Who Benefits from Inclusive Education?
The model began as a response to widespread poor outcomes for students with learning disabilities but has developed to also address the prevalence of adverse outcomes for African American and Latino students, for impoverished students, English language learners, girls in some academic areas, gifted students whose talents are not nurtured, and students whose gender identity may subject them to prejudicial treatment. A premise of the inclusive model is that learning occurs most readily in the context of relationships wherein the student is valued intrinsically, and the student’s sense of self-worth is nurtured. A corollary is that learning is made meaningful in social contexts and is enriched through the sharing of knowledge among all fellow learners. Diversity is, therefore, the wellspring of learning in an inclusive classroom.
First: All students learn together. Students are not segregated by assessed academic accomplishment. Research indicates that students of all levels progress more rapidly academically in mixed classrooms than when separated by assessed ability. That eliminates the stigma of being singled out. Grade levels are de-emphasized in favor of a continuum of learning approach to instruction. This is operationalized physically by combining what would otherwise be separate grades.
Second: All students in a single classroom are presented with multiple pathways for learning and for demonstrating their learning. Teachers are trained to help each student learn in the ways that best fit the student. Multi-sensory, multi-modal learning opportunities in a single classroom have the added advantage of giving students choices while impressing on them that they have many options for learning.
Third: All students learn about each other as human beings each with unique strengths and challenges. They emerge from inclusive education both valuing and understanding differences among people. The practice of connecting learning in the classroom with social relationships beyond the classroom provides multiple opportunities to extend positive valuation of others to daily life. The combination of these qualities of inclusive education results in success for students who have not succeeded under the normative education model.
What is Intentionally Inclusive Education?
Intentional inclusion is Eureka! Inclusive Elementary School’s core innovation. The inclusive education model is rooted in the philosophy that every child has a right to participate fully in education and that the school is obligated to provide full participation. Full participation is not limited to full access to learning opportunities. It also extends to full participation in personal and social development opportunities. That is, the intent of inclusive education is healthy development of the whole person—intellectually, socially, physically, and psychologically.
Evidence-Based Integrated Interdisciplinary Instruction:
An intentionally inclusive education delivery model is not simply the elimination of segregated learning environments on a school campus. To truly include all students, classrooms must be universally designed and for living and learning. The traditional “one teacher” education delivery model is replaced by the integrated interdisciplinary team-teaching model. Eureka! is staffed by a combination of certified teachers, education specialists, and licensed therapists. The teachers are trained in delivery of evidence-based academic instruction, and the therapists are trained in delivery of social, psychological and emotional support services. Teachers and therapists work in integrated co-teaching teams with the purpose of providing comprehensive services embedded into curriculum and instruction and delivered in the normative classroom environment. The teams meet daily to design instruction and assess impacts of their prior interventions.
Instructional Approach: Inclusive education has a different starting point than normative education, and that starting point—the idea that every individual is unique—shapes a child-centered instructional approach, one that adapts instruction to the learner rather than attempting to adapt the learner to what is being taught. That makes the approach important for several reasons.
Universal screening will provide individual student information on which evidence-based personalized instruction will be based. Instruction is to be delivered within a Universal Design for Learning framework. Based in constructivist education theory, instruction is universally designed, highly differentiated, and delivered in a collaborative manner. The instructional approach is supported by a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Instructional content is anchored in the California Common Core State Standards and in Next Generation Science Standards.
Relationship of This Vision to the Needs of the Community to Be Served
The community Eureka! will serve is comprised in large part of students from groups that have experienced social, economic and academic disadvantages. Many of our students will be from families caught in the surge of discrimination against immigrants that is sweeping the country currently. Our students are living in a country where we are increasingly separated by our differences. And the majority of Eureka! students will be from groups that are bearing the brunt of our social divisions. Inclusive education gives students a vision of what it is like to draw strength from diversity. Their communities need members who can see the way to heal differences and build communities of people who work together for the greater good. Eureka! contributes to the community it serves by infusing the community with young people who have experienced the power of working together rather than being intolerant of differences. Across these groups, there is an urgent need for a strong education.
50% of our students are expected to be from families experiencing financial instability.
More than 50% of our students will be from racial and ethnic groups whose ability to advance has been slowed by discrimination and intolerance.
20% will have physical and/or neurological disabilities.
25% will be English language learners.
About 33% of Eureka! students will not be impoverished, will not be members of racial or ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination and will not have a physical or neurological disability.