TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Administrative Structures and Processes

Research tells us that changes are needed in how schools operate in order to create the conditions for implementation of effective inclusive practices. Systemic efforts to promote inclusive schools must address teacher values and beliefs, instructional practices, school organization, and roles and responsibilities of school staff (McLeskey et al., 2014). Individual teachers can navigate barriers and implement some inclusive practices for some students, but sustainable and systemic change requires leaders working collaboratively with stakeholders to identify and address barriers together in an ongoing fashion. 

As the examples in the Administrative Structures and Processes section in Step 4 illustrated, it is important to examine current structures and processes at all levels of the system to see which “ways of doing things” are supporting versus creating barriers to inclusive education for all students. Many barriers have been in practice for decades and their impact has not been considered. Often barriers become evident as questions  are raised about why a change is not possible. Below are examples of steps taken by state, district and schools to reduce and eliminate barriers to inclusive education. 

Inclusive Education Examples

Organizational Structures

  • Review and change the school’s master schedule as needed to ensure collaborative planning time and facilitate co-teaching
  • Engage with the district’s transportation department to ensure all students are transported in the most inclusive manner 
  • Increase cross-department teaming at the state level to address barriers to inclusive education for students with significant cognitive disabilities

Instructional Practices

  • Increase principal walk-throughs specifically related to inclusive instructional practices
  • District hires an inclusive education coach
  • State provides clear messaging and professional development to ensure that specially-designed instruction is delivered in general education settings

Roles and Responsibilities

  • School introduces flexible staffing models
  • District creates or modifies an existing job description for inclusive education coaches
  • State leverages at least one staff position to focus specifically on inclusive education for students with significant cognitive disabilities

Real-World Example

An elementary school was moving to an inclusive education model for all students, including its students with significant cognitive disabilities. Previously, the school had a couple students with significant cognitive disabilities as members of general education classrooms because their parents chose to enroll their children with their siblings in the neighborhood school. As more families began returning to their neighborhood schools, an Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) was formed to scale up inclusive education. 

General education teachers on the EILT wanted to have regular times in the schedule to collaborate with their special education colleagues. The school developed a new master schedule that provided time for a special education teacher to join each grade level team meeting once a week for unit and lesson planning. It also aligned its literacy intervention blocks so all students in each grade received intervention at the same time either to fill learning gaps or accelerate learning. To reduce the number of grades each special education teacher collaborated with, they moved to a cross-categorical service delivery model where one special teacher managed all of the students with IEPs in a grade rather than dividing caseloads by disability categories. Recognizing that these structural and process changes were significant and that it would take time for all of the educators to feel efficacious with the changes, the principal chose just to focus on implementing these changes during that school year and not consider additional system change steps until the following year.