TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Expanding and Deepening the Communication Plan

Overview

Frequent communication among stakeholders is extremely important in the initial phase of implementation. Educators will have questions about how initial implementation affects their roles and responsibilities. Families will have questions about what might be different for their children and family. Both will have questions about how the change will be implemented and supported. 

Sharing the why, what and how of inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities builds a common vision as the system moves forward.

In Step 1 of the IER, a communication plan and norms for effective EILT teams were developed. Continued attention is needed for the EILT to build and sustain a collaborative, problem-solving culture.

In Step 4 of the IER, the EILT created an initial communication plan for the Inclusive Education Action Plan.

In Step 5, the EILT expands the communication plan to share information with all stakeholders and provide means for feedback from multiple audiences. This feedback helps fine-tune the initial implementation efforts, and perhaps the Action Plan itself. The expanded plan is more detailed and is flexible. Thinking this through usually includes identifying: 

  • The information to be shared
  • Who should receive the information
  • Who will share the information
  • Frequency of communication
  • Modes of communication
  • Communication timelines

Whether at the state, district or school levels, the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) provides leadership in building inclusive systems of education. The EILT helps move building inclusive education forward 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 different stakeholders as their input is gathered and considered. 

The EILT benefits from internal communication processes that keep everyone “in the loop.” EILT members should present a common message about the ongoing work of creating an inclusive system. Ongoing communication keeps the momentum of the work moving forward between scheduled meetings. Frequent and accurate communication also helps build a collaborative culture across the organization as information is shared, feedback is gathered, and questions are answered.

During the initial implementation phase, it can be useful to consider: 

  • Were norms of communication established for the EILT meetings? (Meeting norms are more than logistical details, such as “start and end on time.” They include the ways that people work together effectively to discuss complex material.) 
  • Which communication technologies will be utilized and for which purposes?
  • How will group decisions be disseminated to relevant stakeholders?
  • Will team members have specific responsibilities for periodically sharing updated information? (For example, district leaders take information back to their departments and representatives on the EILT share information at the grade level meetings.)
  • How will the team differentiate between communications that are time-sensitive and those that are not? What are the agreed-upon response timelines?
  • How will the EILT evaluate the effectiveness of your communication plan?

Developing a cohesive team is essential for moving the work forward, especially when there are ongoing challenges. EILT members come to the table with a variety of perspectives, experiences, and  beliefs about how education might look. In the Step 1 section on forming an EILT,  key components of effective teaming were shared, including taking the time to develop team norms and protocols for how the teams can work together. There is a continual need to attend to the components of effective teams  in order to create and sustain an atmosphere where discussion, especially when there are opposing views, happens and create mutually acceptable solutions to common challenges becomes the hallmark of the team. 

Below are a few resources that can be useful for team members to reflect on their individual actions in building a strong team as well as the team as a whole.

Behavior and Actions- Individual Reflection Tool

Behavior and Actions- Team Reflection Tool

There is a wide breadth of groups who will benefit from regular communication throughout the initial implementation phase. While who should be included will vary at each level of the system, below is a list of interested stakeholders. Each will have different types of questions they want to learn more about.

Interested Stakeholders:

  • Students- both students with disabilities, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, and students without disabilities.
  • Families
  • 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)
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Parent-Teacher Association  
  • Bargaining Units
  • Broader Community
  • Collaborating External Agencies

Real-World Example

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 began by brainstorming a list of the stakeholders and what they felt that each stakeholder group would need to know and want to know. 

They also considered a range of communication strategies to keep stakeholders up-to-date and provide opportunities for input. These strategies included:

  • Regular emails to the broad range of stakeholders
  • Presentations to the District Cabinet and Board of Education
  • Schedule open, 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
  • Meet with the district Parent-Teacher-Student Organization 
  • Meet with the elementary and secondary principal groups
  • Have whole school events and individual classroom discussions celebrating the commitment to equity, belonging, and diversity. Capture students sharing their own stories and experiences about what belonging looks like. Listen and learn to surface questions, concerns, or fears 
  • Connect with the whole community via a celebration of inclusiveness and diversity