Working Toward Widespread Inclusion

A Profile of How Haring Center Trainers Have Helped Wing Luke Elementary

 

Three years ago, Seattle Public Schools contracted the Haring Center to provide coaching and technical assistance to increase the use of inclusive practices across the district.

As part of this contract, Haring Center Inclusion Trainer, Zoe Leverson, has been working closely with four schools throughout SPS (Leschi Elementary, Thornton Creek Elementary, Wing Luke Elementary and Louisa Boren STEM K-8) to assess their inclusion needs and provide a professional development plan that focuses on providing evidence-based education to all children, regardless of ability. One of the main goals is to help children with special needs thrive in general education classrooms.

“Zoe has been amazing,” said longtime Wing Luke teacher Erika Edwards. “She is always thinking about ways to best serve all kids and showing kids that we all have differences and we should embrace them. As a result of our work with Zoe, the progress we’ve seen in many students has been great.”

Zoe said her first year at each school looked similar, determining strengths and needs of the administration, staff and students.  The work in the following years was highly individualized for each school, based on the goals and priorities set for each at the end of the initial year.

As an example, in her second year with the Wing Luke Elementary, Zoe created a professional growth plan that supported both the administration and the teaching staff. As part of her work with the teachers, she teamed up with staff to speak to the children about inclusion. For children in kindergarten through second grade, that conversation focused similarities and differences. In grades three through five, the focus was about equality vs. equity.

The type of multi-level support was consistent with the plans she creates with each school she works with. The most common areas of need in each school are:

  1. Facilitating a better working relationship between general education and special education teachers.

This can be just as much an administrative and infrastructure deficiency as a lack of communication between staff members.

“This level of cooperation isn’t always taught or valued in every school,” Zoe said. “But it is essential for every educator/therapist/administrator who is responsible for a child’s education to speak regularly to discover better ways to support him or her.”

At Wing Luke, Erika recalls needing this level of support among the staff when working with a non-verbal student in her classroom. As a result of the collaboration facilitated by Zoe, the team was able to find a way for the student to communicate using an iPad, which helped her participate and contribute in the general education classroom. Continued collaboration resulted in strategies that further enhanced the student’s use of the iPad.

  1. Training and continued support for instructional assistants in the general education environment.

Most schools do not have designated resources to provide specialized training to instructional assistants (IAs), including planned and compensated time for ongoing IA training.

“IA’s are a critical part of a classroom team. When the special education team has many kids on their caseload throughout many general education classrooms, you cannot be there for every student all the time. You have to rely on your IAs to continue the plans for your classroom and individual students. Training and ongoing support is essential for IA’s to be able to be successful,” Zoe said.

  1. Developing an agreed upon perception of inclusion.

“Everyone brings their own experience and expertise into what inclusion means to them,” Zoe states. “The first thing we need to decide is what that looks like for each classroom and each child, and then we can work from there.”

To increase their impact into our community, the Haring Center will continue to partner with SPS and will add a fifth school to its portfolio in the upcoming school year. While areas of focus and need for support have varied from school to school, each one has made significant steps both inside and outside of the classroom toward a more inclusive education experience for children.

If you’d like more information on the Haring Center’s inclusion coaches and consultants, contact Alison Winfield at avw@uw.edu.