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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Public Schools aims to increase opportunities for students with disabilities in general education

UPDATED: Tue., April 26, 2022

 (JESSE TINSLEY)
(JESSE TINSLEY)

Spokane Public Schools is moving ahead with plans to move more students with disabilities into general education, especially at the secondary level.

At Wednesday night’s board meeting, staff will review the district’s progress toward a long-term plan that envisions 80% of special education students experiencing inclusion in general education during 80% of the school week.

In education, “inclusion” means the placement of a child with a disability in a general education classroom. However, in an inclusion classroom, students with disabilities are often given modified assignments and have extra assistance from a special education teacher or paraprofessional.

The focus when placing students with disabilities in an inclusion classroom is to help prepare them socially and teach them to work at their own level.

In contrast, “mainstreaming” is the placement of a child with a disability in a general education classroom, with the expectation that the student will be able to work and produce assignments at a similar rate as students who don’t have disabilities.

In pursuit of the former, Spokane schools have been close to those goals at the elementary level, with 78.9% of students with disabilities being included in general classes.

That’s barely up from the 2017 level of 77.7%, but close to the long-term goal.

The district has made major strides at the secondary level, but from a much lower base. In 2017, only 35% of middle school children with disabilities experienced inclusion 80% of the time; now it’s 59.5%.

The high school rate increased from 35.2% to 48.3%.

According to district documents, it hopes to develop guidelines for elementary through high school, develop best practices for co-teaching at the secondary level and outline a comprehensive professional development model for administrators, general education and special education.

Next year, the district plans to add seven inclusive preschool classrooms, with half-day and full-day options, with training of preschool teachers supported through state and regional grants.

The designs of the new middle schools are expected to improve inclusion, as a special education intervention teacher will be assigned to each grade.

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