How can school leaders implement changes that result in inclusive school environments?

Page 9: Enable Action

Enable Action stepWhen 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.

Identify Priorities

SWOTIn 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.

Step 1: 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).
Step 2: 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).
Step 3: Identify opportunities that the school can take advantage of when creating an inclusive school environment.
Step 4: Identify threats that can interfere with the creation of an inclusive school environment.
Step 5: Prioritize two to three items in each box for a total of eight to ten items. (Noted by * in the illustration below.)
Step 1.
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Strengths
*
  1. 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)
  1. Demographic data indicate that the guiding team reflects the diverse population of the school
*
  1. 98% of students with disabilities take high-stakes tests and their scores are included in reports
Weaknesses
*
  1. 90% of the guiding team don’t know the natural proportion of students with disabilities
*
  1. 95% of teachers surveyed reported that special education and general education teachers don’t collaborate
*
  1. 87% of teachers surveyed feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities
  1. 78% of teachers surveyed have a negative attitude toward inclusion
Step 2.
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Step 3.
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Opportunities
*
  1. Disability agency willing to provide free professional development on including students with disabilities
  1. Partner with local college
    1. Training from faculty
    2. College students work at school
*
  1. Funds secured for new playground; planning can consider accessibility issues
  1. Active volunteers
  1. District is mandating that achievement data for students with disabilities are included in AYP**
Threats
*
  1. Projected population of the school community will continue to increase over the next five years
*
  1. School budgets continue to be cut
  1. 30% turnover of teachers in the last five years
Step 4.
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**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:

  • Objectives
  • 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.

Priority Action Statement (Goal) Required Actions Method of Data Collection Timeline Individual(s) Responsible
           

For Steps 2–7, see the completed table below. For the purposes of illustration, two of the nine priorities listed above have been included in the action plan.
Step 2: List the priority. The priority should be tied to one of the characteristics of an inclusive school.
Step 3: Rewrite the priority so that it becomes a strategic action statement or goal.
Step 4: List all of the activities required to accomplish the action statement. Specify the criteria that will indicate whether the activity has been completed.
Step 5: Indicate the method of data collection that will be used to assess whether the required action (i.e., Step 4) has been accomplished.
Step 6: Indicate the beginning and end dates for completing each activity.
Step 7: List the individuals responsible for overseeing or completing the activities.

 

Priority Action Statement (Goal) Required Actions Method of Data Collection Timeline Individual(s) Responsible
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%
  1. Create a list of parents who are not actively involved; collect information from at least 95% of the teachers
Ask teachers to provide a list of parents who are not participating October 1-November 1 Principal Conroy
Ms. Scarlett
  1. Create a list of at least six evidence-based strategies that may encourage these parents to participate
Investigate strategies via professional Websites and discussions with staff at other schools October 1-November 1 Mr. Adams
Mrs. Pinkleton
  1. Choose one of these strategies to implement; increase number of these parents involved by 25%
Survey teachers by March 15; compare current involvement of parents to prior involvement January 1- March 31 Ms. Johansen
Mrs. Perez-Felix
87% of teachers surveyed feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities Prepare teachers to teach students with disabilities
  1. Collect surveys from at least 90% of the teachers to Identify skills that they need to teach students with disabilities
Conduct a pre-training survey of teachers to determine needed skills November 1-November 15 Mrs. Gutierrez
  1. Based on needed skills, research PD opportunities and report at least three PD options, with availability and costs
Gather information about effective PD for these skills from professional Websites, the district office, and other schools November 20-December 20 Principal Conroy
Mrs. Gutierrez
  1. Contact PD provider to Schedule PD by January 31
January 15-January 31 Principal Conroy
Mrs. Gutierrez
  1. Using a post-training survey evaluate whether at least 80% of the participating staff felt that skills increased
Conduct a post-training survey February 1-March 31 Principal Conroy
Mrs. Gutierrez

*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.

hs_riddile
Mel Riddile, EdD
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

Mel Riddile offers suggestions about how to begin implementing school change (time: 0:37).

View Transcript

CMS sealThough 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.

Central middle school

Strengths

  • Percentage of students, including those with disabilities, mastering vocabulary skills increased at all grade levels for the past two years on criterion-referenced achievement test.
  • Disaggregated criterion- and norm- referenced test data for the last two years show the seventh-graders performing better than the national referenced group in reading skills.
  • Office referrals for disruptive and violent behavior are significantly lower for seventh graders compared to all other students for the past two years.

Weaknesses

  • Percentage of students, especially those with disabilities, mastering comprehension skills decreased at all grade levels for the past two years on criterion-referenced achievement test.
  • Criterion- and norm-referenced test data from the last two years indicate that a significantly lower percentage of students with disabilities are mastering overall reading skills compared to the national average.
  • The number of office referrals for disruptive and violent behavior is significantly higher for students with disabilities.
  • The percentage of students placed in special education classes has increased for the last three years.

Opportunities

  • According to the district director, the school system wants to explore the use of a formative reading assessment tool for the next school year.
  • The local university and senior citizens center want to become involved in the school and have asked for a list of volunteer opportunities.
  • The school board voted to add 45 minutes to each school day starting next school year.

Threats

  • According to the last three years of internally administered school climate survey data, an increasing number of students reported not feeling successful at school.
  • The internally administered school climate survey indicated that a large percentage of teachers report that they do not have time to collaborate.
  • Over the last three years, there has been a steady decrease in the number of parents actively participating in the PTO or volunteering at the school.

* Due to budgetary restrictions, this may not be feasible in all school districts.

Central middle school

Strengths
  • Percentage of students, including those with disabilities, mastering vocabulary skills increased at all grade levels for the past two years on criterion-referenced achievement test. 4
  • Disaggregated criterion- and norm- referenced test data for the last two years show the seventh-graders performing better than the national referenced group in reading skills. 1
  • Office referrals for disruptive and violent behavior are significantly lower for seventh graders compared to all other students for the past two years.
Weaknesses
  • Percentage of students, especially those with disabilities, mastering comprehension skills decreased at all grade levels for the past two years on criterion-referenced achievement test. 3
  • Criterion- and norm-referenced test data from the last two years indicate that a significantly lower percentage of students with disabilities are mastering overall reading skills compared to the national average. 2
  • The number of office referrals for disruptive and violent behavior is significantly higher for students with disabilities.
  • The percentage of students placed in special education classes has increased for the last three years. 5
Opportunities
  • According to the district director, the school system wants to explore the use of a formative reading assessment tool for the next school year. 7
  • The local university and senior citizens center want to become involved in the school and have asked for a list of volunteer opportunities. 9
  • The school board voted to add 45 minutes to each school day starting next school year. 8
Threats
  • According to the last three years of internally administered school climate survey data, an increasing number of students reported not feeling successful at school. 6
  • The internally administered school climate survey indicated that a large percentage of teachers report that they do not have time to collaborate. 10
  • Over the last three years, there has been a steady decrease in the number of parents actively participating in the PTO or volunteering at the school. 11



For the purposes of illustration, the items from the SWOT analysis that are included in the action plan have been numbered. These numbers appear in the first column of the action plan below. Also listed in the first column are the relevant items from the Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School.

Priority Action Statement (Goal) Required Actions Method of Data Collection Timeline Individual(s) Responsible

1, 2

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

The percentage of students performing better than the national referenced group in all reading objectives will increase by 2% annually for the next three years as indicated by the composite reading score on the annual achievement test. Examine achievement test scores to identify the 7th-grade general education teachers whose students are performing the best on the reading portion of the achievement test. Analyze their lesson plans and discuss with each why they think their students are more successful.
  • Create a list of identified teachers.
  • Create a list of successful instructional strategies for reading.
Jan 15–Jan 31 Ms. Bohan
Mrs. Powers
If the teachers above are using good strategies or classroom practices, ask them to train or mentor other teachers.
  • Make a list of willing trainers or mentors.
Jan 15–Jan 31
Contact the local university to identify available reading experts who can work with faculty.
  • Keep a contact log.
  • Create a list of available reading experts.
Feb 1–Feb 7

3

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

The percentage of students at each grade level and those with disabilities who master comprehension skills will increase by 5% annually for the next three years as indicated by the reading comprehension score on the annual achievement test. Schedule PD for a combined group of general education and special education teachers about evidence-based practices to improve reading comprehension skills.
  • Keep a list of PD activities and staff in attendance.
March 12–March 22 Mrs. Dishner
Mr. Gillingham
Have general education and special education teachers work together to develop plans for teaching these skills in an inclusive classroom.
  • Observations
Begin April 1 (ongoing) Ms. Lawrence
Mr. Hutton

4

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

The percentage of students, including those with disabilities, who master vocabulary skills will increase by 5% annually for the next three years as indicated by the reading vocabulary score on the annual achievement test. Schedule PD for a combined group of general education and special education teachers about evidence-based practices to improve reading vocabulary skills.
  • Keep a list of PD activities and staff in attendance.
August 15–August 30 Mrs. Dishner
Mr. Gillingham
Have general education and special education teachers work together to develop plans for teaching these skills in an inclusive classroom.
  • Observations
Begin Sept 1 (ongoing) Ms. Lawrence
Mr. Hutton

5

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

School Climate

The percentage of students being placed in special education classrooms will decrease by 10% annually for the next three years. During each student’s annual review, the IEP team will determine whether a general education classroom will constitute a student’s LRE. If so, transition student to general education classroom with proper supports.
  • Keep track of number of special ed students placed in general ed classrooms.
Begin Jan 15 Mrs. Powers
Ms. Lawrence

6

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

School Climate

The percentage of students who indicate they feel successful in school, as indicated by an internally administered school climate survey, will increase by 10% annually over the next three years. Students’ feeling of success will be monitored three times throughout the school year. If improvement in reading does not increase the students’ feelings of success, try new strategies in Yr. 2.
  • Student surveys
Jan 20, April 22, Sept 15 Mrs. Timmons
Mrs. Carrillo

7

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

CMS will implement the district’s new formative assessment tool. Apply to be a pilot site. N/A Due Dec 15 Ms. Lawrence
Mrs. Timmons

8, 9, 10

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

The extra 45 minutes will be used to:

a) Provide additional reading practice

  • Revise the master schedule to reflect the additional 45 minutes being used for reading.
  • Recruit volunteers (e.g., college students, senior citizens, parents) to monitor and support students in reading.
  • Train volunteers in reading strategies.
N/A
Keep a log of volunteers
Keep list of volunteers who have completed training.
Dec 1–Dec 20
Begin Dec 15
Begin Dec 15
Ms. Lawrence
Mr. Regazzi
Mrs. Powers
Mr. Regazzi
Mrs. Powers
b) Provide teachers with common planning time
  • Revise the master schedule to reflect the additional 45 minutes being used for teacher collaboration.
  • Facilitate collaboration as needed.
N/A
Observations
Dec 1–Dec 20
Begin Jan 15 (ongoing)
Ms. Lawrence
Mrs. Carrillo

11

Quality Indicators of an Inclusive School:

Parent Involvement

The number of parents belonging to the PTO or volunteering at the school will increase by 10% annually for the next three years.
  • Have a team of teachers and parents develop a plan for recruiting more parents.
  • Implement this plan.
  • Present plan to team and PTO.
  • After implementing the plan, keep log of parents joining PTO or volunteering.
Due March 1 Mrs. Gann
Mrs. Flowers

Activity

Again, think back to the problem you identified earlier in the Module. Follow the steps below to enable action to address that problem.

  1. 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.)
  2. Using these data, identify priorities by performing an abbreviated SWOT analysis.
  3. 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.

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