Inclusive education is a philosophical approach to educating children with a special education diagnosis within the regular education program. This philosophy is a response to data showing that students educated in segregated programs were not prepared to be contributing citizens upon graduation. Creating inclusive educational systems in a school district can be complicated. The implementation can best proceed by strategic steps to create a strong inclusive education system.
For an inclusive education effort to have a chance to be successful in a school district, it is essential that the Board of Education embrace the philosophy and make it their own. The board lead the effort if the philosophy is to be adopted systemwide. An effective approach for the board to take is to develop a vision for inclusive education. This vision should describe what the Board of Education believes will be the positive results of an inclusive education philosophy.
Once the Board of Education has developed the vision for inclusive education, it is a good idea for them to establish an inclusive education task force or committee. The purpose of this group is to draft the policies and procedures for implementing inclusive educational practices in the school district. The policies and procedures should describe the roles and responsibilities of school board members, the superintendent, principals, teachers, other staff and families and how the necessary changes will be implemented.
When the school district has accepted and adopted policies and procedures for inclusive education practices, a one- to five-year Inclusive Education Implementation Plan should be developed. Philosophical and practical changes such as those associated with inclusive education require a long-term commitment to a number of measures, such as the training of personnel about how to provide inclusive education practices within the general curriculum and how to individualise instruction for students who have differences in abilities.
Sharing information with all participants regarding the new inclusive education philosophy and the impact it will have on the education of students is a necessary part of the process. A system-wide in-service training program should kick off the new inclusive education focus. This will ensure that school personnel understand how the district is going to implement changes over the next few years and what the expectations for them will be.
It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to monitor the Inclusive Education Implementation Plan. The board can do this by developing benchmarks for different aspects of the plan and reviewing progress on at least a quarterly basis. It is important for school personnel to know which parts of the implementation they are responsible for monitoring and how to conduct the assessments. If adequate progress is not being made, the board should consider steps to get back on course.