TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Step 2: Reflecting on an Inclusive System of Education (The RISE)

The 5 steps of the inclusive education roadmap. You are on step 2: Reflect on Inclusive System (The RISE)
A diverse group of women and men sitting in small groups at four round tables. They are using laptop computers, taking notes and talking with each other.

“The RISE helped our team discover our strengths and areas for growth...and engage in deeper conversations and truly evaluate where our state is currently and create a plan for where we want to go. I am so grateful for the work we are doing with the RISE!”

                                    -SEA staffer

In Step 2, you will

  • Become familiar with the purpose, tools and processes of Reflecting on an Inclusive System of Education (RISE)
  • Learn the role of the RISE facilitator and strategies to facilitate the RISE Part 1 and RISE Part 2
  • Step 2A: Facilitate the RISE Part 1
  • Step 2B: Facilitate the RISE Part 2


Ongoing self-reflection is essential to creating sustainable, inclusive systems of education. The Reflecting on an Inclusive System of Education (RISE) is a facilitated reflection process that provides the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) with the opportunity to engage in deep and important discussions about the system's current use of inclusive educational practices for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.

The RISE has two parts:

  • In RISE Part 1, the EILT discusses each of the four RISE Focus Areas and prioritizes one or two Focus Area for deeper analysis in RISE Part 2.
  • In RISE Part 2, the EILT discusses the evidence-based Features of Inclusive Education in the priority Focus Area chosen in RISE Part 1. After this discussion, the EILT identifies Key Takeaways the will drive the creation of goals and activities to build an inclusive system of education.

The RISE Priority Area and Key Takeaways help guide the Initiative Inventory (Step 3) and development of 3-year goals and annual activities in the Inclusive Education Action Plan (Step 4).

The RISE Frame of Reference

The RISE Frame of Reference describes a set of beliefs that are fundamental to inclusive education for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Reviewing the Frame of Reference allows team members to build a common understanding of what it means to be a truly inclusive system. The RISE Frame of Reference should be available for team members to refer to throughout the meeting. It can help identify potential attitudinal or mindset barriers that may need to be addressed as the EILT moves forward. It can even be helpful to have team members take turns reading the items aloud. Ask the team what they think and feel about the statements.

A young girl sits at a table, holding a paintbrush and a few containers of paint. Next to the image is the RISE Frame of Reference. "All means all" specifically includes all students with significant cognitive disabilities. Placement is in same grade general education classes and other inclusive settings in neighborhood schools. Student-centered strengths-based approaches for inclusive education occur within the general education curriculum, classes, lessons, activities, and routines. Specially-designed instruction occurs within general education classes, lessons, activities, and routines. Barriers to inclusive education exist within systems and environments, not within students or staff.

The RISE Focus Areas

The RISE is composed of four Focus Areas. Each Focus Area is comprised of evidence-based practices (EBPs) essential to sustainable inclusive systems. The RISE EBPs were gathered through a systematic review of research literature, university textbooks, and existing checklists of inclusive practices (Ryndak et al., 2021). Implementation of each Focus Area brings you closer to creating welcoming and inclusive schools communities for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Placement and Settings: The policies and practices essential to general education school and class placement and equal access to all instructional and extracurricular activities for students with disabilities.

General Education Curriculum Content and Access: Both the content of instruction and the conditions that enable access to general education curricula for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Instructional Practices: The evidence-based methods and characteristics of teaching used for instruction of students with disabilities within general education classes, lessons, activities, and routines.

Student and System Outcomes: The structures and processes that allow your system to monitor, sustain, and expand inclusive practices that align with your mission and vision for the system.

The Role of the RISE Facilitator

The RISE Facilitator has a multi-faceted role, including

  • leading the EILT through the steps of the RISE process,
  • ensuring that all stakeholder voices are heard, and
  • building consensus among all the stakeholders.

The facilitator should have knowledge and experience in inclusive education for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The facilitator must feel comfortable giving the group “a little push” at times to look more deeply into their current practices to ensure an explicit focus on all students including those with significant cognitive disabilities.

We have found that an “external critical friend” can be a good option for identifying who should facilitate the RISE. However, having someone from a different level of your system can also work. For example, a district-level administrator or specialist with knowledge and experience including students with significant disabilities could facilitate a School RISE. It is important that members of the administration of the system that is completing the RISE (i.e. the school) participate in, rather than facilitate, the RISE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, the RISE can be conducted either in-person, virtually, or using a hybrid model. 

Before the meetings

  • Become familiar with all of the RISE materials and how to facilitate the meetings
  • Schedule the RISE meetings in collaboration with the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT)
  • Invite stakeholders to the meetings in collaboration with the EILT

During the meetings

  • Describe and answer questions about the RISE process
  • Lead the team through the RISE allowing for rich conversation while also keeping the team on task
  • Pose guiding questions (provided for each Focus Area, see Downloads) when needed
  • Help the group come to a consensus when prioritizing Focus Areas
  • Take notes in the RISE document
  • Record the team’s scores and rankings
  • Time-keeping

After the meetings

  • Distribute the completed RISE including the notes to the participants.
  • Schedule your next meeting.

Yes! Although one person can facilitate the RISE process, there are several parts to juggle to keep the process moving forward.  This is particularly true when the RISE is completed as an online or hybrid session. It is much easier to share responsibilities between a small team (2-3) of facilitators. One person can facilitate the entire discussion or the facilitators can take turns. It is helpful to have a designated note-taker and timekeeper, as well as designate someone to manage the rating process, especially if an online tool is being used. For virtual and hybrid meetings, it also helps to have a  person designated to monitor the chat and add links for documents to the chat when needed. 

The information in this roadmap is not an endorsement of any identified products. Products identified in this module are shared solely as examples to help communicate information about ways to reach the desired goals for students.

All rights reserved.  Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

TIES Center is the national technical assistance center on inclusive practices and policies. Its purpose is to create sustainable changes in kindergarten-grade 8 school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers, while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs. TIES Center is led by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, and includes the following additional collaborating partners: Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and University of North Carolina – Greensboro.

TIES Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326Y170004) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Project Officer: Susan Weigert

TIES Center

University of Minnesota

Institute on Community Integration

2025 East River Parkway

Minneapolis, MN 55414

Phone: 612-626-1530


This document is available in alternate formats upon request.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator.

TIES partner organization logos: Arizona Dept. of Education, CAST, UNC Charlotte, NCEO, University of Kentucky, The University of North Carolina Greensboro, IDEAs that Work