1. What are the various ways that schools can provide inclusive supports for students with disabilities?
There are a number of ways/models that schools can use to provide inclusive supports to students with disabilities and their teachers. Teachers can support students with diverse learning needs through a variety of effective instructional approaches including, but not limited to, differentiating instruction, providing accommodations and/or modifications, and collaborative teaching. Decisions about the supports and services that an individual student needs are made by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team.
2. How does inclusion tie into Response to Intervention (RtI)?
Inclusion and RtI both focus on increased accountability, the use of data to make effective instructional decisions, improved outcomes for all learners within the general education curriculum and settings, and increased collaboration among general education and special education personnel.
For more information on RtI in Florida, please visit the following websites:
- Florida’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports – http://www.florida-rti.org/
- Problem Solving and Response to Intervention – http://floridarti.usf.edu/
- Florida Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) Project – http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/
3. How do I know if inclusion is working for my students? How do I measure the impact of inclusion on my students?
Measuring the impact of inclusion can be a complicated process that involves looking at a number of factors including:
- The student’s current academic, social, and behavioral performance
- Whether or not the student is making progress toward mastery of the goals/objectives on his/her IEP
- The student’s performance on state and district assessment
As with any assessment process, multiple sources of data should be considered prior to making a determination about the appropriateness of the setting or the effectiveness of the supports.
4. What impact will inclusion have on the other students in my classroom?
Research has consistently demonstrated that the academic performance of students without disabilities is not compromised by the presence of students with disabilities in their classrooms. In other words, effective instructional practices benefit all learners. In addition, students without disabilities often gain a greater appreciation for diversity and benefit from real world learning experiences that they may not have had in a more traditional classroom setting.
5. What could students with more significant disabilities gain from being in a general education classroom? Are you sure they belong there?
Students with more significant disabilities can benefit greatly from being included in general education classrooms. Some examples of these benefits include:
- Greater access to the general education curriculum
- Greater access to their peers without disabilities
- Improved social skills
- Meaningful opportunities to use communication skills
- Access to more appropriate behavioral role models
Decisions about how much time students with more significant disabilities should spend in general education contexts (and the supports needed in order for the student to be successful) are made by each student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) Team.
6. Is there a cap on the number of students with disabilities who can be placed in a general education classroom? Is there a recommended ratio (of students with and without disabilities)?
The Florida Department of Education does not place a cap on the number of students with disabilities who can be placed in a general education classroom. The only guidance FDOE gives regarding the number of students in a classroom exist as part of the Class-Size Reduction Amendment and apply to all students, not just students with disabilities.
When looking at programs for students with higher-incidence disabilities, the literature recommends that the ratio of students with and without disabilities reflect the natural proportions in the school. In other words, if 20 percent of the students at a particular grade-level are students with disabilities, then the classrooms at that grade-level should have approximately 20 percent students with disabilities and 80 percent students without disabilities. When implementing a co-teaching model, especially for students with more severe disabilities, it is recommended that the ratio not exceed 1/3 students with disabilities and 2/3 students without disabilities. It is important to remember that, while co-teaching provides a lower student-teacher ratio, increasing this ratio or reducing the level of support may lessen the benefits of inclusion.
7. As a general education teacher, how do I effectively include students with disabilities when we have limited resources and staff?
The most important thing to remember is that effective inclusion begins with effective instruction. As an educator, it is your responsibility to identify the areas where you need to improve your professional knowledge and practice. Your decision to participate in one professional development opportunity over another should be based on the answer to the following question: “What practices will provide the greatest benefit to my students?”
Free professional development opportunities are available from a number of projects in Florida including, but not limited to:
- The Florida Inclusion Network (FIN)
- Florida Diagnostic Learning and Resources System (FDLRS)
- Florida’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
- The Florida Positive Behavioral Support Project (FL PBS)
Some recommended topics include, but are not limited to:
- Differentiated Instruction, Collaborative Teaching
- Accommodating All Learners/Dealing with Differences
- Algebra Success Keys (ASK)
Additional information about other projects that provide information and professional development can be found on the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS) website.