View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 4:01).
Principal Lawrence (VO): My name is Gina Lawrence, and I’m the principal of Central Middle School. In the time I’ve been in this role, our school has made a lot of progress: We’ve increased our test scores, improved our attendance rates, and added technology in our classrooms. So you can see why I’m so proud of Central Middle. By most standards, our school is a success. But yesterday something happened that opened my eyes to a problem I’d never recognized.
I’d stopped by our local zoning office to make sure I had the right permits for a fall festival. As I walked into the office, I was surprised to see Tim, one of our former special education students, working behind the counter. After completing middle school, he went to Monet High School and then I lost track of him. I do remember Tim seemed rather disconnected and uninterested in school and that our teachers worried he wouldn’t finish high school.
Tim, I didn’t know you worked here. It’s nice to see you again. How are you?
Tim: Hi, Ms. Lawrence. It’s good to see you, too. I’m doing well.
Principal Lawrence: How long have you been working here? What kinds of things do you do?
Tim: I’ve been working here since I graduated from high school. I pull permits, answer zoning questions, and help people complete their paperwork. And I really enjoy it.
Principal Lawrence: Wow! It seems like just yesterday that you were at Central. So you’ve finished high school already?
Tim: Yeah, I had a great experience at Monet High School. I finally felt like I fit in and was learning something.
Principal Lawrence: So tell me about high school. What made it such a great experience?
Tim: Well, I took all of my classes with the other kids, so I wasn’t stuck in special ed classes all day. Reading was still hard, but I got accommodations, and got hooked up with some cool technology that helped a lot. I made friends in regular classes and got involved in school activities. Plus, the teachers worked with me to figure out my strengths and interests and helped me plan what I was going to do after high school.
Principal Lawrence (VO): As I drove back to Central Middle, I realized how troubled I was by my encounter with Tim. It was hard to hear that he didn’t feel like he fit in–that he really wasn’t learning.
I didn’t have time to think about it much, because when I got back to school I found that our latest test scores had arrived. It was a disheartening report. The scores for our students with disabilities had gone down for the second year in a row. Because of our students’ performance, I was asked to attend a meeting with our district superintendent. During that meeting, he praised my efforts in many areas of improvement but expressed concern that our students with disabilities were testing lower than most other comparable schools in the region. He made it clear that I needed to improve the outcomes for these students, as we might not make AYP next year. And then…he suggested I speak with the principal of Monet High School, Tim’s old school! It turns out that Monet High’s test scores were similar to ours several years ago. Evidently, that principal implemented a number of changes in order to create a more inclusive school environment.
Inclusion. I’ve heard the word thrown around a lot, but I’m not exactly sure what it means. I just wish I knew more about it.
Here’s Your Challenge:
What is inclusion and why is it important?
What model can school leaders use to guide the change necessary for creating inclusive school environments?
How can school leaders prepare for the changes required to create inclusive school environments?
How can school leaders implement changes that result in inclusive school environments?
How can school leaders sustain the positive efforts toward creating inclusive school environments?