ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Do You Know of an Inclusive School?

William B. Hughes

This article has been reposted with permission from William H. Hughes and the Cascade Matters Blog. Hughes has worked in education for 34 years as a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools. He has served as superintendent of the Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisc., for the past 15 years. Greendale Schools is ranked as the top school district in the Milwaukee metro area. It is known for high student achievement, inclusive schools, and engagement and consistently has student achievement that is beyond what community demographics would predict. He is a partner with Cascade Educational Consultants, based in Bellingham, Wash., and teaches educational leadership classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

School leaders realize that inclusive schools engage all children and youth, resulting in higher student achievement. That leads to success post high school and beyond. We are looking for inclusive schools.

We have all seen schools that are struggling to be inclusive. Places where adults and youth and students with and without disabilities all seem disconnected. Places where there are clear differences or where there are distinguished characteristics between general and special education programs—students in isolated areas of the schoolhouse, a lack of attention to participation by students with disabilities in school programs and classes, or lack of respect for their well-being.

Inclusive schools are places where all children can learn and be successful within a shared academic environment. Inclusive opportunities for youth and children that help them become self-determined, productive and socially involved citizens.

Over the past few months, a team and I have been working on establishing inclusive school characteristics. They include but are not limited to:

Continuous improvement: School and district leaders flexible in making necessary changes to adapt school climate or changing needs of student populations to improve the success of the schools.

School-community collaboration: Community and school leaders and organizations working together to develop relationships with a focus on including all youth in the school, resulting in higher student achievement.

Youth leadership: Youth leadership characteristics—mutually agreed-upon, decision-making structures and opportunities for real, credible relationships of faculty and all young people with community leaders to be accountable and developing inclusive climate.

Communication: Highlight the inclusiveness of the local school around student development, engagement, and achievement.

Professional development: Opportunities for faculty and students to share and refine strategies to work together creating effective and sustainable inclusive schools.

As Tim Shriver says, "As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us."

In the end, we want to be living in a better world. We can bring that along with a more inclusive school and with every community fostering equity, justice, and engagement so all students can become active, principled citizens; learn more; and be achievers in their life.

We are looking for your thoughts on inclusive schools. I am hopeful you know something about inclusive schools. Please take a moment this summer—if you are in the woods, park, or at the beach—to send us your ideas.

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