Inclusion advocates in the special education field emphasize the importance of systemic transformation for equitable education for all students, including secondary students engaging in transition planning. From this perspective, inclusive practices mean much more than students’ with disabilities presence in general education classrooms; rather, this reframing defines inclusion as “the distribution of available evidence-based supports and services to students who need them to successfully engage the teaching/learning process, regardless of the nature of the problem” (Sailor, 2017). This shift in perspective on the definition of inclusion provides an initial step necessary to implement inclusive educational systems change to promote outcomes for all students with diverse support needs. In other words, inclusive education is a systematic change across school environments to ensure all students are included in academic, social-emotional, and transition learning in school and their community.
With a specific focus on the secondary transition field, Rowe et al. (2015) identified inclusion in general education as a predictor of post-school success (e.g., competitive employment, community participation, quality of life) and several features that characterize equitable and inclusive education. Characteristics of inclusive education include: utilizing evidence-based instructional strategies (e.g., universal design for learning [UDL], technology, aligning instruction to student interests and preferences) to achieve instructional targets for all students, providing professional development training to educators and paraprofessionals to enhance inclusive education, and using assessments to make informed and data-based decisions that inform instructional adjustments.
To illustrate practices that promote inclusive education in secondary transition settings, below we highlight recommended practices for promoting inclusion:
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
DCDT’s Fast Facts (2013) emphasizes the importance of multiple models of inclusive learning. Using a UDL framework guides the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that can be customized and adjusted to meet individual needs and provide those diverse models. For more information, see CAST.org.
Another recommended practice for promoting inclusion is ensuring teachers and paraeducators receive high-quality professional development opportunities and paraeducators also receive professional development tailored to their roles as a support staff for all students. NTACT’s Professional Development for Transition Annotated Bibliography defines what professional development can look like for practitioners and shares the benefits and effectiveness of transition-focused professional development.
To support inclusive education, a recommended practice is ensuring technology is accessible to all students. Students with high incidence disabilities who use technology have positive post school outcomes (Bouck et al., 2012). For information on assistive technology for students with disabilities, review the NTACT Assistive Technology Annotated Bibliography. Teachers and students can access Google extensions such as Google Read and Write for academic lessons. Also, students can use Google calendars to learn skills associated with self-determination (e.g., self-management, planning, self-monitoring).
Making data-based decisions is critical to promoting inclusive education. NTACT’s Age Appropriate Transition Assessment Toolkit provides comprehensive resources on transition assessment. Further, assessments, such as Scholastic Reading Inventory, PSAT and SAT, are opportunities where students with disabilities are included with accommodations. The College Board has a request form that can be submitted for use of accommodations on their assessments.
The co-teaching model can look different across different school systems. It may include a subject matter expert and a special education teacher. This model promotes inclusion of students with disabilities, while also providing quality instruction to meet their needs. Co-teaching and collaborative models include explicit teaching for a student with a disability, and then an inclusive implementation in environments such as a workplace. This also includes the use of a vocational rehabilitation counselor who assists with pre-employment training.
High Expectations for All Students Related to College and Career Readiness
High expectations for all students, inclusive of students with disabilities, is foundational to inclusive education. The District of Columbia College Access Program (DC CAP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging and enabling DC public high school students to enroll in and graduate from college, is one example of a program that supports high expectations for all students.
CEC’s DCDT FAST FACTS: Inclusion in General Education — Describes essential program characteristics for inclusion in general education with recommendation and resources for administrators, teachers and families.
Quick Guide: Universal Design for Learning in Secondary Education — Defines UDL and provides resources and strategies for administrators, school level practitioners and families/parents to use with students.
Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starters — Provides lessons plans for teaching academic skills, employment skills and life skills. Many of these lessons are specifically designed for inclusive settings.
Selecting Transition Assessments and Transition Curricula to Match Your Needs — Explains why it is important to be a critical consumer of information for secondary transition and how to identify appropriate secondary transition assessment and curricula.
Bouck, E.C., Maeda, Y., & Flanagan, S.M. (2011). Assistive Technology and Students With High-Incidence Disabilities: Understanding the Relationship Through the NLTS2. Remedial and Special Education, 33(5), 298–308.
Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Career Development and Transition Publications Committee (DCDT; August 2013). Fast Facts: Inclusion in General Education.
Rowe, D. A., Alverson, C. Y., Unruh, D. K., Fowler, C. H., Kellems, R., & Test, D. W. (2015). A Delphi study to operationalize evidence-based predictors in secondary transition. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38(2), 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2165143414526429
Sailor, W. (2017). Equity as a basis for inclusive educational systems change. Australaisian Journal of Special Education, 41(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1017/jse.2016.12
Sitlington, P.L. & Payne, E.M. (2004). Information Needed by Postsecondary Education: Can We Provide It as Part of the Transition Assessment Process? Learning Disabilities: A Journal, 2(2), 1–14.
Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160–181. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2165143415588047