How many times have you heard statements like, “I love the idea of inclusion, but it’s too hard when the range of abilities is so big.” Or in the most challenging of scenarios, “The content is way too hard and doesn’t even make sense for those students, even with modifications.”
Everyday while delivering professional development and working alongside school district leaders and educators, we hear versions of these comments. All of which relate to seeing the academic, behavioral, communication, attention span, maturity, motivation, and/or readiness range of students as a challenge and barrier to inclusion.
Basically, these ranges lead to educators sorting, separating, and worse yet, segregating students by “level of performance”. For example, we sort by reading level, we separate based upon disability labels, and we even send children to other spaces and schools because they are so “far away” from thinking like, acting like, and performing on standards like other students.
We start to convince ourselves that it is in the best interest of the student to first acquire the skills needed to fully benefit from the general curriculum, or that we can better individualize in separate spaces and with different standards, or that it is only fair to the other learners who may be distracted by or potentially harmed in some way from a student who thinks differently, acts differently, and performs differently.
Instead, our aim, as it relates to students at the individual or personal identity level, is to ensure the following key practices are in place:
- The culture of the school (aka the way things are around here) perceives the range, no matter how big it is, as natural, expected, and GOOD. This range is celebrated for all the benefits it brings to the community.
- Educators anticipate, plan for, and differentiate (download this handy handout) for the range of students, and stop comparing the student to biased norms, or retrofitting and adapting learning experiences.
- All school staff acknowledge and hold one another accountable for knowing that EVERYONE benefits from access to grade level content, curriculum, and peers – It’s a fact – The End.
And more importantly, when it comes to our work as educators and educational leaders, we need to see the students as whole and not in need of being fixed. Our role should be to examine the systems in place, including the standards, the curriculum, the materials, the mindsets that are creating barriers to a student’s success. Once identified, we then work to remove the barriers and ensure belonging for all students.
Looking for more support around the issues raised in this post? Check these out!
- Our Definition of inclusion [pdf]
- Bridging Skill Gaps: How to Support ALL Learners to Access Grade Level Content [video]
- 100 Ways to Adapt (or anticipate) Anything [pdf]
Need more training and support to ROCK the range? Go here!
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