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How to Sabotage Inclusion Through Scheduling

ATTENTION, PRINCIPALS!


Do you want to sabotage inclusion?

Set your teachers up for failure?

Send kids back to self-contained classrooms?


One of the quickest ways to do this is through ineffective scheduling.


Unfortunately, many well-intentioned inclusion efforts by committed school leaders have been thwarted by schedules that do not support inclusive practices.  


Schedules communicate priorities.  What priorities does your schedule convey? For example, lengthy English/Language Arts blocks in elementary schools reveal that literacy is a priority.  Middle schools that group students on teams value staff collaboration.  High schools using block schedules convey that time for deeper exploration of content is important.


Just as schedules reveal priorities, they can also highlight things that are not priorities.  When it comes to inclusion, there are a number of scheduling practices that, albeit intentional or unintentional, communicate that inclusion really isn’t a priority. These actions derail efforts to educate students in the least restrictive environment.  


AVOID THESE PRACTICES AT ALL COSTS!


Fail to schedule common planning time for teachers expected to collaborate together.  If your expectation is that special education and general education colleagues work together to plan, provide instruction, and meet the needs of students with disabilities, then…give them time to plan, provide instruction, and meet the needs of students with disabilities!  Relying on teachers to find their own time or plan outside the school day is unrealistic and not supportive of the goal you are trying to achieve.


Schedule the special educator to co-teach with three, four, or five different people.  

An image of a white woman with shoulder-length dark hair placing post-it notes on a scheduling board.

Co-teaching is often likened to a marriage -where special educators and general education teachers develop an equal relationship to support children.  Well, let’s just say that there aren’t many marriages that work when multiple partners are involved.  If  co-teaching is your inclusive model and the special education teacher is expected to co-teach with too many partners while simultaneously engaging in all their other job responsibilities, true co-teaching is not going to happen. Educators then feel resentful of one another and students are underserved.


Schedule all your students with disabilities, English learners, students being referred to special education, and anyone with a behavior problem in the same class.  This one seems obvious but you might be surprised at how many times it happens!  Oftentimes, students are “over-clustered” into classrooms in order to provide one or more support personnel in the same room.  Unfortunately, this practice leads to quasi-special education classrooms that fail to achieve the true inclusion that leaders are seeking to provide.


Offer “replacement instruction” during core instructional time.  The theory behind this practice is that students will leave general education, receive instruction on their areas of deficit, and rejoin the class once those deficits are “fixed.” From a purely logistical standpoint, this could never work. Students cannot receive instruction on something entirely different than their peers and then magically be on the same level when they finally return.


Schedule students and staff based upon arbitrary labels.  Frequently, because a student is labeled as “special education,” it is assumed that the special education teacher is the most qualified person to deliver their instruction.  This is not always the case.  Special education teachers often lack the necessary subject area expertise to provide core instruction, and/or are scheduled in ways that prevent them from addressing student needs in a meaningful way.  Take for instance, the special education classroom designed to “give students what they need” that consists of students from multiple grade levels being instructed on different curricula simultaneously - it’s not possible!  Further, if the special education teacher is the most qualified person to deliver that instruction, bring that person into the student's class rather than making the student leave their peers.


The good news is that there are ways to get around these scheduling saboteurs…

Scheduling Saboteur

Instead…

Fail to schedule common planning time for teachers expected to collaborate together. 

Provide at least one common planning period per week for colleagues who are expected to share instructional responsibilities.  Be clear about the expectations for this time period and how it should be utilized.

Schedule the special educator to co-teach with three, four, or five different people.  

Limit co-teaching partners to no more than two for the special educator - any more than that and it’s not true co-teaching.  Also, get clear on your service delivery model.  Co-teaching is one method of inclusion, it’s not the only one.  If you aren’t able to limit the number of co-teaching partners and/or provide common planning time, other models of inclusive service delivery should be considered.

Schedule all your students with disabilities, English learners, students being referred to special education, and anyone with a behavior problem in the same class. 

View what types of supports are needed for each student by class and engage in strategic student grouping.  Just because a student has a disability doesn’t automatically mean they need to be scheduled into a supported classroom for all subjects. Examine where supports are truly needed, cluster students according to those supports, and be mindful of not over-grouping students with needs into the same classes.

Offer “replacement instruction” during core instructional time.

To maintain the integrity of, and access to, the general curriculum, offer an intervention and enrichment block.  This is a time for all students, not just students with disabilities, to receive targeted interventions based upon their identified needs.  By structuring this block as part of your schedule, the need to pull students out of core instruction is minimized. 

Schedule students and staff based upon arbitrary labels.

Engage in resource mapping.  This is the process of analyzing current human resources against student needs and thoughtfully assigning personnel to students and classes.

Leaders looking to implement inclusion are already up against many obstacles, namely the belief system that it doesn’t work.  In the 2007 documentary, Including Samuel, the principal in the film states, “Inclusion is an easy thing to do poorly.  And when we do it poorly, we reinforce the notion that it doesn’t work.”  We cannot inadvertently contribute to the negative inclusion narrative through ineffective scheduling practices. 


The key then is this: if you say inclusion is a priority, walk the talk.  Make it a priority through scheduling practices.


 


An image of an ad for the "Scheduling for Inclusion" session on flexible service delivery models, resource mapping, and scheduling strategies.

Need some help with scheduling?  We got you!  Empower ED offers a training series for administrators called, “Leading Inclusive Education.”  One of these sessions is entirely devoted to appropriately selecting special education service delivery models, resource mapping, and strategies for student grouping and scheduling.  We also provide individualized scheduling support and coaching. Email jenna@jennarufo.com to schedule your session today!


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