TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap
Step 5B: Deepening the Communication Plan to Stakeholders
Frequent communication among stakeholders is extremely important throughout the change process, but particularly as the process shifts to the initial implementation stage. Educators will have questions about how the changes will be rolled out and affect their roles and responsibilities. Families will have questions about the specifics regarding what will change for their children. Both will have questions about the preparation for the change and how it will be supported.
Expect that quickly after stakeholders have a better understanding of the why of inclusive education, particularly for students with significant cognitive disabilities, the questions will focus on the what and how of inclusive education for all students. Leadership should prepare for questions like What does instruction in an inclusive classroom look like? How do related service providers support students in inclusive classroom? How do we co-plan lesson plans using grade-level, general education standards? How do we do grading? How does this impact the students who do not have disabilities? Does the transportation schedule change? The need for being ready with useful and timely communication cannot be underestimated.
One thing that we have learned is that having a solid communication plan is important and needs to be implemented and updated regularly. This takes time, but prevents many misunderstandings and reduces the impact of rumors and inaccurate information proliferating. In Step 1A, an initial communication plan was developed for the EILT. In Step 1D, initial steps were take to reach out to key stakeholders about the vision of inclusive education. In Step 4, the activity plan for each SMARTIE Goal included discussing how each goal would be communicated to different stakeholders. In Step 5, consider in more detail the wide array of groups who will benefit from regular communication throughout the initial implementation phase and the different types of questions each group will have about inclusive education and the changes being made. By considering these needs in advance, the EILT is prepared to share pertinent information with the different stakeholder groups, as appropriate.
As implementation proceeds, considering how to reach out to stakeholders and what to focus on in the communication over time. Below is a list of potential stakeholders for planning different types of communication:
- Students- both students with disabilities, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, and students without disabilities.
- Boards of Education
- District Cabinet
- Administrators at all levels of the system
- Instructional Coaches
- Teachers (General Education, Special Education, Specialists)
- Specialized Service Providers (e.g., speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists)
- Parent-Teacher Association
- Bargaining Units
- Broader Community
- Collaborating External Agencies
Whether at the state, district or school level, the EILT supports implementing inclusive education by sharing accurate information with different audiences, as well as gathering feedback to be considered by the whole team. Having feedback loops builds trust with stakeholders as their input is gathered and considered.
Points of Consideration in a Implementing the Communication Plan
Here are some different features to consider for implementing the communication plan:
Ensure timely and shared communication with multiple stakeholders to assure understanding of the "why" of increasing inclusive education for each and every student.
Information to Communicate
Ensure that specific individual(s) are assigned for each type of communication that is being shared.
Determine the format for sharing general communication as well as specific communication, such as Facebook posts, emails, school newsletters, family night events, meeting notes, and presentations to different groups. For efficiency, maximize use of as many of the current methods that are possible. Only add new communication avenues when needed.
Determine a schedule for when each communication format will be targeted to create a flow of messaging
A mid-sized district made the commitment to return their students with significant cognitive disabilities to their neighborhood schools, as members of general education classes, over a two-year period. A subgroup of the District EILT met to develop a communication plan. The team recognized that while there was common information that all stakeholders would need to know, different groups would also need additional communication in response to their questions and needs.
The team brainstormed a list of the stakeholders and what information they felt that each stakeholder group would want to know at that point in the process. Based on this list, they prepared information to respond to these potential questions.
They also considered a range of communication strategies for keeping stakeholders up-to-date on how the inclusive education systems change was progressing and provide opportunities for input. These strategies included:
- Emailing regular updates to the broad range of stakeholders
- Presenting to the District Cabinet and Board of Education
- Scheduling online drop-in sessions for different employee groups with district administrators (e.g, specialized support staff, general education teachers, special education teachers, paraprofessionals) to ask questions
- Meeting with the district Parent-Teacher-Student Organization
- Meeting with the elementary and secondary principal groups
- Having whole school events and individual classroom discussions celebrating the commitment to equity, belonging, and diversity. In particular, they wanted all students to share their own stories and experiences about what belonging looks like.
- Connecting with the whole community via a celebration of inclusiveness and diversity
Through these multiple means, they were able to listen, learn and surface questions, concerns, or fears so they could respond in a timely manner.
- Complete Step 5B in the Inclusive Education Action Plan.
- The process of building an inclusive system of education means that as your organization moves through the stages of implementation, the communication needs for some stakeholders will lessen at the same time that new stakeholders are coming onboard. Ensure that the communication plan is sufficiently nimble to be responsive to stakeholders at different points in their understanding of inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.
- Progress to Step 5C to learn more about deciding what data to use when determining when to scale up and/or add new priorities to focus on.