TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Step 1A: Recruit and Organize the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT)

The Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) is a group of stakeholders that oversees, supports, and is accountable for implementing and improving system change for inclusive education. Creating an EILT and supporting the team to work together effectively around common goals is central to building a sustainable system. Research has shown that when new innovations have effective leadership teams to guide the change process, there is 80% success in implementing the innovation in a three-year period. When there is not an effective leadership team in place, there is only 14% success over 17 years (Fixen & Van Dyke, 2020)!

Investing the time to recruit and develop an effective EILT is key to building a sustainable inclusive education system. The EILT members play important roles in providing insights for moving ideas to practice, analyzing organizational data, sharing information about the organization's commitment to inclusive education with individuals and constituency groups, and gathering feedback to bring to the team to consider. They complete the system's needs reflection (Step 2 - The RISE); the Inclusive Education Initiative Inventory (Step 3); and support the development of the Inclusive Education Action Plan (completed in Step 4). Once these initial planning and organizing steps are completed, their responsibilities include providing leadership to implement and sustain an inclusive system of education (Step 5).

Building an effective EILT committed to system change takes thoughtfulness in the planning and nurturing of its development. Three areas are essential for ensuring an effective EILT:

  • Recruiting team members,
  • Organizing for success, and
  • Deepening the commitment to inclusive education within the EILT

Estimated Time Commitment

The time that it takes to create and organize an EILT varies. It depends on the extent that upper administration is engaged in the discussion and how persistent key champions of inclusive education are with moving forward with an inclusive vision. When upper administration is committed and key champions of inclusive education feel supported, the EILT can be formed in as little as 4 weeks. In other situations, recruiting the team can take up to 6-8 weeks. Often it takes additional time to build the EILT's knowledge about inclusive education, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. This is usually done over the next 3-6 months through agenda items on different meetings, readings, etc.

Guidance for Recruiting the EILT

  • The team should:
    • represent a balanced mix of general education and special education perspectives and experience
    • include someone with expertise in inclusive education for students with significant disabilities
    • include general education administrators and special education administrators with authority to make decisions for systems change
    • have someone who can represent the different stakeholder groups affected by inclusive systems of education change, such as parents, curriculum specialists, special area teachers (art, music, PE), and related service providers
    • include at least one or two (or more!) champions of inclusive education
  • Additional team members may need to be invited to discuss specific topics (i.e., transportation, nursing, sports coaching, etc.)
  • The team would benefit from members across administrative levels (i.e., state/region, district, school, student team)
  • Racial representation is similar to that of the school, district, or community
  • Family perspectives
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Members of other historically disenfranchised groups
  • Socio-economic diversity
  • Geographic diversity
  • Expertise regarding inclusive education for all students, being explicit to include students with significant cognitive disabilities
  • Expertise in general education instruction and classroom management strategies, including evidence-based practices in inclusive classrooms
  • Expertise regarding the instruction of students with significant cognitive disabilities
  • Expertise in system-wide priority areas (For example, Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) )
  • Knowledge of local systems, policies, and supports
  • Access to relevant data systems
  • Champions are people who think "inclusion." They advocate for their beliefs, see the linkage between inclusive education and other system pieces, and do outreach to build support for inclusive systems.
  • Champions are highly motivated leaders who move the work forward regardless of where they are in the system. In some cases, it is a parent, an educator, an administrator, or even all of them.
  • Champions often start the work and keep it moving if things bog down as they support the development of other champions. 
  • Not everyone on the EILT may have reached the point of championing the work. They may be interested in inclusion, willing to work to build a system and bring an essential piece of knowledge and expertise, but may not yet be a strong advocate for inclusion or confident about what to share when talking with others.

Guidance for Organizing the EILT

  • You can use a pre-existing team (i.e., Instructional Leadership Team, Equity Team) so long as that team has the capacity and time to address the system's action plan for inclusive education fully. In this case, you may need to expand the team to have the representation of diverse views and perspectives required to problem-solve issues. 
  • The size of the team varies depending on the level, size, and complexity of the organization.
    • Smaller and mid-size systems might have a team of 5-14 members.
    • Large systems could have a team between 12-25 that has multiple working sub-groups.
  • Refer to the State Level EILT, District Level EILT, and School Level EILT pages for considerations regarding the size and composition of the EILT at each of these levels.
  • When beginning this work, it is helpful for the EILT to meet weekly or every other week to build a shared commitment and generate momentum.
  • Over time, the larger team may feel comfortable with monthly meetings with sub-groups meeting more regularly. 
  • Determine a regular meeting schedule far in advance to avoid conflicts with other meeting responsibilities. Ideally, this is before the school year begins, but sometimes the initial work of building inclusive systems commences during a school year. In this case, do the best possible for a regular schedule and plan for a regular meeting schedule the following school year. 
  • Time is a commodity with limited availability but high demand. Rules and team protocols help teams work together efficiently.
  • EILTs should agree to the rules and protocols that meet their needs to function effectively and efficiently, including:
    • Agreeing on team rules and protocols, Norms of Collaboration (i.e., how the team will work together to listen and respectfully discuss ideas), and Problem Solving Protocol clarifies for the whole team "the way we work together."
    • Have an agenda for each meeting with roles identified. Share the agenda in advance of the meeting.
    • Identifying shared goals and assuming positive intent:
      1. Example: We are working together to make a great classroom and improve outcomes for each and every child.
    • Using data to inform the conversations and observations.
    • Using a Problem-solving Process Protocol for working through complex issues that will arise (see Downloads at the bottom of this page for an example).
    • Routinely asking questions to determine colleagues' points of view, such as:
      1. "What led you to think ____ ?"
      2. "I heard you say _____ , is that correct?"
      3. "I’m wondering what you mean by _____?"
      4. "Can you say more about _____ and maybe give an example?"
    • Respecting time commitments (for example, start and end on time, assign times to agenda items).
    • Following through with assignments.
    • Having a process to welcome and induct new members into the values and beliefs that are the foundation for the work and how the team is organized for success.
  • With all systems change work, clear and frequent communication cannot be overstated! Create an initial Communication Plan that will inform everyone on the EILT of current activities, next steps, and individual and group responsibilities. (Refer to #9 in this list for an example)
  • The Downloads linked above in this section provide the following samples to consider for organizing an EILT:
    • Setting EILT Rules and Protocol sheet- these can be used as talking points for a team as it customizes its rules and protocols
    • Norms of Collaboration - this example was used by both state and district advisory teams in their work
    • Problem Solving Process

Communication Plans should be developed for EILTs regardless of the level of the team. While similar in structure, the plans at different levels of the system are not implemented identically because of the complexity of the work at the different levels.

Below is a sample of the components of a communication plan:


To ensure timely and shared communication related to the why and how of the work to increase inclusive education for each and every student.

Information to communicate (for example, updates, data, successes, challenges)

  • EILT Action plans and timelines, updated as needed, and revisited as part of the team’s routines
  • Task assignments based on the focus areas of the action plan
  • Least Restrictive Environment and other relevant data in a timely manner
  • Questions that need to be answered to ensure forward movement
  • Challenges and solutions

  • Completed work products

  • Showcase successes and determine means to disseminate this information for scaling up and building sustainability

Responsible Individual(s)

Ensure that specific individuals are assigned to each type of communication listed below:

  • Schedule meetings and send out agendas and other relevant documents
  • Schedule professional learning opportunities for stakeholders as needed
  • Follow up on assigned tasks


  • Use a shared drive to save:
    • EILT Schedules
    • Official meetings notes
    • Action plan with updates
    • De-identified data related to LRE and student outcomes
  • Organization emails are used to communicate in a timely manner.

Response timeline

  • The timelines in the Action Plan will be shared along with decision points noted in the action plan steps to assure meaningful progress forward.
  • Items needing prompt attention will be noted in the subject line with the note “Timely Response Needed”

Response format

Decisions will be dated in the document and noted in the action plan steps for assuring meaningful progress forward

Dissemination to Other Groups

Assign responsibility for disseminating information to and requesting information from other related implementation teams and stakeholder groups.

Guidance for Building the EILT's Commitment to Inclusive Education

  • The EILT needs to have a common understanding about:
    • their organization's vision, mission, and expected outcomes from implementing inclusive education,
    • the whys behind inclusive education,
    • the T-I- E-S Outcomes
      • T: time in general education;
      • I: Instructional Effectiveness;
      • E: Engagement with Peers and Learning;
      • S: Support for System Change
    • the importance of challenging preconceived assumptions about all students and their learning.
  • Beginning from Getting Started (Exploration Stage), ensure there is a process that builds the background knowledge of the EILT to prepare them for their leadership role in creating an inclusive education system. For example, read articles or engage in a book study and discuss the content, review and consider the Whys for Inclusive Education in light of their LRE data.
  • EILT members will have a range of knowledge about inclusion. Some members were invited to be on the team because of their commitment to inclusion. Others may be in critical positions in the organization or community that are important to the work but are less knowledgeable about the details of inclusive systems. Some may be strong supporters of inclusive education but have not considered the idea that each and every student being included. By ensuring there is a process that builds background knowledge over time, the team will be:
    • better equipped to problem-solve barriers as they arise,
    • able to play a vital role in advocating for an equitable and effective inclusive education for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • This same question is just as critical for the EILT as it is for the whole organization.
  • It is essential to regularly have topics related to the commitment to inclusive systems of education as part of meeting agendas. This does not need to be a separate agenda item or take a long time. It can be integrated into other agenda items, such as:
    • Design an "ice breaker" activity based on the core values,
    • Review any state, district, or school data and consider it through the lens of one of the T-I-E-S outcomes. Use the What? So What? Now What? format to generate discussion. After showing data (the What?), ask So What does this data tell us? Follow this with Now What should we do with what we just learned?
    • Close a meeting by asking "Did today's decisions move us closer to achieving our inclusive outcomes of T-I-E-S? If not, what can we do to change this?"

Equity Check:

  • Does membership on the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team:
    • represent the cultural, linguistic, and racial diversity of the system to gain multiple perspectives?
    • have expertise specific to the inclusion of students with significant disabilities?
    • include the diversity of roles needed to make and implement decisions?

Guidance for State, District, and School EILTs

EILTs are key components for building inclusive education at all levels of the system. However, EILTs do not look identical due to the scope of their work and the size of the organization. Each level organizes its EILT differently depending on its needs and the organizational structures that are currently in place. EILT membership “look fors” and potential members vary across levels.

Ideally, State/Regional, District, and School EILTs are designed to support each other, provide feedback, and build vertical alignment. This vertical alignment enhances inclusive practices across a system. Having representatives from other levels of the system on an EILT facilitates alignment and integration of policies and practices.

For example, a District representative joins the School EILT meeting once a month to better understand the actions being taken at the school and provide district feedback and support. Notes for all of the EILT meetings were taken on an online shared document that the administrator could scan in between the meetings that she attended. Similarly, the District had a state (or regional) representative join their EILT meetings to better understand the details of this system change. In both cases, the actions that were being taken at the district and school levels provided feedback to other levels of the system that supported system alignment.

Guidance on State EILTs

Guidance on District level EILTs

Guidance on School EILTs

Real-World Example

District leadership is committed to building an inclusive system of education for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Quickly, an elementary school was invited to join in this work as one of the first pilot sites. Both the district and elementary school leadership recognized the need to engage stakeholders to understand why they were committed to moving in this direction.

District leadership formed an EILT composed of general education district leaders, special education district leaders, a parent representative, and a member of the district's Board of Education. One of their first team activities was to read and discuss the 10 Reasons to Support Inclusive School Communities for ALL Students . They jig-sawed the activity by dividing into groups of three and having each group discuss two of the reasons. After 10 minutes, they returned to the large group to share out what they had learned and how the content related to their commitment in the district.

The elementary school used the same resource, but in a different way. The following year, they would be having students with significant cognitive disabilities who were in segregated programs returning to their neighborhood schools. They wanted to build a welcoming environment where all students belonged. They started by sharing the same resource with the school EILT and discussed, What did you learn? How does this align with who we are? Afterward, they shared the same resource with the teaching and paraprofessional staff. This activity was led by the EILT members. A short presentation was made to the staff summarizing the key points followed by the same discussion questions, What did you learn? How does this align with who we are? The response from both groups, in terms of increasing their knowledge about why was positive. In the following months, these same key ideas and resources were presented to the district Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) and the PTSA at the elementary school and co-led by EILT members.

All of these were the first steps. As with any significant system change, regularly revisiting the "why" of inclusive education for all and the organizational values that are foundational is important. Sometimes this was accomplished by sharing a different resource. For example, the story of a student and family's experience was shared, particularly if it was a local story. Reinvesting time in the "why" in multiple ways on a regular basis was especially important as the changes in practice were implemented and barriers became evident.

What's Next?

  • Complete Step 1A in the IER Inclusive Education Action Plan. (Throughout the IER, the Action Plan is used to document the development process and list the key findings and decisions that are made by the EILT. )
  • Move to Step 1B: Reviewing the Organization's Mission and Vision.