Recently, National Public Radio’s (NPR) “All Things Considered” aired a story on inclusive education. The story featured Presidio Middle School in San Francisco and SWIFT Filmmaker, Dan Habib.
While Presidio Middle School should be applauded for their efforts to educate students with and without disabilities, what was portrayed by NPR would by no means be considered an inclusive school. Students with disabilities placed in a separate basement class learning functional “survival” skills does not make for an inclusive experience. How can students with disabilities learn important “survival skills” such as communication, literacy, following typical routines and schedules, or appropriate social behaviors in the absence of adequate role models, age appropriate instruction, and access to information? Is it more important to learn to cut paper? Or communicate and be understood by peers? Or read? Or support one another and appreciate differences as we negotiate through our lives?
As a member of the SWIFT Center, I consider this show a missed opportunity to move the field forward in the support of ALL students receiving an equitable and excellent education. Unfortunately, the reporting from Presidio presented an old dichotomy between general and special education as separate entities responsible for separate groups of students.
In the story, Habib said that inclusive education will happen only when we transform systems that have been in place for a long time—systems that many teachers and administrators are familiar with. “But if we know it’s going to yield better outcomes for kids with disabilities,” Habib says, “it’s the only way to go forward.”
The SWIFT Center is committed to understanding and promoting how ALL students can learn together within the general education setting. After 30 years of research, we are learning that not only are students with disabilities learning more and learning faster when they are educated in the general education classroom with support; students without disabilities are also excelling in inclusive schools!
SWIFT promotes the building blocks of effective inclusive education. Research shows it takes administrative leadership, a multi-tiered system of support, family and community partnerships, an integrated education framework, and inclusive policies and practices to effectively meet the needs of ALL students, including students with disabilities and those with the most extensive needs. For more information about the research that drives the SWIFT Center and our national efforts to make inclusive education a reality for all students, click HERE.
If you missed the program, the 8-minute “All Things Considered” feature can be found HERE.
Dr. Mary Schuh has more than 25 years experience in inclusive schools and communities, family and consumer leadership , and educational systems change and has been with the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability since its inception in 1987. She directs The National Center on Inclusive Education (NCIE) at the Institute on Disability. The NCIE is a leader in the transformation of schools so that students of all abilities are successfully learning in their home schools within general education settings. Mary serves as a member of the National Leadership Consortium of The SWIFT Center. As a faculty member of the University of New Hampshire, Mary helps to prepare future teachers to welcome and engage families, and teach all students in typical school and general education environments.