Good Example Of Research Paper On Leadership And Advocacy In Education
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Leadership and Advocacy in Education: Preparation Guide
Policy addressing diversity and special needs learners in education already exists. However, these policies are often interpreted and implemented in a manner that continue to exclude special needs learners from the general education classroom. For the purpose of this plan advocacy can be defined as supporting and defending the right to an education in the least restrictive environment for diverse learners. Diverse learners can be described as students who represent all dimensions of a human being: ethnic; cultural; gender; religious; language; mental and physical ability; socioeconomic class and immigration status. This plan specifically addresses students who have physical, emotional and cognitive needs that are addressed through and Individual Education Plan or Section 504 plan.
Diversity and inclusion in education is a topic that is often discussed in positive manner. The philosophy of the full inclusion and accommodation of diverse learners and learners with special needs has widespread support in the literature and is mandated by the federal government. Inclusion of special needs learners in not unique to the United States, it is a global movement in education. However, the needs of special needs learners are not being fully addressed at the district and school level. Many students are excluded for the general education classes and extracurricular activities for many reasons (lack of funding, personnel or materials). High stakes testing and teacher accountability for learning have also infringed upon inclusionary practices. All students, despite their special needs should be included in the general education classroom with the supports and accommodations they require for success.
Although policy already exists to include all children in the general education setting it is not being followed or enforced. Policies are often badly written and do not encompass the problem as a whole, considering the needs of the students, curricular requirements, training and staffing, flexibility in scheduling and adequate planning. Policy needs to be clearly written and the tools and funding for implementation must be available to schools so that policy can be successful.
High stakes and standards based testing have become a major concern for schools. Many students with diverse needs are not performing well on these tests. For the vast majority of special needs students, there are accommodation such as extended time for participation in these tests. Teachers must employ creative strategies when teaching for these children to learn the content and become proficient. The smallest percentage of students who have true cognitive disabilities and cannot pass the test in a traditional manner (even with accommodation) are afforded alternative ways of being tested on the same standards such as the creation of a portfolio or a state supplied alternate assessment. This group accounts for approximately 1% of the population.
Many students who are labeled as “special education” and who are targeted on a daily basis by being pulled out for instruction by a special teacher are dealing with a stigma that is unfair for the educational system to impose upon them. Many of these student will begin to act out or stop trying because they feel as if they are failures or different from their classmates. Many school policies encourage the “pulling out” of students and teachers are just as guilty for grouping these students in small, homogenous groups within the classroom. These practices do not foster a true inclusion model of education. Content area teachers and special educators should be working as a team to plan and execute lesson plans and activities that satisfy both the curriculum and the diverse learning styles of their learners. Special education students are not the only diverse learners in the classroom, all students have unique styles of learning and thoughtful planning will encompass all students and making learning engaging and meaningful.
In order for content area teachers and special educators to produce comprehensive and relevant lessons and activities, they must have the time and opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, this does not occur in the day to day operations of a school. The inclusion teacher is often scheduled to visit up to three classroom during a single period and be expected to have a positive impact of students and work closely with her teacher peers. Policy addressing inclusion and co-teaching must be practical and thoughtful. This type of scheduling is a tactic used by schools and districts to demonstrate to their state board of education that children with individual education plans are being “serviced”. Funding is based on this model. This funding strategy has been used for several years and the results are dismal. Special educators and content area teachers are frustrated and not performing at their peak abilities. All students in the classroom are suffering from inadequate development and implementation of sound educational lessons. Special educators should be paired with a content area teacher for the duration of the class and both should have common planning time.
One way districts try to accommodate special needs learners is through materials that are created for this population. Education and computer software companies offer products and programs they claim will solve all of their educational woes. Districts throw money at these programs without thorough investigation or testing. Many of these programs show very little improvement in the achievement of the students they are designed for. In order to save money and appropriate funding in a fair and useful manner, districts must be careful in how money is being spent.
Current certification requirements have addressed the need for content area teachers to have some knowledge of special needs students and special educators are not certified in content area subjects in order to be more effective. Training for both teachers should be conducted on a regular basis to improve their understanding and performance while working in a diverse classroom. Training should be offered through the school district at no cost, so that certification and the acquisition of needed knowledge is attainable for all professional staff.
Research: Policy and Law Principles
Inclusion and special education are mandated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The first law to address special education was PL 94-142 which was passed in 1975. PL 94-142. This law mandated that states and school districts provide a fair and appropriate education for all children with disabilities. PL 94-142 also assured the rights of students with disabilities and their parents and assisted states and municipalities with the implementation of special education. PL 94-142 was amended and renamed in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
IDEA was updated and reauthorized in 2004. The key components of IDEA is no discrimination for any child with a disability; appropriate and fair testing of children with disabilities from several professionals to ensure no bias; a fair and appropriate education; placement in the least restrictive environment and due process safeguards for students and their parents (Yell, Shriner, & Kastiyannis 2006). These mandates were included because many school districts were still trying to discriminate against children with disabilities and their families.
The least restrictive environment clause determines in which type of setting a child with disabilities is placed in order to receive their education. The least restrictive if the general education classroom, followed by a resource room for pull out sessions or special instruction. The next environment is the self-contained classroom or separate class where a child with a disability is completely removed from general education classes for more than half of the day. Extreme placements are separate schools and finally residential programs (Grant 2014).
Unfortunately, many schools still employ models that overly utilize resource and self-contained classrooms. Many student, especially those with intellectual disabilities could and should be serviced in the general education classroom alongside of their peers. Many students who are pulled out for resource room instruction are missing critical instruction in the general education classroom and could also receive specialized services in the general education classroom (Grant 2014).
Leadership and Advocacy in Education: Advocacy Plan
The advocacy plan for implementing full inclusion in our school includes the strategies needed to ensure success for the all students. It is imperative that students with disabilities have access to the same curriculum, environment and extracurricular activities afforded every student in the school. Cooperation and collaboration are required from all of the stakeholders who are invested in the plan: administrators, educators, support staff, parents and the students.
Training is a critical component of implementing a successful model of inclusion. General education teachers do have some prior knowledge of children with disabilities but the information covered in most college level classes is very general. Special educators are experts in the field of educating children with disabilities and strategies that can be used to maximize learning, but may be lacking in content area knowledge. Training opportunities through local institutions of higher learning and through workshops provided by the district, teachers will be required to complete a certain number of hours in their area of need.
Planning time will be afforded to special educators and content area teachers so that they may collaborate in a meaningful way. Having common time develop units, provide strategies and accommodations and develop alternate materials and assessments will be provided on a weekly basis. Leadership will encourage this team approach for student success.
Administration will schedule students with disabilities creatively and fairly. Students will be scheduled according to their grade level and curricular needs. Support staff and teachers will be scheduled around the students. This may require grouping students to move through class rotations as group so that the special educator can be present with them for the entire class period. This will also help with planning teachers’ common planning time.
Advocacy Plan: Problem Statement
Inclusion is a practice that receives much discussion and agreement among those in education to agree that it must be implemented. Literature supports that the inclusion of diverse learners, especially students with special needs benefit from inclusion. Schools are a reflection of society as a whole and within today’s society are people with disabilities who are active participants and citizens. Disabled children of all disabilities and cognitive levels benefit from education with their peers in a general education classroom.
According to Huang and Evans (2011), 41% of general education teachers surveyed in their study supported inclusion as opposed to the 59% were hesitant. The primary reason for the hesitation on the part of general education teachers is fear of the unknown. General education teachers felt they were not prepared to educate and manage the behavior of disabled students. Co-teaching with a special education teacher would relieve this anxiety. Teachers who are new to teaching or completing their internships felt insecure in teaching a class with special needs students. Their attitude was positive towards the students but there was concern that they did not possess the knowledge to appropriately educate and manage these students (Hannu, Englebrecht, Nel & Olli-Pekka 2012). Boyle (2011) found in his study of teachers who would be teaching inclusive classes, wanted support from their peers, especially other teachers who had inclusive experience or special education.
Advocacy Plan: Policy Issue
This proposed plan takes into account the concerns many educators have when faced with the implementation of a successful inclusion program for all students with disabilities. Alquraini and Gut (2012) suggest in their review of successful inclusion practices that collaboration among teachers of students with disabilities is critical. Time to plan, discuss and develop successful strategies is very important if inclusion is to be a successful practice. This advocacy plan allows for common planning time and monthly meeting time for teachers to have sufficient time to plan and work together to implement successful strategies, accommodations and modifications as needed for students with disabilities.
Training for both the special educator and the content area teacher. Co-teachers would benefit from workshops and classes in each other’s fields. A better understanding of disabilities that affect students would benefit general education teachers and special educators should be proficient in the subject areas they are co-teaching. Knowledge and understanding will promote more effective teaching in these collaborative situations which will enhance all students learning experiences (Rao 2009). Best practices are only effective if they are applicable to the classes being taught and address the needs of the students in the classroom.
According to Mc Master (2012) there are several “ingredients” that can make inclusion successful. One of these ingredients is the school’s culture. The school-wide attitude towards children with disabilities becomes more understanding and patient when all children are exposed to their peers with disabilities. By working with their peers within classrooms and participating in extracurricular activities relationships and understanding is built. Scheduling students in groups where these bonds can flourish throughout the school year is an excellent way to foster community.
Advocacy Plan: Stakeholders
The stakeholders in a fully inclusive school are the administrators, the general education teachers, special education teachers, parents and students. In addition to these people are the support staff. Paraprofessionals and teacher assistants and therapists who work with the students are important people in a disabled child’s educational experience. School counselors, cafeteria staff and custodians all have an influence on the success or failure of inclusion in the school. Parents are an integral part of the individual education plan and should be included and communicated with on a regular basis on classroom activities and accommodations that are being made for their child to be fully included. The most important stakeholders in the inclusion process is the student. Special needs students who are fully included and given strategies to become successful truly reap the benefits of an inclusion program, they are the reason for inclusion.
Advocacy Plan: Policy Issue Current Status
Inclusion is currently in practice at the school. However, students who are included are generally students with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. These students generally have normal cognitive functions. Many students are pulled out to a resource room for instruction in reading and math. There are two self-contained classrooms that are composed of children with Autism and/or intellectual disabilities. This policy will provide for the inclusion of all of these students.
Advocacy Plan: Allies and Partnerships
There several students with Autism that have unusual or difficult behaviors. The school is currently investigating a partnership with an applied behavior analyst to help in writing behavior management plans and training staff members in implementing and adjusting the plan.
Advocacy Plan: S.M.A.R.T. Goals
For the 2015-2016 school year, all special education students will be included in general education classes for the entire day, excepting regularly scheduled therapies.
For the 2015-2016 school year, general education teachers who teach inclusion classes will complete 30 hours of training in the nature and needs of students with disabilities.
For the 2015-2016 school years, all special education teachers will complete 30 hours of training in a core subject (Math, Language Arts, Social Studies or Science).
For the 2015-2016 school year, teachers of inclusion classes will be scheduled to have 1 hour of common planning time on a daily basis and one 8 hour day per month of planning time.
For the 2015-2016 school year, support staff and teachers will be paid overtime for the supervision of disabled students who are participating in extracurricular activities.
The SMART goals are the responsibility of the school administrator who will be held accountable for their implementation. The desired outcome is the successful implementation of inclusion for all students with disabilities in the school. These changes are being made at the local level where they make a real difference and have measurable outcomes. The administrator is responsible for review of the goals by the end of each marking period.
Advocacy Plan: Tactics and Tools
The full inclusion practice will be introduced to parents during the current school year to prepare them for the transition next year. Teachers will be selected on their interest and expertise for participation in the inclusion program by the end of the current school year. Summer planning time and scheduling input will be held in July to ensure the success of scheduling of the students and for teachers to build a base for their instruction. Lastly, an Open House will be held one week prior to the opening of school next year. In addition to the general introductions and review of rules and expectations, the inclusion program will be introduced and explained.
The literature demonstrates that full inclusion of students with disabilities is not only possible but can be wholly successful. Careful planning and training will ensure the success of an inclusion program in the school. All student have the right to an appropriate education with their peers in the least restrictive environment. This is not only the law but it is life in the real world.
Alquraini, T., & Gut, D. (2012). Critical components of successful inclusion of students
with severe disabilities: Literature review. International Journal of Special Education, 27(1),
42-59. Retrieved from: http://eric.ed.gov/?q=successful+inclusion&ft=on&id=EJ979712
Boyle, C. (2011). The importance of peer support for teaching staff when including children with
special education needs. School Psychology International, 33(2), 167-184.
Grant, M. (2014). The new segregation: An analysis of current contexts of inclusive
education. ERIC, on-line submission. Retrieved from: http://eric.ed.gov/?q=least+restrictive+
Hannu, S., Englebrecht, P., Nel, M., & Olli-Pekka, M. (2012). Understanding teachers’
attitudes and self-efficacy in inclusive education: Implications for pre-service and in-
service teachers. European Journal of Special Education, 27(1), 51-68.
Huang, Y., & Evans, D. (2011). Attitudes towards inclusion: Gaps between belief and practice.
International Journal of Special Education, 26(1), 136-149. Retrieved from:
McMaster, C. (2012). Ingredients for inclusion: Lessons from the literature. Kairaranga, 13(2),
11-22. Retrieved from: http://eric.ed.gov/?q=successful+inclusion&ft=on&id=EJ994981
Rao, S. (2009). A cross categorical approach to service delivery: Promoting successful inclusion
through teacher education. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 5(1), 25-43. Retrieved
Yell, M., Shriner, J., & Kastiyannis, A. (2006). Individuals with disabilities education
improvement act of 2004 and IDEA regulations of 2006: Implications for educators,
administrators and teacher trainers. Focus on Exceptional Children, 39(1), 1-24.
Retrieved from: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=2fa3d15e-4d25-
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