TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Overview of the IER

The Inclusive Education Roadmap (IER) is a set of tools, guidance, processes, and capacity-building content to build inclusive education systems. The IER can be used at all levels of the system...state, district, and school. It integrates the implementation science stages and drivers (Fixsen et al., 2005;  State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices [SISEP], n.d.-a)  with evidence-based inclusive education practices to support effective inclusive systems.

While there is not a single way to implement change, there are foundational pieces that are needed to build a sustainable inclusive education system. The key is to develop a solid plan with a clear direction. Identifying where to begin and which steps to take makes a great difference, then set off to systematically implement and monitor the plan. 

The steps include: 

Phase 1: Planning and Organizing for Change
  • Step 1: Getting Started (Exploration Stage)
  • Step 2: Conducting the Reflecting on Systems of Inclusive Education (RISE) (Installation Stage)
  • Step 3: Conducting an Initiative Inventory (Installation Stage)
  • Step 4: Completing the Action Planning-Leveraging Implementation Drivers (Installation Stage)
Phase 2: Implementing the Initial Inclusive Education Action Plan for Systems Change
  • Step 5: Implementing the Action Plan (Initial Implementation Stage)
Phase 3: Sustaining and Scaling Up Inclusive Education Systems
  • Step 6: Sustaining Change through Continous Improvement Cycles (Full Implementation Stage)

The six steps of the Inclusive Education Roadmap shown in six circles connected by a road.

Step 1: Get Started

Step 2: Complete the RISE

Step 3: Conduct Initiative Inventory

Step 4: Complete the Action Plan

Step 5: Implement Inclusive Education Systems

Step 6: Sustain Inclusive Education Systems

Phase 1: Planning & Organizing for Change 

Step 1: Getting Started

(Exploration Stage)

Getting Started is the first step. There is always a need to start the discussion and develop concrete, meaningful actions to build commitment and momentum in all change processes.

The first step of the IER focuses on three "to-dos": (1) recruiting an effective Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) that will lead the development process, (2) revisiting the organization's mission and vision to determine if it is genuinely inclusive, so all students reach high expectations, and (3) creating buy-in or readiness for inclusive education for all. These discussions consider the extent to which inclusive education meets the organization's commitment to all students, the degree to which the organization is ensuring the learning outcomes for all students, and the extent to which implementation is feasible at this time. Districts and schools must assess the "goodness of fit" between potential programs and practices and the needs of the students they serve. During this step, stakeholders learn about the why and outcomes of inclusive education and the impact on all students, including those with significant cognitive disabilities. Development of the Inclusive Education Action Plan begins during the first step.

Step 2: The RISE (Installation Stage)

The Reflecting on Inclusive Systems of Education (RISE) is a tool for the EILT to rate and prioritize its needs regarding building an inclusive education system. The RISE process supports teams to answer questions like Where do we start? What are the most important things to focus on? What do we do next?  

The RISE has two parts. During the RISE Part 1 (Focus Areas Reflection), the EILT reviews the organization's Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) data. If possible, this is disaggregated by disability categories. Following the data review, the four focus areas of inclusive education (Placement and Settings; General Education Curriculum Content and Access; Instructional Practices; and Student and System Outcomes) are discussed and rated by the EILT. Based on the team's determination, identify a priority Focus Area for a more in-depth analysis during the RISE Part 2. 

The RISE Part 2 (Features Reflection) begins by presenting data related to chosen priority Focus Area. For example, if the Focus area of Instructional  Practices is being discussed, looking at data related to student outcomes could help ground this discussion. 

An in-depth look at the priority Focus Area is conducted. This includes understanding the strengths and challenges of the priority for all students and explicitly considering it for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The final part of this step is to identify up to Three Big Ideas that will inform action plan goals. At the end of Step 2, add this information to the Inclusive Education Action Plan. 

Step 3: Initiative Inventory (Installation Stage)

Inclusive education is a cultural shift centered on general education, and it does not happen in a silo but links to all aspects of the organization. The Inclusive Education Initiative Inventory correlates the priorities identified in the RISE with ongoing state, district, or school initiatives. This linkage strengthens the priorities by building a broader constituency that supports the work, expands current organizational priorities to include all staff and students, and can increase implementation momentum.

In this step, a sub-group of the EILT completes the Initiative Inventory. The purpose is to understand:  

  1. Where does the identified priority RISE Focus Area integrate with other organization initiatives? 

  2. Where are there gaps or omissions? 

  3. How might all initiatives be aligned and leveraged to “make sense” to stakeholders and accelerate building an inclusive education system for all students? 

The sub-group brings the results of the completed Inventory back to the whole EILT for further discussion and determination of agreement. This step is completed after the entire EILT agrees on which system initiatives align well with the RISE priorities and could be used to accelerate building inclusive systems. Again, these findings are documented in the Inclusive Education Action Plan document.

Step 4: Action Plan Completion & the Implementation Drivers 

(Installation Stage)

In Step 4, complete the cohesive Inclusive Education Action Plan. The EILT pulls together the findings from their data, the RISE Part 1 and 2, and Inclusive Initiative Inventory, then write annual SMARTIE Goals. 

To complete the initial Action Plan, the team learns about the Competency and Organizational Drivers and identifies a list of tasks, target dates, and lead people to move implementation forward. 

The comprehensiveness of Steps 1-4 leads to a plan that integrates:

  • a commitment by leadership to the importance of inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, 
  • the initial structures and processes that support inclusive education,
  • actions for using key system drivers to build the capacity and supportive context for inclusive education, and
  • a plan for reviewing the plan and data regularly.

Phase 2: Implementing the Initial Inclusive Education Action Plan for Systems Change

Step 5: Implementing the IER action plan (Initial Implementation Stage)

In Step 5, implement the Inclusive Education Action Plan. During this Initial Implementation Stage, the structure and processes that sustain long-term change (such as effective leadership and a robust communication plan) and the specifics identified in the Action Plan are implemented. The focus is on getting the change started, nurturing its growth, and continuously improving them to change how the adults in the system work together to impact student outcomes positively. The intent is for the new inclusive structures and processes to become "how we teach all students." 

During the first year, the EILT meets regularly, often with smaller workgroups meeting in between the whole team meetings. The EILT revisits the Action Plan at least every other month to ensure progress, discuss what is working and challenging, review current data,  gather input, and modify the plan if needed. The length of time for completing Step 5 varies but typically is accomplished in 1-2 years. 

The EILT conducts a modified RISE process annually as one fidelity measure for system implementation and to guide the revision of the Inclusive Education Action Plan for the following year. 

Phase 3: Sustaining and Scaling Up Inclusive Education Systems

Step 6: Sustaining and Scaling up

In Step 6, the organization has reached the point where the initial changes to implement inclusive education are part of the organizational culture. Expected changes include:

  • Less need to focus on building the why of inclusive education and more questioning related to the what and how, 
  • A regularity and flow to productive collaborative meetings that are focused on all students learning, 
  • Norms of collaboration, problem-solving and continuous improvement cycles are evident throughout the whole organization, and 
  • Students with disabilities, including those with significant cognitive disabilities, are supported in general education classroom learning. 

Step 6 is also the point where decisions about scaling up the work come to the front. An organization should think about scaling up when they have reached greater than 50% fidelity on the practices they are currently putting into place.

In addition to the ongoing use of fidelity measures for specific practices being implemented, the EILT looks at the extent to which fidelity in implementing inclusive education systems is in place. The EILT completes the RISE annually to determine its fidelity to implementing the features of effective inclusive systems for all students and identify new system priorities.