Inclusion in Scarsdale Schools
Inclusion, from an educational perspective, is the idea that many students with disabilities and general education students can be effectively taught within the general education classroom when appropriate resources are provided. This approach contrasts with the past, when special education often meant segregating students with disabilities and providing them with instruction in isolation from their general education peers. It is now widely accepted that, in such a setting, students with disabilities have a harder time learning to learn, and acquiring the social and pragmatic skills they need to be successful in the wider world.
Scarsdale Schools believes that all students deserve the opportunity to experience the teaching and learning process in the company of their peers as much as possible, and in settings that are appropriate. The programs developed within our special education continuum seek to provide services while honoring this commitment. Integrated co-teaching and the Bridge Class are the two models we have chosen to deliver instruction to students who need specific accommodations and supports in order to access the curriculum, while simultaneously providing them with the experiences and benefits of being included in the wider school community. Below are some frequently asked questions (and answers) about inclusion and our elementary programs.
Why do we believe in inclusion?
Inclusion provides learning benefits to both classified and non-classified students:
- Additional supports within the classroom (additional teachers and/or aides) reduce student to teacher ratios for all learners and increase teacher-student interaction time.
- Lessons are carefully differentiated to benefit a wide range of learners. Both non-classified and classified students benefit from a planning focus that breaks down concepts and provides for a range of educational outcomes, including enriched activities and projects for students who will benefit from them.
- Students, both classified and non-classified, understand challenges and become accustomed to meeting those challenges, which enhances self-esteem.
Children gain an understanding of individual differences and greater empathy for other human beings:
- Classified students have access to friendships that segregated programs make more difficult. It is easier for these students to engage in their home community when friendships are built within the school setting.
- Parents of included students have better access to their communities and school events.
All children have the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment:
- Federal law mandates that students should be educated in the least restrictive setting that is appropriate to fulfill their needs. In many cases, that is an inclusive environment with appropriate supports.
What are the inclusion programs within the Scarsdale School District?
- Bridge Program (1/2 combined grades): Students in the Bridge Class split their time between an inclusive and a special education classroom. Students are included, with support, as mandated by their IEP. Presently, students are included for activities such as morning routines, special projects/activities, snack, specials, and lunch/recess. For academics that require more concentrated, individual instruction, the students work in a self-contained setting.
- Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) Model (for grades K-5): The ICT Model is a full inclusion model. Special education children are educated with their general education peers for the entire school day. With co-teaching, the general education and special education teachers work in the same classroom and plan together to address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles and abilities. Teachers use various models for instruction within the included class such as parallel teaching and station teaching. Click to see the March 2018 presentation on Co-Teaching Pedagogy.
Are there times when inclusion classes will exceed the normal caps for elementary classes?
Occasionally, Scarsdale will allow inclusion classes to exceed the caps (22 students grades K-2, 24 students grades 3-5) by two when necessary. The thinking behind this is based on the reduced student ratio realized when additional teachers and/or aides are present.
How do general education students get chosen to join inclusion classes?
General education students are not “chosen” to participate. The normal process of class sectioning is followed for both general and inclusive classrooms. This process takes into account academic, social and logistical factors. The grade level teachers, administrators, and school psychologist work together to make educationally sound groupings across the grade.
How do classified students get chosen to participate in the inclusion program?
Placement recommendations for all special education students are made by the Committee on Special Education. This Committee is comprised of the parents, the chairperson, a school psychologist, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, and any related services professionals that are appropriate. This group uses both standardized and school-based assessments along with the professional opinions of the members of the Committee to develop goals and programming recommendations for the student. This Committee meets at least yearly to determine appropriate recommendations.
The Committee may recommend Integrated Co-Teaching for students who demonstrate academic needs that require globalized support during instruction and cannot be served in a supplemental pull-out service such as Learning Resource Center (Resource Room). These needs can stem from a Learning Disability, Speech and Language Impairment, Autism, or another health impairment. These students must also be able to work in small groups and maintain their behavior, when given appropriate accommodations, in a way that allows the class to function for all students present.
The Committee may recommend the Bridge Program for students whose academic needs require more intensive intervention, and are beyond the ability of teachers to differentiate for in a larger setting, but would still benefit from intellectual and social integration with non-classified students. These needs can stem from a Learning Disability, Speech and Language Impairment, Autism, or another health impairment.
What training is provided to general and special education teachers and aides involved in the program?
In addition to the work of Ms. Dana Khani, Teacher-in-Charge of Special Programs, who acts as the programs’ administrator, the District employs a consultant whose focus is to help train and advise the teachers in all of our inclusive programs. Teachers receive both “in-service” training days and, most importantly, regular consulting sessions in their classes with our consultant. These consultancies are reinforced by Ms. Khani between visits. The aides involved in the program also receive training from our consultant, behaviorists, teachers, and Ms. Khani throughout the year.