1992 through last year.

Everyone interviewed had participated in an inclusion program, but the programs vary wildly from those being carried out in just a few classrooms in one school to more comprehensive districtwide approaches, Ms. Roach said.

The report covers the role of local school boards and districts, teachers, and parents in creating more inclusive schools. It describes how to plan for inclusion, set up different inclusion models, and handle opposition to inclusion.

The report emphasizes the importance of drawing general- and special-education educators and parents into the planning and implementation processes.

Although more districts are embracing inclusion, it is no less controversial than it was a few years ago, Ms. Roach said. But, she said, "When I talked to administrators, they weren't talking about stone-walled opposition; people were more concerned about it in the abstract."

NASBE is planning an inclusion roundtable next month to bring together administrators, parents, teachers, and students who have participated in successful inclusion programs.

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