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KSDE staff visit Washington school to gather information on inclusionary practices

KSDE staff visit Washington school to gather information on inclusionary practices

Clovis Point Elementary School in East Wenatchee, Washington, has a lot in common with the Kansans Can vision statement of “Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.” 

At this elementary K-6 building located in the heart of Washington, there are no resource rooms in sight and special education paraprofessionals aren’t limited to working just with special education students. 

The focus at Clovis Point is on belonging and making all general education curricula available and accessible to all students. In fact, the school’s motto is, “ALL means ALL.” 

“They have shifted the culture in their building to focus on belonging. All students are general education students,” said Cary Rogers, an education program consultant with the Kansas State Department of Education’s Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team. “Students still walk to where they need to be, but they do not have a room specifically for special education. It allows the students to be more independent.” 

Rogers, Dean Zajic, assistant director of KSDE’s SETS team, and Josie McClendon, an education program consultant for SETS, traveled to Washington for a tour of Clovis Point Elementary on April 19. 

Rogers had attended a conference about a year ago where she had heard from schools participating in a project in Washington to increase inclusive education. 

“They shared about their strategies and what their struggles have been,” she said. 

So, Rogers coordinated a visit with colleagues to Washington. 

The three KSDE employees toured Clovis Point with staff members from the school, Eastmont School District (the school district that Clovis is in), the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Utah Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE)/University of Utah. 

The group spent about two and a half hours touring Clovis and learning about the Inclusionary Practices Professional Development Project. Since the spring of 2020, 16 model demonstration sites across all nine education service regions in Washington have been providing professional development on inclusion to visiting schools and personnel. 

An inclusionary practice “aims to increase access to grade-level core instruction through the inclusion of students eligible for special education services in general education classrooms,” according to a University of Washington’s College of Education webpage. 

The demonstration sites, which include four preschools, one K-8 building, six elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, host visitors both virtually and in person to highlight inclusionary practices. While visitors have the chance to learn from these sites, the project also allows the demonstration sites to continue to grow their inclusive cultures and refine their practices that contribute to equitable learning for all students, according to the University of Washington Haring Center. 

OSPI and the UW Haring Center are partnering on the project. The University of Kansas Center for Research is also helping, offering research and support for online/virtual specially designed instruction. 

“All students have a right to meaningfully participate in the general education setting, both academically and socially, to the fullest extent possible,” the OSPI website states. “Inclusion is realized when all students, regardless of their designation to receive special education services, are provided with targeted services, supports and accommodations; allowing them to learn in the general education classroom, interact with peers and engage the core curriculum.” 

Washington was one of the 10 least inclusive states in the nation during the 2015-2016 school year, according to a February 2018 report from the National Council on Disability. It ranked 44th out of 50 states for inclusive practices.  

To support more inclusive schools in Washington, the Washington Legislature provided OSPI with $25 million for 2019-2021 and $12 million for 2021-2023 to provide educators with professional development opportunities in support of inclusionary practices across the state. 

Grant funding was awarded to identified schools and districts throughout Washington to support the implementation of inclusionary practices. Inclusionary practices pilot sites included 246 schools in 100 school districts across Washington, impacting more than 20,000 students with disabilities statewide. 

Throughout the pilot, OSPI’s Special Education division partnered with schools, districts and professional development providers to deliver coaching and mentoring to classroom teachers in support of inclusive education, differentiated instruction and individualized instruction. 

Least restrictive environment (LRE)/placement data is a measure of the percent of a school day that a student with a disability spends in general education settings. There are multiple measures included in LRE reporting. However, for the project, LRE data analyses focused on: 

  • LRE 1: Placed in general education for 80-100% of the school day. 
  • LRE 2: Placed in general education for 40-79% of the school day. 
  • LRE 3: Placed in general education for 0-39% of the school day. 

In the 2015-2016 school year, Washington had 54.35% of its students ages 6-21 served under IDEA, Part B, in LRE 1, according to the 2018 National Council on Disability report. The state had 31.06% of its students in LRE 2 and 13.24% in LRE 3. Kansas had 68.91% of its students in LRE 1, 20.61% in LRE 2 and 6.97% in LRE 3, according to the same report. By 2020, Kansas had increased to 72.38% in LRE 1. Data for 2020 in Kansas is available here

The goal of the Washington project was to increase LRE by 2021 to 60% statewide. By the end of 2020, Washington met the statewide target and exceeded the pilot target by 5.5%. This meant that 5,000 students with disabilities in Washington moved to the highest level of inclusion. 

Moving forward, the goals of the project include centering racial equity and intersectionality with disability; engaging families as decision-makers and co-designers; and including student voices and opportunities for self-advocacy. Those involved in the project also are making more deliberate plans with schools and districts to prioritize the inclusion of students with significant disabilities to truly realize the goal of including each student. 

Clovis Point Elementary serves 474 students, of which 29.3% are English language learners, 65.4% are low-income students and 14.5% have disabilities, Rogers said. This is the fourth year that the school has been a part of the project. 

In 2019-2020, the school served students in fifth through seventh grades. During the first school year, the school focused on co-teaching, having students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) spend 80-100% of the school day in general education classrooms. The school also used assistive technology and modified grading rubrics. 

Clovis Point still served students in fifth through seventh grades during the 2020-2021 school year. Like most schools across the nation, Clovis Point also had to cope with COVID-19, but also new administration. However, the school continued with the project and added three inclusion specialists who supported general education students and evenly distributed students with an IEP throughout general education classes. 

The school began to transition to a K-6 elementary school during the 2021-2022 school year. It focused on belonging and starting over. It also had a schedule where all students had a general education seat and began focusing on IEPs being served in the classroom and intervention groups. 

This school year was the first that Clovis Point served strictly as a K-6 building. The school added the first inclusive playground in the area, too. 

As the school continues its journey on inclusion, the next steps include: 

  • Continuing to find and implement assistive technology. 
  • Building a continuum of services within the schedule and making sure that all students receive what they need. 
  • Focusing on co-planning within an elementary school. 
  • Exploring Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is an approach to teaching and learning that accommodates the needs and abilities of all learners and eliminates unnecessary hurdles in the learning process. 

KSDE staff members will use the information they learned from the tour to help further inclusive learning environments in Kansas, Rogers said. 

“It was a great visit,” she said. “Just seeing that these students really belong – everyone belonged.” 

Posted: Apr 27, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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