As we learned from Dr. Julie Causton's inspirational convocation message, inclusive schools are places where students don't need to leave to learn. Inclusive classrooms build upon students' gifts, strengths, and talents, rather than focusing on deficits.
While the premise of an educational system that does not separate or segregate dates back to 1954's landmark case, Brown versus the Board of Education, the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms remains a topic of debate. However, the reality is that inclusion isn't a practice that schools may choose to adopt or reject (Kluth, Villa, & Thousand, 2001). It is not an initiative or a pilot - it is a civil rights issue supported by state and federal laws. Further, inclusion is "an evidence-based practice that continues to show positive outcomes for students with and without disabilities in schools" (Causton-Theoharis & Kasa, 2012, p. 11).
Inclusion challenges us because there is no cookie-cutter recipe for success. There is not a single professional development opportunity that provides us with the magic answers, nor is there a one-size-fits-all model of implementation. What works for one student or classroom may not work for another. Yet, classrooms that successfully include students with disabilities elevate the learning for all children.
This month's Special EDition highlights North Penn staff and students who have taken risks and worked with one another to embrace the ideals of inclusion. Their classrooms and communities are places where individuals of all abilities are welcomed, valued, and respected. I hope you enjoy reading about these staff members and students who were caught being inclusive!
Jenna Mancini Rufo, Ed.D.
Director of Special Education and Student Services