How can school leaders implement changes that result in inclusive school environments?
Page 9: Enable Action
When the guiding team has gained support for inclusion from a majority of school personnel, it’s time to enable action. First, the guiding team should review and analyze in greater detail data about the school’s current level of inclusiveness. Next, they need to identify the school’s strengths and weaknesses regarding inclusion. Once these things are accomplished, the team is ready to create an action plan and actually begin implementing change within the school.
Evaluate Current Level of Inclusiveness
One tool the guiding team can use to assess their school’s level of inclusiveness is a checklist of some of the common characteristics of inclusive schools based on work conducted by the National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (NCERI) with school districts and state education agencies.
Click here for a PDF version of this checklist—Quality Indicators of an Inclusive Environment. To complete the checklist, the team needs to review existing school data (e.g., achievement test scores, special education referrals). Once completed, the checklist will serve as both a baseline measure of the school’s inclusiveness and a guide for future actions toward creating an inclusive environment.
In addition to the data used to complete the checklist, the team will need to utilize the data collected from stakeholders throughout the change process (e.g., informal teacher survey, formal survey about inclusion) to identify and prioritize the school’s strengths and weaknesses regarding inclusion. One tool many principals find helpful is a SWOT analysis, which helps the team identify the school’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
SWOT analysis procedures
Typically, a SWOT analysis uses a four-square format like the one below. The guiding team uses survey results as well as any other useful information to list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the corresponding boxes. These data in hand, the team brainstorms items to place in the boxes and then prioritizes two or three items in each.
Below are directions for systematically completing your own SWOT analysis.
|Identify core strengths of the school that align with an inclusive school environment (e.g., items that were rated as “Fully Implemented” on the checklist).
|Identify core weaknesses within the school that need to be overcome in order to develop a more inclusive school environment (e.g., items that were rated as “Not Yet Implemented” on the checklist).
|Identify opportunities that the school can take advantage of when creating an inclusive school environment.
|Identify threats that can interfere with the creation of an inclusive school environment.
|Prioritize two to three items in each box for a total of eight to ten items. (Noted by * in the illustration below.)
**Although teachers may see this as a threat, principals should not miss the opportunity to help staff see its positive aspects.
For Your Information
As the team works to enable action, they will most likely encounter obstacles. Research has identified some of the most common of these:
- Organizational factors
- Lack of common planning time
- Inflexible class schedules
- Skill deficits
- Lack of training on how to work collaboratively (e.g., co-teaching)
- Lack of strategies to accommodate diverse learners
- Resistant staff
- Negative attitudes about inclusion
- Unwillingness to modify one’s role (e.g., teaching in special education classroom to co-teaching in a general education classroom)
Create an Action Plan
Once the team has identified priorities, they are ready to create an action plan. This action plan provides clear procedures that can assist them in creating an inclusive environment. In general, an action plan will include:
- Tasks or steps to be completed in order to achieve each objective
- Data collection methods
- Criteria for evaluation
- A timeline of when each objective will be met
- Person(s) responsible for overseeing each objective
Keep in mind that an action plan is a work-in-progress. It must be evaluated frequently to confirm that it is moving the school toward an inclusive environment, just as it should be continually revised as goals are accomplished and as new challenges present themselves.
To develop an action plan for creating an inclusive school environment, the team begins with their list of eight to ten identified priorities, the items they are going to address in their initial action plan. For example, the following list was identified in the sample SWOT analysis.
- A 15% increase in parent involvement, for the last three years, as evidenced by PTO records (with the exception of the parents of students with disabilities)
- 98% of students with disabilities take high-stakes tests and their scores are included in reports
- 90% of the guiding team don’t know the natural proportion of students with disabilities
- 95% of teachers surveyed reported that special education and general education teachers don’t collaborate
- 87% of teachers surveyed feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities
- Disability agency willing to provide free professional development on including students with disabilities
- Funds secured for new playground; planning can consider accessibility issues
- Projected population of the school community will continue to increase over the next five years
- School budgets continue to be cut
These priorities will become the first nine items in the action plan. The steps below outline one method of creating such a plan.
Step 1: Create a table with the following headers.
|Action Statement (Goal)
|Method of Data Collection
|List the priority. The priority should be tied to one of the characteristics of an inclusive school.
|Rewrite the priority so that it becomes a strategic action statement or goal.
|List all of the activities required to accomplish the action statement. Specify the criteria that will indicate whether the activity has been completed.
|Indicate the method of data collection that will be used to assess whether the required action (i.e., Step 4) has been accomplished.
|Indicate the beginning and end dates for completing each activity.
|List the individuals responsible for overseeing or completing the activities.
|Action Statement (Goal)
|Method of Data Collection
|A 15% increase in parent involvement, over the past three years, as evidenced by PTO records (with the exception of the parents of students with disabilities)
|Increase involvement of parents of students with disabilities by 15%
|Ask teachers to provide a list of parents who are not participating
|October 1-November 1
|Investigate strategies via professional websites and discussions with staff at other schools
|October 1-November 1
|Survey teachers by March 15; compare current involvement of parents to prior involvement
|January 1- March 31
|87% of teachers surveyed feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities
|Prepare teachers to teach students with disabilities
|Conduct a pre-training survey of teachers to determine needed skills
|November 1-November 15
|Gather information about effective PD for these skills from professional websites, the district office, and other schools
|November 20-December 20
|January 15-January 31
|Conduct a post-training survey
|February 1-March 31
*The school identified good parent involvement as a strength. In this case, the team will build on that strength to increase parent involvement among the parents of students with disabilities.
For Your Information
One purpose of an action plan is to outline how to acquire the resources needed to create a more inclusive school environment. These resources might be:
- Technical (e.g., skilled individuals to provide on-site support)
- Material (e.g., evidence-based instructional curriculum that allows for differentiation)
- Organizational (e.g., collaborative planning time)
The process of moving toward inclusion typically requires the restructuring of existing resources, changes in the way school personnel are assigned, and adjustments in the roles of existing personnel. An action plan will help the guiding team accomplish these changes in an organized manner.
Implement the Action Plan
The action plan has been created and now it is time to implement it. Initially at least, the team should start small and not attempt to implement the plan throughout the entire school. The focus should instead be on easily accomplished tasks implemented by a few willing personnel. Starting small allows staff to try out new approaches and to work out the kinks before scaling up the implementation effort. As the staff encounters success, they should communicate their experiences with colleagues. By doing so, they can create buy-in among other school staff, particularly those who were initially resistant, reluctant, or skeptical.
Mel Riddile offers suggestions about how to begin implementing school change (time: 0:37).
Mel Riddile, EdD
National Association of Secondary
School Principals (NASSP)
Though at first the guiding team at CMS was energized by their efforts to create and communicate a vision for a more inclusive school environment, now they are perplexed. How should they go about turning that vision into a reality? The team starts by examining available data:
- Criterion- and Norm-Referenced Reading Test scores disaggregated by subgroups for each grade level
- State testing and accountability data (to ascertain the extent to which CMS was making adequate progress in meeting its accountability goals)
- Internally administered school climate survey
- Discipline referral records (for the last two years)
- PTO data and volunteer data
- Special education data (e.g., referral rates, percent of time in general education classroom)
After the team reviews the data, Ms. Lawrence knows that it is time to focus the team’s energy and commitment on creating an action plan. To begin, she suggests that the team completes a Quality Indicators of an Inclusive Environment checklist to serve as a baseline measure of the school’s inclusiveness. Next, the team conducts a SWOT analysis to identify their priorities. Based on this information, they create an action plan for year one. Click on each link below to view CMS’s documents.
* Due to budgetary restrictions, this may not be feasible in all school districts.
Again, think back to the problem you identified earlier in the module. Follow the steps below to enable action to address that problem.
- Review and analyze data. (Although in reality it is crucial to collect as much information as possible before conducting a SWOT analysis, for the purposes of this activity it will suffice to have data from two or three sources.)
- Using these data, identify priorities by performing an abbreviated SWOT analysis.
- Create an action plan based on the results of the SWOT analysis. Choose two or three items from each category (i.e., strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and turn them into actions.